From Limited English Proficient To Medical Doctor
Story of Roberto Féliz
August 19, 2000

When Roberto Feliz came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, he knew only a few words of English. He was Limited English Proficient (LEP). Although he once loved school, it soon became a nightmare and he hid in class and often came home crying. An “A” student in his native country, Roberto started to think he was a failure and seriously considered dropping out of school. That was until Mrs. Malavé, a bilingual educator, began working with him to improve his English, while teaching math and science in his native language. As Roberto had the chance to demonstrate his ability and talents in his native Spanish, he regained his confidence and mastered English as well.

Today, Roberto is a succcesful doctor in Massachusetts who runs his own clinic and works with several hospitals, including the Boston Medical Center. He uses the skills he learned in bilingual education every day to treat patients in two languages.

“Before bilingual education I was failing all of my classes, I couldn’t understand anything. Having the chance to learn in a good bilingual program allowed me to stay smart in subjects I loved, while teaching me the language I would later need to be successful. Bilingual education is why I am who I am today.”   - Roberto Féliz

My Biggest Regret Is Not Placing My Older Children In A Bilingual Education Program
Tucson Citizen, August 16, 2000
by Gloria Kunz

Crowing about bilingual education

I sympathize with all the people who have claimed that bilingual education is ineffective. I totally agree with Priscilla Gutierrez's comments. My experience has been absolutely the opposite from the Romero family and others who discredit bilingual programs.

My biggest regret is not placing my older children in a bilingual education program. I was wise not to commit the same error with my youngest child who has been in a bilingual program from K-5.

My son, Yeshua, has benefited intuitively and academically by being in bilingual education. He is not just bilingual, he is biliterate and culturally sensitive!

My son can read and write impressively in both English and Spanish. His acquiring a second language did not stunt his learning process in English, as many individuals allege. In fact, being a student in a bilingual program has facilitated and enhanced his learning development, plus has instilled in him the importance of multiculturalism!

His bilingualism undoubtedly has been an asset rather than a deficit. His bilingualism has motivated him to be an honor student. And I'm positive that his bilingualism will make him more serviceable, competent and competitive when he graduates into the work force.

Latinos, take advantage of the educational opportunities that are being offered to your children in bilingual programs because soon they may be obsolete. Why? Because millionaires have witnessed the benefits and they don't want to share their wealth. Make a diligent effort to learn what bilingual education truly offers before believing all the fallacies and negative feedback that Ron Unz is promoting.

Fellow citizens, support bilingual programs because in the long run everyone in our nation will benefit.Remember, "una persona que habla dos idiomas vale por dos!" [a person who speaks two languages is twice as valuable]

Wake up, America. English is not the only valuable language in our country.


Don't Eliminate Bilingual Ed
by Sergio Mayoral, Senior at Rincon High School
Letter sent to Arizona Daily Star
August 3, 2000

Re: the July 25 letter titled, "Immersion works best."

I believe it is wrong to eliminate bilingual education. I was in bilingual classes for four years and I learned more English and in less time because I took pride in being bilingual.

Knowing how to read and write in two languages will help me some day to get a better job. It would be a mistake to eliminate bilingual education. I believe it would cause fewer students to graduate from high school.

I hope we will expand bilingual education classes rather than listening to ignorant advice.

Sergio Mayoral
Rincon High School

Bilingual Education Has Been Very Good To Her
A Parent's View of Dual Language Immersion
by Julie Neff-Encinas,  Tucson, AZ
Feb. 23, 1999

"Likewise, in her [daughter's] senior year she will be in AP [Advanced Placement] English and AP Spanish simultaneously. Bilingual education has been very good to her."

(Letter to an acquaintance)
Dear Mary,

You know me, you know my children. My son and your daughter shared the same classrooms at Davis. We come from different places and backgrounds and yet we selected the same magnet school experience for our children. Let me share why I continue to select Davis after 12 years of being a parent there.

Being bilingual is not something I grew up with. I grew up in a very homogeneous language environment. Everyone was monolingual English except for some knowledge of French or Spanish from high school or college courses. I came to Tucson in search of bilingual education, having read "The Invisible Minority" during research in college. When I met and married a man from Mexico my desire to be bilingual became a necessity. Soon, it also became a necessity that my children be bilingual in order to communicate with the grandparent, aunts, uncles and dozens of cousins in Mexico.

My neighborhood school did not offer bilingual education back in the mid 1980s, in fact it just began a program last year. I had no choice but to enroll my children as Anglos in order to meet the enrollment guidelines for magnet selection. They are Anglo and Mexican, so it didn't matter to me which I put down, as long as they got into a good school. Davis had just recently been selected as an A+ school so I was happy to have my first child attend.

Her reading was developed in her dominant language, English. But the dual language environment allowed her to easily transfer her literacy skills to Spanish by the second semester of first grade. Reading to learn in two languages has led her to strong skills in both languages. She has been an Honor Roll student almost every quarter while enrolled at Roskruge Bilingual Magnet Middle School and Pueblo High School. English continues to be her dominant language, definitely. But now that she is in her junior year of high school she is in a Spanish for Native Speakers class in which she competes to be in the top 5 of the class alongside recent immigrants from Mexico. Likewise, in her senior year she will be in AP [Advanced Placement] English and AP Spanish simultaneously. Bilingual education has been very good to her.

My second child, the one who attended Davis with your little girl, struggled with literacy a little longer. I often wondered if literacy in Spanish wouldn't have been a better choice for him in Kinder and First grade, but he eventually got the reading concept. By fifth grade reading and writing in both languages solidified for him as patterns. It seemed that his involvement in musical training as a Mariachi trumpeter had something to do with literacy clicking for him. Since then he has become an Honor Roll student in middle school, excelling in Math. He has continued on in the bilingual education program at Roskruge Bilingual Magnet Middle School and I wouldn't change it for the world.

My youngest child has participated in the renovated program at Davis, a Spanish immersion program. I fully understand why the faculty chose to change to an immersion program. Most English dominant students who entered Davis without a Spanish speaking parent in the home failed to become academically fluent in Spanish. The new program is amazing. During Kinder and First Grade my son's classes were conducted in about 90% Spanish. All literacy development was done in Spanish. This child was my least Spanish proficient upon entering school since he had two older siblings speaking only English to him despite whatever Mom and Dad spoke to him.

The Spanish immersion environment has not slowed his cognitive growth at all and it has allowed him to develop literacy in two languages simultaneously. No, he isn't "taught to read in English" and some people are concerned when they see that his spelling isn't perfect in English. But once they realize how much he can do in Spanish and how it transfers easily back and forth between the languages they are amazed also. He reads almost anything he is given in English and comprehends it completely and the same is true in Spanish. Despite the fact that English continues to be his dominant language, I know that time and bilingual education will allow him to become completely bilingual and biliterate.

I grew up believing that it was an extremely "educated" thing to do to be able to read, write and speak more than one language. I didn't think I was truly "educated" until I graduated from college with honors in Spanish. My children don't have to wait that long to feel the pride of being fluent in two languages. They already have it by the time they leave 5th grade. Thanks to bilingual education! I wish all kids could benefit as my children have.

Thanks for accepting such a long piece.

Julie Neff-Encinas

Parents Covet Getting Into Bilingual School
Getting Into Davis Bilingual School
Sunday, 9 April 2000
Excerpt from Arizona Daily Star, Bilingual Ed Series
Jeffry Scott / Staff

Nowhere are they happier than at Davis Bilingual.

Many English-speaking parents used to sign up their children at birth for enrollment there. Now, students outside the neighborhood are selected by lottery. One year, more than 200 applied for 48 slots in the lottery.

Some families even move into the Barrio Anita neighborhood so their children can attend the school, said Principal Guadalupe Romero. Others give false addresses, like the one that turned out to be the school’s own garden.

More Spanish is taught at Davis than at most bilingual education programs in the country. After six weeks of English instruction, kindergartners and first graders are taught all in Spanish. They transition by fifth grade to a maximum of 30 percent English.

Mary Adkisson has watched her three blond, Irish-American children learn the language and culture through mariachi and folklorico groups.

Her oldest daughter, fifth-grader Lauren, is practically fluent in Spanish. She recently became one of the first Spanish-speaking reporters for the children’s newspaper Bear Essential News. Lauren said the instruction was hard at first, but she picked up Spanish quickly.

“The easy part was because they talked to us the whole day in it,” Lauren said. “They would say, ‘Let's go paint,’ and they would get out the paints and we would understand.”

Adkisson wants to see her 2-year-old get the same chance at Davis. “I'm praying he will be able to come to this school and get the same education my kids are getting,” she said. “If he would have to miss out on it, it would be a shame. It would be unfair.”

Kids’ Bilingual Writing Skills Surprise A Teacher
Excerpt From Arizona Daily Star
Monday, 10 April 2000
Jeffry Scott / Staff

A teacher for nine years, Gonzales was not sold on bilingual education when she first started her college courses, but she saw the method work with her own daughter.

The girl spoke only Spanish when she started school and now is a top senior at Pueblo High Magnet School. “It works because the main curriculum is taught in the language that the children understand," Gonzales said. “It works because, as they are learning their second language, they are not losing the content."

If bilingual education ends, and Gonzales is forced to teach in English only, students will miss the meaning of their lessons. Many will drop out, she said. “If I did that they would lose so many concepts," Gonzales said. “They wouldn't be proficient in either one."

Bilingual Education Brought Success
Arizona Daily Star
Monday, 10 April 2000

Jorge Bojorquez moved to Tucson and started at Pueblo High Magnet School with a bad attitude, mainly because he didn't know English. “I didn't think I would finish high school. Everything was like, dark,” said Bojorquez, of Nacozari, Sonora. "When I started learning English, I could comprehend more things. I started focusing on my future.”

Bojorquez, a 1996 Pueblo High Magnet School graduate, credits bilingual education with his success so far. He's in his second year at Pima Community College and plans to transfer to the University of Arizona next year with a goal of becoming a museum curator or history teacher. “Now, I look at the present and the future. I say, ‘Wow. I can't believe this,’ ” said Bojorquez,” 21.

Bojorquez, as a Pueblo ninth-grader, began with a mix of Spanish and English. He enrolled in biology and history in Spanish, while taking English as a second language. “I don't think I would have learned in English,” Bojorquez said. “My English was really, really poor. After I completed my ESL classes, I felt like I was more sure about myself.”

He doesn't understand the criticism of bilingual education. “I believe, Hispanic people, we should learn Spanish and English at the same time. We should not forget about our culture.

Spanish made learning easier

For the first few days of elementary school in the United States, Tatiana Sevillano felt isolated because she didn't understand the language. The 8-year-old had just moved to the country knowing only Spanish. She was raised in Peru by her Mexican-American mother and Peruvian father. “I would just sit there. I felt disconnected, isolated, scared and shy, timid, intimidated,” said Sevillano, now 22.

But soon, she was placed in a bilingual education class at Roberts Elementary School in the Tucson Unified School District. And she wasn't so scared. “I got to meet the other kids who only spoke Spanish. I got to make friends. It was easier to learn because I didn't feel as intimidated,” Sevillano said.

Sevillano already knew how to read in Spanish, but learning English and Spanish at the same time wasn't confusing. She was soon named student of the month and placed in gifted classes. “I used my Spanish to learn English,” Sevillano said.

Now, Sevillano is about to graduate from the University of Arizona with a major in human resource management and a certificate in international business. She plans to work in international business or human resources before going to graduate school.