Just listening in on class, you might not expect fourth graders to be speaking Spanish as if it were their first language. But take a closer look and you will see these kids are learning what any other fourth grader would. The only difference is their lessons are in Spanish.
For Jackie Dumansky, watching her nine-year-old Elizabeth grow and become fluent in a second language is rewarding.
"She loves it. She is very strong in both languages from what I can tell so I'm happy," Dumansky said.
Elizabeth has been in the Spanish immersion program at Rosa Parks Elementary School since kindergarten. While there isn't a language barrier in the classroom, there can be one when Elizabeth needs help with her homework.
“If they need help, I ask them to translate it to me in English and then I can explain if it's a math concept or whatever it is. I can explain it and what's expected and then they can do it on their own," Dumansky said.
While the students are allowed to speak English at home, to get the full benefits of the program, you're not likely to hear it in the classroom.
"The expectation is that they always speak with me in Spanish and I always speak with them in Spanish," teacher Leonardo Bohorquez said.
This group of students is part of the first class in the Spanish immersion program. Bohorquez says that adds a little extra pressure on the students.
"Well it's a challenge and I know a lot of people are looking at them and how they grow. We have visitors all the time and a lot of eyes on us. The expectation is high for them. As a teacher, it's a challenge," Bohorquez said.
But he says looking back, it's easy to see how much progress these kids have made.
"You can see the progress now. We can stay in the language; deliver the content in the language. They have a lot of vocabulary. They have a lot of knowledge in the language," Bohorquez said.
"It's been very exciting to see the program grow. And it's been exciting to see the growth in the students and their language," Rosa Parks Principal Brenda Hill said.
In fact, her children’s knowledge of Spanish is now so strong that Dumansky looks for ways to share her knowledge outside of school.
"Recently we went to Disney. So in order for them to get their souvenirs from Mexico at Epcot, they had to speak the language and communicate with the staff in Spanish," Dumansky said.
It's not only something fun for the kids, but Dumansky says she hopes it will open more doors for them in the future.
"My children are so well trained that they are even able to tell when someone is native to a Spanish-speaking country. I guess for me it's the experience they are getting. The language they are getting, the culture," Dumansky said.
According to the National Education Association, a child who is bilingual also does better in school. A reward Dumansky says is invaluable.
"I'm just so excited to see what they do because I think their opportunities will be multiplied. They have such strong understanding of both languages that I think they will succeed," Dumansky said.
Not all children at Rosa Parks are enrolled in the Spanish immersion program. But all classes, beginning with kindergarten, spend at least some time learning Spanish.