Video+Story: National Dual Language Experts Train EPISD Educators

A national expert on dual-language education with connections to EPISD returned home last week to train principals and other educators on strategies to strengthen the innovative bilingual-education program at their campuses.

Dr. Jose Medina — the Director of Global Language and Culture Education at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C., and a former Alta Vista Elementary School Cub — spent much of last week training EPISD educators and capped his visit to El Paso with a training of principals.

“It’s really about creating educational access for the students that need it most,” Medina said.

“We’re very lucky because not only are we meeting the needs of those children, but we have to weigh programs where we bring other students into the mix and so native English speakers are really collaborating, partnering with native Spanish speakers. Together they become model peers for one another.”

Photo courtesy EPISD

EPISD has become a leader in dual-language education in the region and has expanded the bi-literacy program to all its elementary schools and most of its middle schools. EPISD also has a dual-language magnet program at El Paso High School.

Medina emphasized the importance of the non-Spanish and Spanish speaker working together in the dual language model.

“We want all children to be able to reach the three goals of dual language programming: bilingualism and bi-literacy, high academic achievement in both program languages and then also working to become global citizens.”

More than 50 principals sat in on Medina’s presentation last week at Mesita Elementary School to learn more about the Center for Applied Linguistics’ research on dual language.

“Dr. Jose Medina is on the cutting edge of dual-language research, dual-language program design and implementation,” Laila Ferris, EPISD’s Interim Chief of Language and Learning and the principal at Mesita. “His knowledge goes above and beyond what typical districts or schools have because of his position and his aggressiveness in learning all of the research that is out there.”

Medina led the professional development in conjunction with UTEP expert Dr. Elena Izquierdo.

“By working with Dr. Medina and Dr. Izquierdo, we will be able to grow our dual language program more professionally,” Ferris said. “The knowledge and expertise they bring is critical for our teachers and principals as we move forward, expanding the program throughout the District. It ensures our program is successful and we are doing best by our students.”

Superintendent Juan Cabrera sat in on the principals training Wednesday at Mesita, watching Medina interact with principals and offering research-based and antidotal information.

“The data is really clear that if we stick with the dual language training and we stay the course that over time our dual language kids will exceed their peers that are monolingual,” Cabrera said. “I think it’s because of these cognitive differentiators and the cognitive challenge. It’s an investment. It’s a lot of work but we know that it will make a difference for children and I want us to feel proud that what we are doing will result in children getting increased opportunities.”