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Vail Valley Voices: Gift of knowing two languages

Marin A. Shanahan
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – I have had the sad opportunity to talk with some people who seem to think bilingual education is not the way to go and that we should be forcing English and/or Spanish on all of our students.

Our nation’s demographics are changing or, some would say, have already changed.

There is nothing you or I can do about it except embrace it and move forward.



The United States has always prided itself in being the leader of the science and math world, yet when it comes to languages and culture, we are far behind.

Our narrow-minded view that English is the dominant language and we don’t need to learn any other languages is no longer a good excuse but is becoming an embarrassment around the world.



So what can you do about it? You may not be ready to take on another language yourself, but why not provide your child with the opportunity to become bilingual?

Eagle County School District has three wonderful schools that offer the opportunity for your child to learn to read, write and speak in Spanish and learn the culture by working side by side with English-language learners. These schools are Avon Elementary School, Edwards Elementary School and Eagle Valley Elementary School.

As a second-grade teacher at Avon Elementary School, my job is to teach reading and writing in Spanish, while my partner teacher teaches reading and writing in English.



Between our two classes, all students learn to read and write in both languages.

You may be asking, why don’t we just teach English to our native Spanish speakers? Studies show that students are more likely to be successful over time if they have a foundation in their native language, whether it be Spanish or English.

Providing a foundation in their native language while teaching them their second language allows for students to feel that their language and culture are important, thus giving them confidence to learn their second language.

Once a student masters an objective in their native language, they are able to quickly and easily transfer that skill to their second language.

Of course, this entire process takes time. But like I said earlier, the students that have a foundation in their native language are more likely to be successful over time, meaning they are more likely to graduate high school and go to college and become productive, responsible adults.

So why send your child to one of Eagle County School District’s bilingual schools?

Your child could become a confident reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, musician, etc., in English while becoming a proficient reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, musician, etc., in Spanish. Two for the price of one!

The skills your child can gain by learning a second language are immeasurable.

We all know that bilingualism is extremely attractive for employers, and this is just one small reason why opening the door of language at an early age for your child is important. Not to mention that languages are just like the arts, meaning they open up a part of the brain that helps your child succeed in all areas in life.

I believe that the negative stigma that is given to these schools in the valley are from a lack of facts and true information.

As a teacher, I am happy to have visitors in my classroom and encourage community members to come and see what we do and how each student benefits from this program.

As a professional of the valley, I ask that you visit our schools before you make unfounded statements and before you decide not to send your child to one of these schools.

Now is the time to embrace language and culture and give your child the opportunity of a lifetime.

Marin A. Shanahan is an Avon Elementary teacher and Colorado Mountain College instructor.


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