STREAMWOOD — The students carefully filled in the blanks in the sentences on the flipboard at the front of the classroom with a blue marker: The “a” in “Hola.” The “mi” in “amigos.” “Cumpleaños” in the blank that followed “feliz.”
When finished, it read, “Hola, amigos. Hoy es el cumpleaños de Abisai. Feliz cumpleaños. Vamos a leer sobre los estaciones.”
In English: “Hello, friends. Today is Abisai’s birthday. Happy birthday. Let’s read about the park.”
Harley Stary, a kindergartner with close-cropped blond hair, and his classmate Sebastian Montes, wearing a striped hoodie and a shock of dark hair across his forehead, finished the note from their teacher: “Con cariño (with affection), Maestra Berman.”
Moving on to the next activity Monday morning, teacher Claudia Berman asked, “¿Estás listo?” She motioned with a thumbs-up to make sure her meaning was clear.
That’s because half the students in Berman’s kindergarten class came just a semester ago to Glenbrook Elementary School in Streamwood speaking only Spanish, and half only English.
Glenbrook is one of seven elementary schools in School District U46 that offer two-way dual language, a program that the state’s second-largest school district expanded this year as it transitions all its services for Spanish-speaking English Language Learners to a dual language model. And it may be the only school district in the country to do so, according to U46 Dual Language Coordinator Patricia Makishima.
Makishima, Glenbrook Principal Cheryl DeRoo and others in the Elgin school district’s ELL department recently updated the U46 Board of Education about the district’s transition to dual language.
“This is unheard of,” Makishima said.
“It has really showed how teachers and students are ready to learn. It’s been fascinating watching students learn that second language. It’s just so thrilling seeing kids build that community of friendship and just try to help each other.”