Bilingual program gives kids leg up

    Springview Elementary School is already preparing their students for the competitive global market of the future.

    All students in grades K through 5th participate in the BISO program. The BISO program (Bilingual School Organization) is designed to produce students who master listening, speaking, reading and writing both in English and in Spanish. Its purpose is to prepare children for the future while encouraging a greater interaction within the multicultural school and community.

    Approximately 60 percent of the instruction is done in English and 4 percent is done in Spanish. All students work toward the common goal of becoming bilingual and biliterate.

    You may wonder how this program would work for the child who does not speak Spanish in the home. Salpie Kasbarian has twin daughters who are in second grade at Springview.

    “We speak English and Armenian at home,” she said. “My daughters are learning a third language at Springview. The classroom projects have given them a new confidence. They are excited about standing up and speaking Spanish in front of their classmates.”

    Springview teacher and parent Jill Vizcaino is very pleased with the program. Her daughter Elizabeth, who is in fourth grade, comes from a monolingual environment, and can read, write and speak Spanish extremely well.

    Springview Elementary Principal Mayte Dovale explains the BISO program further: “The same successful strategies that are taught in English are mirrored in the Spanish Literature classes in order to reinforce the students’ reading habits.

    “Dade County Public Schools mandates the daily allotment of 90 minutes for reading and language arts, but Springview students are getting much more. They receive 21⁄2 hours of reading and language arts through English as well as Spanish instruction. It’s immersed throughout the curriculum. We want the children to feel comfortable in both languages, whether they are at lunch or in the media center, in the art room or the music room”.

    When you enter the media center at Springview you’ll discover that it, too, is bilingual. Any Springview student will tell you that when it’s time to check out books in the library, the general rule is to check out two books in English and one book in Spanish.

    Said Springview’s media specialist, Sylvia Castro-Hernandez: “Our state-of-the-art Media Center has 15,194 library books available for checkout; 1,105 of those books are in Spanish, since we are a bilingual school. We also have 13,636 Accelerated Reader (AR) quizzes available in both English & Spanish.”

    Currently, Springview’s Media Center has over 8,500 books in circulation, many of which are Spanish titles. Springview also uses a lot of technology, such as smart boards, document cameras, and a computer lab on wheels in an effort to bring the bilingual program to life and to reach out to the students in order for them to be their best.

    Springview not only teaches the students Spanish, they also teach those students who are limited in English. They do this through the expertise of teachers like Muriel M. Solomon, who is Springview’s ESOL Department Chairperson.

    “Looking back over the school year and seeing where my students were and where they are now has truly been a rewarding experience,” says Solomon. “I can remember taking my ESOL students around the schoolyard introducing them to varied environments, naming them, and showing them how to write from Spanish to English in their journal. Slowly but surely progress was being made. They began to read books and participate in their classrooms. I knew we were moving in the right direction when my students would say, ‘I understand, Ms. Solomon’ and they would work independently”.

    The multicultural experience can be found within every department at Springview. Springview students are called to action, by taking part in a variety of environmental challenges. Fourth-grade science teacher Teresa Duque found a way to bring the bilingual program into the science scene, too.

    “Be on the lookout for bilingual conservation and recycle materials around the school and community,” said Duque. Students will be recycling phone books that they are going to collect from the community.

    Springview’s faculty is rich with veterans like school counselor Olga Siddons. Springview already was a bilingual school back when she started working there in 1978.

    “In the community that we live in, any child that knows two languages is ahead of the game,” says Siddons.

    Paula Valhuerdi is another veteran. Valhuerdi attended Springview back in the ’60s and is now Springview’s Food and Service Manager. Valhuerdi’s native language is English; however, if you walk through the cafeteria lunch line, you’ll hear her speaking both English and Spanish to the children.

    Said Dovale: “The bilingual program doesn’t just take place in the classroom; the entire school becomes immersed in the language.”