The number of students learning the English language in Indiana is growing and schools are feeling the impact.
This week, News 8’s Camila Fernandez is taking a deep dive into dual-language education and how some schools in Indianapolis are meeting their students’ cultural and linguistic needs.
Across Indiana, there are nearly 78,000 students called English learners who receive lessons in both English and Spanish. The number of English learners in Indiana schools has increased by almost 27,000 from six years ago.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The desire for dual-language education is on the rise in Indiana, but some schools are finding that there aren’t enough bilingual teachers in the state to help meet their specific needs.
A global search is underway to hire more bilingual teachers.
In 2016, Global Prep Academy at Riverside 44 became Indiana’s first Spanish immersion charter school. The school has since seen a significant increase in students who are wanting to learn to read and write in English and Spanish.
“Dual language is based on the concept that language abilities transfer from one language to the other,” said Liset Gonzalez-Acosta, the lower-school principal at Global Prep Academy.
Global Prep Academy at Riverside 44 isn’t your typical school. The pre-K to Grade 7 school uses a 50:50 dual-language model, which means students are taught in English for 50% of the day and in Spanish for the other 50% of the day.
“Classrooms are labeled with important vocabulary that students need to know. Teachers in dual language don’t go back and forth in languages. They don’t translate. If you teach in Spanish, the children are immersed in that language,” Gonzalez-Acosta said.
To make this possible, the school hires native Spanish speakers from around the world.
Jahnnelly Acosta was born in Venezuela but lived in Spain before eventually moving to Indiana.
“This is the most wonderful experience I’ve had in my life, in my professional life, and personally, too, because this is another country for us, for my family,” said Jahnnelly Acosta, a teacher of Spanish as a second language at Global Prep Academy.
The school has teachers from 17 different Spanish-speaking countries. This year, they hired four teachers from Mexico.
“We believe that for language immersion to work we need native speakers and so that means that staffing can be more challenging, but it’s certainly worth it,” said Mariama Shaheed, the founder and chief executive officer of Global Prep Academy.
According to Shaheed, they work with Global Indiana, a nonprofit, to find licensed teachers that can make a five-year commitment.
“Whenever students walk through the halls and they see people who look like them who speak a language that they understand, understand their culture, it’s game changing,” Shaheed said.
The school says they are hoping to obtain a second building in three to four years.