In a unique combination of school, software, and community resources, Mill A School students in third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade are learning basic Spanish words, pronunciations and conversational skills.
Using a creative one-of-a-kind program, Spanish speaking volunteers from the Mill A area come to the school every Thursday afternoon to teach children simple vocabulary words and concepts such as days of the week, time, seasons, parts of the body, the alphabet and numbers.
The brainchild of fifth and sixth grade teacher Linda Ostergard, the program has been enthusiastically received by students and parents alike.
She began it several years ago as a mini-unit for a small group of her students who were not in band or choir. Using Rosetta Stone software, a language system used by NASA, the Peace Corps and other agencies, she introduced them to simple phrases and dialogues.
This past summer, she purchased a Spanish book and began planning to work with all her students this year in a weekly class. It was an immediate success.
"I started out in the first week and had a very positive response from the kids. In fact, Willow Thompson, Aurora Dyer, and Danielle Schleicher all felt certain that their mothers would be interested in helping to teach Spanish. This was great news considering that they really knew how to speak and pronounce Spanish, where I really did not. With the prospect of three additional volunteers, I thought that Linda Farrell, the third and fourth grade teacher, might want to join us and do a 'Centers' kind of Spanish program once a week. I volunteered to run the tech center using the language software. Mrs. Farrell felt confident enough to run a Spanish center. We've been able to finish one complete round of the five centers and are currently working on round two. The centers were changed a little by the five volunteers to cover some new material and to build upon the work from the first round of centers," she said, adding, "So far everything has gone very well and we are looking forward to continuing the program for at least a third round and maybe the rest of the year.
Volunteers in the program are Ramona Dyer, Dr. Cindy Horton, and Wally Zaugg, who stepped in to take the place of LeeLynn Thompson when she returned to full time work.
At a recent school board meeting, the innovative program won praise from the directors and superintendent Charlene Rohrbacher.
"It's a great use of time and talent," stated Rohrbacher. "It's simple, innovative and a positive addition to our school. It was the right people at the right time and place, and our students will all benefit."