Schools throughout Cache County support incoming students whose first language is not English through the English as a Second Language program. Similarly, some elementary schools in the county promote a dual language immersion program that supports English-speaking students in learning a second language through bilingual classes.
Melanie Ponce is the ESL teacher at Mount Logan Middle School with many years of experience teaching English as a second language. She said that helping these students is a team effort.
“I need to work with them, and they need to work with me, and they need to take responsibility for helping the ESL kids learn and grow, but especially the lower levels, the newcomers coming in that don’t know any English, they need somewhere to come to learn basic English, but it’s a whole team effort, they support each other,” Ponce said.
Melissa Young is the ESL teacher at Logan High School, where there are over 150 English language learners.
“We are really focused on helping the kids be successful in their content area classes because we are at the high school level, so the kids need to earn their credits to graduate — and that, as you can imagine, is quite difficult when you don’t speak the language so we are focused on helping them acquire English but also acquire academic English which can be, research shows, as long as seven to nine years.”
ESL classrooms also serve as comfortable spaces for new students who can speak and socialize with their friends in their native language.
“They love the ESL classes because they are with their friends, and they are able to speak their home language,” Young said. “We do have a lot of Spanish speakers, but have Marshallese speakers and Somali speakers, and if they got somebody here that they can speak with, they really love that. The ESL classes are just one class out of their day, so they are incorporated into the mainstream classroom for the rest of their day. They are not in ESL or sheltered classes throughout the day, they do mainstream.”
In addition to teaching English as a Second Language, some Cache Valley elementary schools also offer bilingual classes for the purpose of promoting bilingualism and academic achievement through a dual language immersion program where students are taught general subjects such as math and social sciences in a foreign language such as Spanish or Portuguese.
Paola Johnson is a Logan mother of two kids that take bilingual classes. She is the only person that speaks Spanish in her home, so when she learned about the Dual Language Immersion program, she knew it was a program her kids needed to be a part of.
“When I found out that the DLI program existed, I did not think twice because I began to see that my children didn’t understand me when I spoke to them. For me, it is important that my children have those roots, or that the language continues to be preserved — being bilingual in this country is of the utmost importance, and every day, with so many people here from all countries around the world, I believe that being bilingual is a plus.”