Isenberg Elementary School is located in Salisbury and serves approximately 430 students. Though small, they are mighty… and in the midst of something extraordinary—a dual-language immersion program.
When I arrived at Isenberg to speak to Principal Marvin Moore about the new dual-language immersion program beginning this month, a Spanish speaking family had just left.
All they wanted to do was register their kid for school, but it took about five different phone calls to five different people to do what would take English speaking natives only about ten minutes to do.
Just one call to someone who spoke both Spanish and English took care of the task quickly.
Situations like this are why the dual-language immersion program, which began this school year at Isenberg Elementary School, is so important.
Globally Aware Students & Faculty
Isenberg has long been a diverse school where both teachers and students from all over the world feel special and cherished. Currently, they have four international teachers through a Chapel Hill based company called Participate Learning, as well as staff members from countries like Colombia, Bosnia, and Haiti. Many of Isenberg’s families come from regions all over the globe including Central America, Africa, and Asia.
“We have a very wide range of cultures in our building – and in our world – and we want to provide our student’s as many opportunities to succeed in this climate as possible”, says Principal Moore.
Because of this wide range of cultures, Isenberg became a global school three years ago, which required staff members to complete almost 80 hours of professional development in global competencies. By becoming a global school, Isenberg was able to integrate global awareness and apply global themes to the regular school curriculum. This model of multicultural education helped develop empathy among students and build their school culture into a positive, welcoming environment and community.
As a global school, each grade level integrates information about a specific continent into their regular curriculum, then showcases student learning during quarterly exhibitions. For example, kindergarteners study Oceania, second grade learns about Central and South America, and fifth graders learn all about Europe.
Once a quarter, students participate in a Global Day where they get passports, eat global foods, and every grade level transforms into a different country. The vestibule turns into customs, and they learn about every aspect of traveling. Students travel around the world (the school) and hear about different countries. Kids get to dress up and have so much fun!
Principal Moore says the Global Days are a way to give students “access and opportunity,” and the students can do what they want with that after leaving Isenberg.
“A lot of the kids that we serve – they don’t go anywhere. They don’t travel outside of Salisbury. If they can’t walk there… it’s just as far as a plane ride for them. So, we want to give them the opportunity to experience more. Research shows that kids who travel tend to have better earning potential over the span of their life.”
When renewal came into play this past year, Isenberg wanted to continue with this emphasis on learning global competencies, which transitioned perfectly into a dual-language immersion program. This research-based instructional intervention uses the power of learning a second language to impact academic achievement.
Basically, participating students will be taught literacy and content in two languages – English AND Spanish. Research shows that bilingual people have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems, developing strong thinking skills, using logic, focusing, remembering, making decisions, and learning new languages. Students in dual language programs consistently outperform monolingual peers on state-mandated tests, regardless of demographics. Bilingual adults are proven to have higher average salaries and greater career opportunities than monolingual adults as well.
Fluent in Two Languages by Third Grade
This school year, Isenberg is offering TWO kindergarten classes in its dual-language immersion program. This means that students will receive half of their instruction in English and half in Spanish. Students enrolled in the Dual Language Academy will be provided the same 50/50 model each school year up through fifth grade. Karen Puckett, Media Specialist at Isenberg, says, “By becoming a dual-language immersion school, Isenberg is taking the next step in maintaining a high quality, innovative focus so that students have the tools to become leaders through problem-solving, literacy, technology, and the arts. Although this instructional model has been successfully implemented throughout the state, Isenberg’s staff and administration are proud to be the first dual-language school in Rowan County.”
Anyone was able to apply for the Academy, whether within Isenberg’s zoning area or not, and fifty students were accepted into the program.
Principal Moore thinks it’s just going to keep growing.
“Research is showing that these kids will be fluent readers and speakers, in both languages, by third grade. And they don’t have to pay for that,” explains Principal Moore.