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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Students to teach youngsters “saber” Spanish

By Leah Lucas

“Hola. Cómo te llamas?” Can you understand this simple Spanish greeting of “Hello, what is your name?” Claire Moisan, interim director of the ALSO (Alternative Language Study Option) program and professor of French, is working to ensure that all K-8th grade students in Grinnell will be working towards this goal and hopefully surpassing this level of knowledge of the Spanish language.

Moisan is developing a new program, Student Ambassadors Building Educational Resources (SABER), that seeks to provide access to Spanish language education at the K-8 level in the Grinnell-Newburg School District. Currently there exists no foreign language program for these grade levels. Moisan has been active in the community in attempting to develop a language-learning program, and while a program at the arts center existed for a few years, it was not able to reach all students in the district.

There is a gap in foreign language education in Iowa, according to Moisan, as Governor Branstad has stated that every student in Iowa should be learning a second language, while cutting the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP).

Moisan is collaborating with a number of different offices and departments in Grinnell in order to make this dream a reality. Community Service Directory Susan Sannin played a critical role in recruiting the core team of students: Jessica Gallegos ’15, Isaac Walker ’15, Violeta Ruiz Espigares ’15, Kelly Helbach ’13, and David Achio ’13.

The group hopes to begin the first six-week teaching cycle in September 2012, with the start of the fall semester. Through the SABER program, Grinnell students will work as teachers to bring Spanish education to students through an online program developed by Middlebury College, called Powerspeak. These will be paid positions, for which some knowledge of Spanish is needed and a desire to work with kids is essential. Grinnell students will go into classrooms in pairs twice a week for 30 minutes, following a comprehensive training process.

Some other supporters of the SABER program’s development are Director of Community Enhancement and Engagement Monica Chavez-Silva, the Arhen’s Foundation, Grinnell Newburg Educational Endowment, and district Superintendent Todd Abrahamson. In the first year, the program will likely target students in K-2 and 7-8 and in subsequent years move towards the middle grades.

Grinnell students are excited about the program, and in the first few weeks of publicity, over 60 students showed interest in the positions.

Achio, an international student from Costa Rica, looks forward to contributing to the community using his language skills.

“I have not done as much community service as I would like since beginning at Grinnell,” he said. “I have done temporary things, a few times a semester, but nothing consistent, so this is something consistent that I can commit to and help grow, using my knowledge of Spanish.”

Tanya Santiago ’14 is excited to be a part of the program still in its developmental phase.

“I thought that it would be a good experience; I am involved in the grant-writing group and will take this as an opportunity to learn some new skills.”

Asked why a French teacher would advocate for Spanish, Moisan responded, “Because Spanish is not a foreign language in this country; it is integral to the literacy education of every child in the United States of America.”

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