Special Assignment: No Nino Left Behind

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby

November 16, 2005
The number of students across the country who speak English as a second language grows every year, so teachers must include language lessons in the regular curriculum. Sounds like a challenge, but English-speaking students are learning more as well. In a special assignment, News 12 is on your side with how a bilingual education is leaving no nino left behind.

These kindergarteners are learning to read. And they’re learning another language, which one depends on who you ask.

“A little bit of Spanish,” said Jazmyn.

English-speakers like Jazmyn are picking up Spanish. But Darla is way past hola.

“What language do your mom and dad talk in?” News 12 asked.
“Spanish and English,” Darla said.

Darla and six others in this class are learning English as a second language. Some came here not knowing a word of English.

Teacher Margaret Sidney didn’t know one word of Spanish in 2000.

“I barely knew gracias,” Sidney said.

Only two kids in her school, J.D. Leaver Elementary, spoke Spanish then, but she decided to learn the language to be a better teacher.

“I just felt like this was something I needed to do to prepare for the future and it was just like looking into a crystal ball because the day has come when this is extremely necessary,” Sidney said.

Five years later the school has 30 Spanish-speaking kids, all the kindergarteners are in Ms. Sidney’s class.

The class is bilingual and the English-speaking students are learning Spanish.

“The young children are right there ripe for this. They could learn 3 or 4 languages if I had the ability to teach them,” Sidney said.

A third of the kids in Ms. Sidney’s class are Spanish-speaking, but there’s hundreds in Aiken County and the need for bilingual teachers is growing.

300 students in Aiken County schools speak English as a second language, and the district has only 12 bilingual teachers. Volunteers like Patricia Cruz fill in the gaps.

“Right now there’s 25, 30 kids in this school, but before long there’s going to be a whole lot more,” Cruz said.

Cruz, who grew up in an Hispanic household, says the number of Spanish-speaking kids is growing because more jobs are here for their parents.

“It used to be that the men just came, but now they’re bringing their wives and they’re having kids here,” Cruz said.

But Cruz believes the increasing number of Spanish-speaking kids will be an asset to Aiken County. The county’s growing number of bilingual students will fill important jobs. Assistant Superintendent Frank Roberson thinks they’ll bring some as well.

“Certainly is an incentive for business to locate here,” Roberson said.

“It just gives me hope everyday that I can do it. I can inspire the desire in the children to keep going, keep working, that they can do it regardless of the barriers,” Sidney said.

A community growing stronger and even more determined that no nino will be left behind.

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