-Dual- Immersion Programs Thriving in Local Schools

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 11:30am
Tami L. Johnson

The language immersion programs are up and running well within two local schools: Bates Elementary in North Ogden and Majestic Elementary in Harrisville. 

Immersion is, in other words, an approach to foreign language instruction in which the usual curricular activities are conducted in a foreign language.  This new language then becomes the medium of instruction.

Majestic Elementary currently teaches the Spanish Language in their immersion program. Principal Dave Wallace says, “I am a strong advocate of the Dual-Immersion Program.  The positive impact that the program has on student language acquisition far outweighs any logistical challenges that we experience.”

Beginning in the 1st grade, students at Majestic spend half of each day learning content—math, science, and Spanish literacy—completely in Spanish. 

Because Majestic Elementary has a very high population, Wallace tells us that there were some logistical set-backs because of the Dual-Immersion program.  For example, he says, “Last year we were exceeding 1,000 students and did a boundary adjustment. It was important for us to take into account the impact that an adjustment would have on the Dual-Immersion program. It influenced some of the decision-making process.

Wallace also adds, “We consider ourselves a district-level program; therefore, there are times that we accept students into the Dual Immersion program even though we are a closed-enrollment school with a high student population.”

Wallace feels that the students in the Spanish Immersion program at Majestic develop a comprehension level that is amazing. And he calls the program, “truly remarkable.”

With nearly 30 students per classroom, the Dual-Immersion program is “loaded” at Majestic. Wallace says, “Our teachers have been remarkable at accepting this challenging circumstance.”

Angie Francom, mother as well as PTA president at Majestic Elementary says, “We’ve learned so much our past many years in Dual-Language Immersion at Majestic, and now Orion.  With both a child in the pilot year and several in younger grades, it’s been interesting to compare and contrast with a variety of experiences AND challenges!  We’re grateful for the opportunity to have Spanish as one of our educational enrichment experiences!”

Jennie Taylor, who moved out of the Majestic Elementary boundaries but continues to keep her children going there, had this to say regarding a recent end-of-school-year-program with the 4th grade Spanish Immersion students: “I have been pleasantly surprised with the success of the Immersion Program. I was hesitant at first—and I’ll admit, skeptical.  But when I see things like the end of year program, I am blown away!!  They were telling us all about the 4th grade curriculum, all the things they’ve learned—math, science, field trips, art, music, etc.; and they described it all in Spanish.”

At Bates Elementary, students are fully immersed in the Chinese language.  Next year the program will move into the 6th grade and then onto North Ogden Junior High the following year. 

Kitty Barney, Principal at Bates, is very involved in the Dual-Language Program.  She, too, plays a vital role in the decisions and tells us, “At the end of July, I pick up our new teachers from China at the airport. I find host families for them to live with the first month they are here.” 

Further, Barney says that she meets with all her immersion teachers several times a year making sure they are all aware of upcoming professional development trainings.
From her perspective, Barney feels that, “The Chinese Immersion Program has been, and will continue to be, successful at Bates because of the amazing parent support and the wonderful, caring professional teachers at Bates. And, of course, because of our dedicated students who put extra time into their studies.”

Barney adds that the biggest stumbling block is, “The Chinese visas and keeping Chinese teachers at our school for more than 2 years.  Many of their principals in China want them back in their schools after 1-2 years here.”

Rachel Bryson, whose children attend Bates, tells us why she chose to have her children enrolled in the program: “For us the opportunity for our kids to learn another language and culture was also a great way to introduce them to some of the beautiful diversity that exists in the word. Utah is fairly homogeneous, and we want our kids to see that there are lots of different, unique, amazing ways to approach living life in this world.”

Bryson also adds, “Both of our kids have really enjoyed their time in Immersion. 1st grade was particularly challenging…but once they got a feel for the language …they have thrived.  Bryson says her children have more to do in terms of homework, “But that more intensive pace has been energizing for them, overall.”