I lived in Miami for almost 19 years before moving to Denver five years ago. While I had heard of several bilingual immersion schools in the area, Coral Way K-8 Center was not one of them. I guess some stuff only becomes important once you become a mom.
It turns out Coral Way is the oldest bilingual immersion school in the country, or so I was recently told by NPR’s education correspondent Claudio Sanchez, whose report about the school airs today. Sanchez’ story is part of a special series titled: Two Languages, Many Voices, which has been looking at what it’s like to be a bilingual and bicultural Latino.
I must say that if there’s one thing I miss about Miami is that it’s a truly bicultural and bilingual city. It may sound crazy, but it’s virtually impossible to go places and not be surrounded by Spanish and the Latino culture all the time: from the movie theaters to government offices. (I’ve always believed this is the reason why the culture shock wasn’t as strong when I arrived there from Peru as a teenager.)
And Sanchez wastes no time letting the listener get a feel for that. Soon after his story starts, you can clearly hear the principal of Coral Way go seamlessly from Spanish to English as she’s talking to her students.
Sanchez goes on to talk to a father whose family is monolingual, but whose child is in the bilingual immersion program. His reasoning is simple: academic enrichment. To him, the importance of Spanish is right up there with reading and math. If only more parents could think that way…
The report also includes the story of a bilingual and bicultural family whose three children attend Coral Way. Sanchez visits with them and one of the highlights of the interview is when he asks the three children how they see themselves. Their answers are the perfect example of what it’s like to grow up bilingual and bicultural in the United States today.
I had a chance to speak to Sanchez at length about this story in particular and the topic of bilingual education in general and I’ll be brining you more of that very soon.
Once you listen to the story, we’d love to hear what you thought of it. Did you know about Coral Way? Do you have anything similar in your area?