Students new to English or Spanish are learning together as part of a dual language program that fosters multiculturalism at an early age.
At Spring Lake Magnet School in Omaha, Laura Magaña is called Maestra Magaña. The one time student at Spring Lake now teaches third grade students in the dual language program, where students learn all lessons in both Spanish and English. She understands the cultural references that her students make during their science and social studies lessons. They talk about homemade tamales that many Mexican families make as a Christmas tradition, or the quinceañera that a student’s sister is celebrating.
“Language is one thing, but culture is another,” Magaña said. “And having the same language and culture as the kids helps you relate.”
The Omaha Public Schools dual language program is the longest running in the state. It is the only district in the area that offers dual language immersion.
Enrollment in dual language programs is growing. OPS operates its dual language program in 10 schools, serving 2800 students K-12. Some are native Spanish speakers who are learning English. Others are native English speakers whose parents want them to be bilingual and biliterate.