The well-travelled students of Central Alberta’s first Spanish Immersion class held a Grade 5 “graduation” celebration Thursday.
It’s a rewarding milestone in what has been a long and, sometimes challenging, journey, said principal Anie Wells, who presented certificates endorsed by the Embassy of Spain to 17 immersion students on the last day of school.
The students, who’ve been enrolled in the program since kindergarten, were bused to three different Red Deer schools over the past six years.
Spanish Immersion was started in G.H. Dawe school, but was so successful it soon outgrew this location. It also quickly outgrew its second location — Pines School — and was moved to Grandview School, also known as Escuela Vista Grande, last September.
So far, Vista Grande is the region’s only Spanish bilingual school.
And Wells has been thrilled to see the program expand from 26 students to almost 230.
The Red Deer Public School Board has committed continue the program in Grade 6 though 8 at Vista Grande school — and if it continues to grow in popularity, Wells believes higher grades will likely be added in years to come.
Spanish is the world’s fourth most spoken language, after Mandarin, English and Hindustani.
Many parents who put their kids in the public school program wanted to give them an advantage, job-wise, as well as to expose them to a different culture, said Wells.
Educational experts believe learning another language has significant intellectual benefits.
Kyle Stuckless and his wife have four children in the program, including daughter Aiva, who attended the Grade 5 ‘graduation.’
Kyle said he grew up with a lot of Spanish-speaking friends and always wanted to learn to speak this second language “so I’m learning it, vicariously through my children.”
Since his kids are growing up in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, they might someday want to do missionary work in Spanish-speaking countries, said Stuckless. And even if they don’t, he believes they will have an advantage as travellers — or even as citizens of the world who now have exposure to a different culture.
Aiva Stuckless said she enjoys learning Spanish songs and stories. Teacher and vice-principal Rafaela Marques believes in introducing students at the school to Spanish customs and traditions, as well as language.