The Elementary Spanish Program would like to welcome you to another exciting year of Spanish! Our organization was started in Boulder 40 years ago when a small group of Boulder parents and teachers decided to stand up for early-age secondary language acquisition (after the BVSD eliminated it from the standard curriculum due to budget constraints). Unless your child attends a charter, private, or dual-language school, a foreign language is probably not offered until middle school, and many children do not start foreign-language learning until 8th or 9th grade. ESP exists to provide young children with before- or after-school Spanish classes at their respective schools. We strongly believe that it is vital that children begin to learn a second language at the earliest age possible. We are proud to serve 529 students this year!
We are actively seeking Parent Advocates to be representatives of our organization in their neighborhoods and respective schools. If you are passionate about early-age secondary-language acquisition and would be interested in serving on the Board of Directors, we are also looking to expand our Board. We meet once a month in the evening; as a member-at-large, your time commitment would be less than 5 hours a month. If you are interested in becoming involved or even just volunteering a few hours a month, please contact our office at 303-440-7196.
On behalf of the organization, I would like to thank every person who has contributed to the existence and success of the program. Your commitment and dedication to the broader education of our children is sincerely appreciated! Please contact me if you have any thoughts for the future of the Elementary Spanish Program or the relationships within the community and the school districts.
In this issue:
My earliest childhood memories take me back to 1972 when I was 3 years old, perhaps because it was such a significant year for our family: my father began working on his PhD in Chemical Engineering at CU, my brother was born, and my mother started teaching these fun and lively Spanish classes at elementary schools in Boulder. I recall accompanying her to these classes in the 1970s, sometimes acting as an assistant. My mother, Silvia Katinka Ponce Clough, was from Mexico, and I spoke Spanish at home (my father, David E. Clough, an American, was also fluent in both English and Spanish). I first assumed all children spoke at least two languages, but I soon found out that was not the case. I remember meetings in my living room where a group of women would drink coffee and discuss lessons, games, and songs, later to learn that they were the founders of the Elementary Spanish Program.
The Elementary Spanish Program (ESP), a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, was created in Boulder in 1972 by a relatively small group of parents and teachers when BVSD eliminated secondary-language learning from its Elementary curriculum due to budget constraints. The introduction of a second language was bumped up to junior high (now middle school). For 40 years, ESP has introduced thousands of children in Boulder County and surrounding areas to the Spanish language and the cultures of Latin America and Spain. The program is based on both a passion for Spanish language and teaching and a desperate need in the community for a Spanish language program at the elementary school level. ESP has been a critical “readiness program” directly related to the State of Colorado’s educational goal for students to be proficient in at least one other world language by high school graduation. ESP has received many accolades and recommendations that have allowed this program to expand to the most recent completed academic year 2011/12 results: 29 schools, 4 districts, 621 students, 44 teachers, and a support staff based in Downtown Boulder.
ESP’s mission is to bridge cultural barriers, educate young children, and prepare them for life in our world community through teaching Spanish. We are a “one-of-a-kind” program that is fully developed and we are able to prepare children for higher-level Spanish language learning. Public schools continue to cut budgets and programs, while promising high educational results. ESP, which operates independently of the school districts, steps in where the system has dropped out.
A special thanks to and recognition of the instrumental women who helped to spearhead the program in the early 1970s:
Our first semester is ending, and I have personally visited all of our schools and have seen the passion of our faculty sharing the Spanish language with your children. I have also watched the children participate in different activities, singing and playing by using a language that is, in most of the cases, completely new to them. Isn’t it such a wonderful thing to be able to have fun in a language that is not your native language? Being able to sing, communicate, play, and express oneself, in a way that other people around the world do, adds to one’s personal experiences. When learning a second language and expanding one’s horizons, especially at an early age, a wonderful world opens up, allowing one to build bridges with other people, in other countries, in other cultures. That is what you are offering to your children: the opportunity to make them citizens of the world.
In that sense, the Elementary Spanish Program was founded 40 years ago in acknowledgement of the need for early bilingual instruction, reaching the children at a young age while they are most susceptible for developing a native-like pronunciation, where they are free to create and absorb knowledge. That makes me remember my own personal story of going to take English classes (as I am a Peruvian Spanish native speaker) early in the morning on Saturdays. That opportunity that my parents gave to me when I was in elementary school, after years of consistent practice, is what allows me to write you now from the Director’s position in this wonderful institution. However, learning a language does not mean only memorizing words or learning sentence structures. It means much more. It also means knowing other cultures and traditions, being able to meet new people, being able to understand others with the most powerful tool of communication and comprehension—the language.
The Elementary Spanish Program believes in that opportunity. For 40 years, we have believed in the ability that children have to expand their world, in their need to jump over any barrier that could restrict them to grow in a world where borders are disappearing, where on any given day you can be here, but on the other side of the world the next day. For 40 years, we have believed that through a second language, in this case, Spanish, children will have more opportunities in their life, and a better chance to demonstrate to a larger part of the world just how well prepared they are. After 40 years, we still believe.
We have worked hard in the past years to provide you the best way to make your children love the language at the onset of exposure, further practicing, understanding, and communicating throughout the years. We have embraced the TPRS system to allow the children to “feel” the language by body movement and expression. We have developed the appropriate curriculum for each level to ensure that your children benefit the most from an after-school program. We have also introduced new technologies like YouTube to help you practice at home with your children. We are a program that always works toward excellence. However, none of these could work if we did not have your help and constant support. Thank you for believing in us and for sharing our passion. Thank you for 40 years supporting bilingual education. Thank you for providing your children with this opportunity (as I am thankful to my own parents after more than 20 years since my first English class). I am sure your children will join my thanks one day in the near future for the best present you could have given them now.
¡Felíz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo! Best wishes from our office staff and faculty this holiday season!
Antonio Anduaga Bocanegra
ESP will offer beginning-level classes for grades 5-8 at Prospect Ridge Academy. Classes will meet Tuesdays & Thursdays, 3:15-4:00 starting January 15th. Contact the ESP office for more information.
ESP Song CD, lyrics, & translation are available for a suggested $5 donation.
Ten early elementary students gathered after school last week at Boulder's Douglass Elementary, trying out words and phrases in Spanish as they sang and exchanged greetings in a new language.
This scene has played out in hundreds of Boulder Valley classrooms for 40 years through the Elementary Spanish Program. The after-school classes teach elementary students first to speak and then to read and write in Spanish, preparing them for formal language classes in middle and high school.
"Forty years is quite a milestone for a small, educational nonprofit," said Astrid Clough McDowell, president of the program's board, a former teacher in the program and the daughter of one of the founders, Silvia Katinka Ponce Clough. "We want children to have the opportunity to learn the language at a young age, when its so much easier for them."
Boulder teachers and parents developed the nonprofit Elementary Spanish Program in 1972 after the district cut foreign languages from the elementary curriculum. Now, it's the largest local organization that focuses specifically on teaching Spanish to young children.
Clough McDowell remembers attending the classes with her mother, a native Spanish speaker, in the 1970s, serving as a helper. She loved them so much, she said, that she became a teacher herself and then joined the board. She's served as board president since 1999. "It's so much fun," she said.
Since 2001, about 3,800 Boulder Valley students have learned Spanish through the program and 172 students have received scholarships to cover the tuition -- $460 a year. Tuition covers the costs to rent the classrooms and teacher salaries.
This fall, the program is in 29 schools in four school districts, with 40 teachers teaching about 530 students this school year. Along with Boulder Valley, the program also operates in St. Vrain Valley, Jefferson County and Denver.
The program combines lessons on language and culture in an interactive curriculum that uses games, songs and stories.
At Douglass last week, teacher Isabel Enright asked students to sit and stand in Spanish, helping them quickly catch on to Spanish words without needing to translate. Once they had the words down, she let them give the commands. They also worked on basic introductions and the words for feelings, such as happy, sad and so-so.
Enright, who has taught with the program for 17 years, started not long after she moved here from Mexico, where she also was a teacher.
"I found my passion," she said. "I love sharing my culture. I love to see their excitement for learning something that is mine."
Jennifer Urbanos, whose first-grade daughter Molly is in the program, said she wanted her daughter to start early.
"We really value the importance of learning more than one language," she said.
Rebecca Thoreson said she signed up her first-grade son, Ezra, because Ezra wanted to learn the language she speaks with her Latina best friend. His older brother also is taking a class the program.
"They're such little sponges at this age," she said.
Continuing with our large cadre of very talented teachers this spring, ESP is excited to put the spotlight on two of them: Kim Kalinski, who has taught for us ten years, and Bertha McShea, who joined our family in 2011. Kim has a BA in Education from the University of Northern Colorado and an MBA from the University of Colorado. Since we have known her, one thing is clear: She has always enjoyed teaching! As an anecdote, she enrolled her children in the ESP program at Niwot Elementary, which is how she became more familiar with the program and the service offered to the children. She believes it is crucial that children learn a second language at an early age. All parents, students, and colleagues around her are happy and grateful for her great work, passion, and the support that she provides to all our new faculty members.
Bertha McShea, another passionate teacher who works in some schools close to Kim, has her BA in Management. She is a native Spanish speaker, originally from El Paso, Texas. She has experience with ESL teaching, as well as regular classroom K-2, and teaching children with special needs; all these complemented by her own experience raising her grandchildren. She loves spending time with her family. Bertha not only has gained the appreciation from the parents and children that she teaches, but the respect and gratefulness of her colleagues for helping them become part of the ESP family. Thank you very much Kim and Bertha! We all acknowledge and appreciate your work as teachers and colleagues!
ESP thanks the following individuals for their generous support:
Classroom Parent Volunteers – all of them!
ESP Computer Maintenance & Repair - Joe Barger
ESP Web site Design & Maintenance - Dean Garyet
ESP Parent Advocates and Board Members
Principals and School Staff
If you know of local groups that might be interested in donating services or directly funding ESP classes, please contact us.
The Elementary Spanish Program is a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization. Your donation will be highly appreciated and is tax-deductible!