By Mark Leet and Cecil Lawson
This year at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County), kindergarten through 5th-grade students will get the chance to learn the basics of the Spanish language from a native of the country.
Francisco Luque, known as Señor Luque to his students, hails from Malaga, Spain, which is located on the southern coast of Spain and the home of artist Pablo Picasso and actor Antonio Banderas.
Luque works for the Spanish government as part of its cultural leadership exchange program – a partnership between the regional government and national government in Spain – in which teachers are given the opportunity to teach the Spanish language and culture in other countries. Luque moves from year to year and has taught in several European countries. His most recent teaching assignment was at the Institute Cervantes in Moscow. However, this is his first time to teach students in the United States and at the elementary level.
There are thousands of participants that go through the selection process and interview in Madrid, but not many of them are teaching at the primary or elementary level. The students at Owingsville Elementary will learn Spanish at a novice level under Luque, learning vocabulary – such as the days of the week, colors, numbers, foods and family – and receive instruction focused on the three modes of communication, and linguistic and intercultural competencies. This will provide a foundation for more in depth learning in middle and high school.
After only a few weeks of school, some of his students are speaking Spanish with their parents at home and sharing their enthusiasm for this new learning opportunity at school.
Many may question why a small elementary school in northeastern Kentucky is teaching a world language, and the response given is, “Why not Owingsville Elementary School?” Every student from every walk of life and region of this country deserves an opportunity to extend and enhance their learning beyond their own backyard.
As educators, we want to provide all students with equitable access to a rigorous and quality curriculum and instruction that is focused on building global competency. We are quickly finding out that the world is not out of reach for our children. We are a global society and the internet and social media are connecting us in ways we never thought possible a decade ago.
Therefore, it’s important to make our students more culturally aware of the world they are a part of and will eventually work in. After all, almost all European countries are teaching English to their students so they may be more competitive in the workplace and prepared for a global economy.
Multiple studies from different universities and educational research commissions have concluded that children should start learning a world language in kindergarten and continue through middle and high school. Starting at the primary level is crucial for students to become fluent in a world language. Younger children tend to grasp and learn a world language more easily than older students. The elementary school is a pipeline of success for the secondary schools and we must do what we can at an early age to prepare our students for the next level and eventually, college- and career-readiness.
I encourage anyone interested in incorporating a world language at the elementary level to think outside the box and consider an exchange teacher from another country. It’s the students who will benefit and thank you for it.
Meanwhile, back in a small town in northeastern Kentucky, Señor Luque and his students are discovering the value of teaching a world language at an early age. In a short amount time, it has now become a part of our global outreach and an Owingsville Elementary way of life.
Mark Leet is principal at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County). The school is a High-Progress, High-Performing, Distinguished School. Cecil Lawson is an editor at the Bath County News-Outlook.
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