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January 09, 2017 05:00 PM

Spanish Immersion Graduates To High School

Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls' first Spanish immersion class is about to pass another milestone, moving from middle school to high school. 

The Sioux Falls School Board, parents and teachers will get an update Monday night on plans for taking Spanish-speaking classes to the next level.  
 
"I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, with indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

From the Pledge of Allegiance to American presidents and everything in between, the kids in this class have been speaking Spanish since they were five. 

"I remember singing songs and coloring. Just like a normal kindergarten classroom, but it's in Spanish," 8th grader Allison Weeden said.

"There's supposed to be no English. Sometimes we let it slip a little bit, but hardly ever," 8th grader Elizabeth Jerstad said.

Weeden and Jerstad are both Spanish Immersion success stories.

"I'd say we are pretty fluent.  There's some vocabulary we have yet to learn, but we learn new vocabulary every single week, in two of our classes, social studies and Spanish language arts," Jerstad said.

"Spanish has become a huge part of my life. It's become normal for me to get into class and speak Spanish," Weeden said.

Teacher Eliana Betancur moved with her students from Rosa Parks Elementary to Edison Middle School. The native of Colombia says their Spanish is good. 

"When I came here, it was shocking for me to see these kids, that I could have a conversation with them. They just speak fluently. For them, it is very natural," Betancur said.

You might wonder what happens when a Spanish-speaking teacher uses a word the kids don't understand. Betancur says instead of confusion, it leads to learning.

"They learn how to research; they learn how to use the computer. If they don't find it in Spanish, that's not a problem, they can find it in English and then tell me in Spanish what I was asking for. Yes, they are smarter. They're brilliant!" Betancur said.

Betancur is glad the school board is going to offer her students a chance to pursue Spanish language learning in high school.

"They have a lot, their language is very wide, their vocabulary is amazing, but if they don't continue working on it, they will lose it. they need to continue," Betancur said.

"The Spanish immersion kind of grows on you. You kind of become like a big family, like a bunch on brothers and sisters," Betancur said.

Make that bilingual brothers and sisters. 

The advanced Spanish Immersion classes will start next year at Lincoln High School. The program will offer students a chance to keep learning Spanish all the way through graduation. 

This story has been updated to reflect the following corrections:
Spelling errors were fixed and missing words added to the script.
  • Middle School
  • Education
  • High School
  • Elementary
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