Vales Por Dos! PSJA Dual Language Program impacts generations
Posted by Olivia Martinez-Tovar, PSJA Dual Language Development/Biliteracy Director on 12/10/2018
There are many benefits to speaking two or more languages at a young age and continuing this type of education through high school and beyond. Being bilingual (listening and speaking) is one thing, but when you are also biliterate (reading, writing, and thinking critically in two languages), that changes a whole lot of things. Bilingualism and biliteracy allows students to maintain AND strengthen their native language, which builds a STRONG foundation for literacy, while simultaneously learning a second language; it increases mental flexibility for children as they think critically in two languages; prepares them for academic and professional careers (dual language students are more marketable because of their biliteracy); results in higher scores on state assessments; and builds self-esteem and creativity. Bilingual, biliterate students also develop sensitivity towards other people and cultures, making them more apt to collaborate with others, while maintaining a strong sense of their own identity.
PSJA started implementing a two-way dual language program in 1995 with four elementary schools that slowly grew to six campuses. Dr. King, our PSJA Superintendent of Schools, began our district-wide program back in 2008 with Pre-k and Kindergarten students. Those kindergartners are now sophomores! That cohort alone is over 1,050 students. Overall, we currently have over 14,000 students participating in our internationally recognized Dual Language Enrichment Program.
Our mission at PSJA is to provide this type of education for all students who are part of our district and we welcome all students, from all grade levels, to be part of this amazing educational experience. Being bilingual and biliterate gives our students an advantage that, unfortunately, not many others are afforded. Already, PSJA has definitely seen the fruits of its labor. We have former dual language students who have graduated with the Seal of Biliteracy become part of our district family again, but this time in a different capacity. They have joined our workforce and are giving back to our community. Some success stories include Aisha Loya from our first cohort who is currently an ELA teacher at PSJA Southwest Early College High School; Brenda Villarreal also from our first cohort who is now a Dual Language Early Childhood teacher at Berta Palacios Elementary; Criselias Rodríguez from our 9th cohort (who, thanks to our Early College program, graduated with a Bachelor Degree before he graduated with a high school diploma), a Dual Language Physics teacher at PSJA Early College High School, and several others who are serving our students in different roles.
We have so many amazing students who have set great goals for themselves and take pride in the opportunity to help them to accomplish those goals by providing them with a first-class bilingual, biliterate education.
How is this work connected to the Spirit of PSJA?
Our work through the PSJA Dual Language Enrichment Program definitely relates to our district’s leadership definition the Spirit of PSJA. In specifically, the Student-Centered Excellence characteristic is exemplified as we hold our district’s vision and expectations for success for all students and all staff. We communicate our bilingual-biliterate vision with our teachers and principals so that our plan can be implemented according to the goals set forth by the district leadership and expect exceptional results for our students.
It also relates to Positive Engagement as we welcome staff, students, parents, and community as honored members at district table. We build relationships with students, parents, and teachers and communicate effectively with all stakeholders regarding our program as to how we will continue meeting the needs of our students.
To Joint Empowerment which enables us to develop and empower individuals and teams for effective action. We ensure that our teachers partake in relevant dual-language training opportunities that have the latest research, and collaborate to develop a rich and viable curriculum that is student-centered.
- PSJA High School Class of 1991
- 10+ years at PSJA ISD
I have two kids attending PSJA ISD. My son, Evan Jared Tovar, graduated from PSJA Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School in May of 2018. My daughter, Katarina Celeste Tovar, is currently a sophomore at PSJA Early College High School.
What does being a part of PSJA mean to you?
To me, being a part of PSJA ISD means being part of an amazing family that focuses on strengthening student achievement. There truly is no better school district to be a part of.