Next year, Highland Park students will begin learning to roll their R’s a lot sooner.
That’s because Diana Perez and Eric Inboden are spending this school year prepping Spanish language curriculum for elementary classrooms.
Right now, the two are stationed in a back room at Armstrong Elementary School while they build their program. They’ve already met with Spanish teachers on essentially every campus to observe how the curriculum is carried out year to year, and they’ve observed various classrooms to get to know Highland Park students.
“We’re really impressed with what we’ve seen,” Inboden said. “We saw what they’re doing in AP, which is mind-blowing for high-school level. I’ve never seen that level in a high school.”
With the kindergarten unit already written, Perez and Inboden will focus on first through fourth grade curriculum through spring break. Fifth and sixth grade will follow later. Once the curriculum is written, they can sync lessons and begin piloting them in the classroom.
“The earlier a child starts [learning a language], the better their propensity and chances are of developing a higher level of proficiency later on,” Inboden said.
The goal for much of the curriculum is to be interdisciplinary, incorporating elements of social studies and even math so that students can apply what they are learning in many ways.
“There’s a lot of research that children are more creative with a second language and better at problem-solving,” Perez said.
So they researched curriculum planning in other districts and in private schools around Dallas such as Hockaday, Lakehill Preparatory School, ESD, Good Shepherd Episcopal, and Fort Worth Country Day School.
Perez was a bilingual teacher for 12 years and came from the Houston and Plano school districts, while Inboden received his undergraduate degree in Spanish and a is working on a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. He has taught ESL to adults at a charter school and worked in the Richardson school district.
“Language and language-learning has been a passion for both of us,” Perez said. “We love traveling and learning about culture.”
Inboden’s daughter is enrolled in a Spanish-immersion preschool, while Perez’s family is from Mexico and her husband is from Colombia.
“All students in the United States are built within this culture that this is the United States and outside things are just outside,” Inboden said. “This tears down those walls and makes it easier for those students to understand and empathize with other cultures.”
One thing’s for sure: parents are on board with the new implementation. Roughly 96 percent of parents reported wanting world language in younger classes on a recent feasibility study. Even parents in preschool associations showed interest.
“We didn’t have to ‘sell’ it at all,” Perez said.