A taste of Spanish

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 30, 2001

Ivelise Padilla, a fifth-grader at Halverson Elementary, looks forward to Wednesdays and Thursdays after school.

Monday, April 30, 2001

Ivelise Padilla, a fifth-grader at Halverson Elementary, looks forward to Wednesdays and Thursdays after school. Along with many of her classmates – as many as 30 or more – Padilla spends an extra hour after the bell rings to learn a few words and phrases in Spanish.

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&uot;I was born in the United States, but my family is Spanish and I still hear it at home all the time. I want to know what they’re saying,&uot; she said.

Padilla’s teachers in the Spanish class, however, are not district employees. They’re high school Advanced Placement Spanish students doing a community service project by passing on some of their skills to the elementary kids.

Senior Amanda Srock, who is considering Spanish as a college major, has noticed some improvement in the weeks since the program began. But the kids have fun more than anything else.

&uot;I wouldn’t say it’s a very typical class,&uot; Srock said. &uot;They have a lot of fun. It can get pretty wild in here.&uot;

It can be difficult to keep the students’ attention, so dividing them into small groups seems to work better, said Senior Shannon Nelson. He said the service project has been his first experience teaching younger students.

&uot;It’s a test of my own Spanish because we don’t speak any English when the class starts,&uot; Nelson said.

The students often learn vocabulary related by a common theme such as foods, colors, animals or clothing, Nelson said. Some of the vocabulary sticks, but the elementary kids seem to enjoy the lessons on Spanish culture.

&uot;When we made pinatas, they really had a good time. Next week, our last class of the year, we’re going to break them open for a Cinqo de Mayo party,&uot; Nelson said.

Fourth-grader Ashley Jacobson said she joined the class because she heard how much fun it was from other students.

&uot;It’s more laid back, and it’s fun knowing how to say a few things,&uot; Jacobson said. &uot;We do worksheets and stuff, but it doesn’t seem like a class or anything.&uot;

Judy Hall, fifth-grade teacher at Halverson, has always wanted to try an elementary-level foreign language. When she discovered the AP requirement for a service project, she decided to give the classes a test run this year.

Along with Halverson’s interpreter, Bea Olvera, Hall organized the class and arranged for the AP Spanish students at the high school to volunteer. The first few weeks, only 12 students joined the class. The number quickly doubled, said Hall.

&uot;It has really caught on,&uot; Hall said. &uot;As an experiment, I think it has worked really well. Hopefully we can continue to offer the class.&uot;

Younger students can benefit from the exposure to the Spanish culture, especially as the Hispanic population grows in the community and in the schools, Hall said.

&uot;I think it’s important to plant some language a little earlier with these kids. It’s all wrong to wait until high school for a second language,&uot; Hall said. &uot;We’re the only nation in the world, is seems, that waits so long, and then only for a few students.&uot;

Srock said the younger students start with a second language the more comfortable they will be.

&uot;It would pay off more if they had actual classes. I know I would have been better off if I hadn’t waited until high school to take Spanish,&uot; Srock said.