Every year, the United States celebrates and honors National Hispanic Heritage Month. Throughout the month, families celebrate their histories, teaching younger generations their cultural heritage, and celebrating the accomplishments of Hispanic people in the United States. In Texarkana, we have a multi-ethnic society of culturally diverse families that is celebrated and honored in our local schools throughout the year. Texarkana Independent School District prides themselves in how well they celebrate and honor those students, and their families, who come from diversified households, and work diligently to provide information, education, and support to those in our community who are learning English as a Second Language through their bilingual program.
Lucia Ochoa, Coordinator of Bilingual Curriculum and Instruction, has been working diligently with the TISD district to help honor and support families from around the world, who have found their home here in the Texarkana area. She along with other key individuals in the district including, Melinda “Mindy” Basurto, Coordinator of Multilingual Education has also been working diligently to honor and support our multicultural families in TISD. have helped institute classes for families and parents, to help them learn how to support their students in school, offered ESL classes to parents, and so much more. “A lot of people don’t know just how much the Hispanic Culture has had an influence on our culture here. Some of the words and traditions are borrowed from Spanish culture. As the Hispanic population continues to grow in our community, we have seen a lot of growth from our own Hispanic communities of people who are migrating here,” said Ochoa.
Similar to districts from around the US, local schools are finding themselves in need of resources and support to help students who are migrating here with their families from other countries. In the Texarkana area, schools have seen a large increase in Guatemalan students. For many of these new students coming into schools, English is their third language, with Q’eqchi’, a Mayan dialect being their first, and Spanish being their second. The need for resources and support has been seen by the local TISD district, and with the help of several employees including Mrs. Ochoa, they have been able to help develop relationships with these students and their families, as well as provided resources to help support these students in their educational endeavors.
“TISD has offered several events throughout the years to help inform parents about how the educational system works here in the United States, because it is very different from what they are used to. We have installed a Latino Literacy Night, as a way to help bring our Hispanic parents together, by sharing with them the types of curriculum, books and stories that we are using here in our schools. We have also helped provide ESL classes to parents, so that they can learn some basic English, and learn reading strategies, so that they can better support their students. We are hopeful to continue those Latino Literacy Nights. We have plans for five campuses in our district, including Highland Park, Nash, Dunbar, Theron Jones, and Westlawn, to continue to offer those classes to parents and families of students who are learning English as a second or third language. These programs are led by Bilingual and ESL teachers Martha Bramlett at Dunbar, Theron Jones, and Westlawn. Belia Antillon at Highland Park, and Roxana Nicholas and Rolando Silva at Nash,” said Ochoa.
“It would be really interesting to take a look at the demographics in our district, to see how much our population of students have changed in the last several years. What a lot of people don’t know, is that most of our ESL students were born right here in the US. Many of our students learn Spanish at home from their parents, and come into our schools as emergent English language speakers. When we have students coming into our schools, learning a new language, and taking classes in both English and Spanish, we try to recognize, and celebrate their differences in our bilingual program. We don’t want our students to feel as though they are missing something, or suffering because of their struggles with learning English as a second language. Instead, we try to highlight and celebrate their accomplishments, support their cultural differences, and provide curriculum and instruction that allows them to be successful as they continue to learn throughout their school years,” said Ochoa.
One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that individuals who are learning more than one or two languages, actually have a tendency to do better academically in the future. A lot of the success in the TISD district with students who are learning ESL through their bilingual program, is due to these diversified curriculums, and dedication from teachers and staff to help students learn ESL, as well as teaching some classes in their first language. The successes of these students are not only celebrated, but highlighted throughout the district, and their successes in the future academia is vast. “When we have students coming into our schools who are learning a new language, some are taking classes in both English and Spanish in our dual language program, with others taking English classes with English as a Second Language support. No matter which program a student is a part of, we recognize and celebrate their differences,” said Ochoa.