Senora Loyda Collins and her chicos, children in Spanish, enthusiastically sing songs, count and learn phrases in a language not normally associated with Canadian kindergartners.
Last fall the Red Deer Public School District began offering a Spanish program for Kindergartners at G.H. Dawe school. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world after Mandarin.
Now seven months into the program board officials, teachers and parents are calling it a success.
Two classes, one morning and one afternoon, file in and learn from Collins daily. They dance to Spanish Youtube videos, sing songs, count, say the alphabet, practice and recite phrases to one another and learn the language, alongside their English routine.
Collins, who is originally from Mexico, was very excited when she was asked to be a part of the program’s first year.
“I think Red Deer needs a Spanish bilingual program,” said Collins. “The culture here, we’re getting people from all over and the Spanish culture is growing here. I was excited for the children as well, because if they are exposed to another language they have more opportunities in life.”
Collins said it is good the students are so young, because when they start learning a second language at this age, they repeat everything.
“It has been excellent,” said Collins. “The chicos have exceeded my expectations.”
Because of the success of the program, the board is continuing on with the students into Grade 1. Though Collins is sad she won’t have the students, she is glad it is continuing.
Already there are about 25 students registered for the kindergarten Spanish program next year. Currently there are 27 in the program, 15 in the morning and 12 in the afternoon.
“They’re talking in Spanish and they’re just in kindergarten,” said Collins. “Can you imagine what they’d be like in Grade 5?”
Collins also said that students just coming into the kindergarten or Grade 1 programs next year don’t need to know any Spanish.
Tammy Reiniger and Stephanie Gross, two parents with students in the program, have both had a good experience.
Gross’ child was previously in a delayed speech program.
“Within a couple of months he has been discharged from the program because his language skills have improved so much,” said Gross. “He’s caught up now and I think a lot of it has to do with learning the two languages.”
Reiniger volunteers in Collins’ class once a week. “Senora is amazing, said Reiniger. “She has become a friend more than anything.”
Stu Henry, Red Deer public school deputy superintendent, also touted the program as a success.
“We’re closing in on the end of our first year and it has been a huge success for our school district,” said Henry. “Probably the biggest change we put in this year and we’re thrilled with how it is going.”
Henry said the initial concern was that there would be insufficient numbers for the program to run, but that hasn’t been the case.
“I think Loyda Collins is a huge reason the program has been so successful,” said Henry. “Loyda is just an absolute gift for our school district and teaches with just such passion.”
Already they have posted for job ad for the Grade 1 and Henry said they have numerous great applicants.
“It’s more than just a program to me, it is a community,” said Collins. “I come and teach the children. The children go home and teach the parents and the baby and they start teaching each other. Then I have parents come and volunteer for me as well and they already know the alphabet.
“It is a community, we all help each other here.”