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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 takes a look at bilingual education and how some schools in Indianapolis are meeting the cultural and linguistic needs of their students.
Throughout Indiana, there are nearly 78,000 students called English Learners who receive English and Spanish language instruction. The number of English learners in Indiana schools has increased by nearly 27,000 over the past six years.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The desire for bilingual education is on the rise in Indiana, but some schools are finding that there aren’t enough bilingual teachers in the state to 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 the number of students wishing to learn to read and write in English and Spanish.
“Dual language is based on the concept that language skills are transferred from one language to another,” said Liset Gonzalez-Acosta, primary school director at Global Prep Academy.
Riverside 44 Global Prep Academy is not your typical school. The K-7 school uses a 50:50 bilingual model, which means that students are taught in English for 50% of the day and Spanish for the remaining 50% of the day.
“Classrooms are labeled with important vocabulary that students need to know. Dual language teachers do not go back and forth between languages. They don’t translate. If you teach in Spanish, the kids are immersed in that language,” Gonzalez-Acosta said.
To make this possible, the school hires native Spanish speakers from all over the world.
Jahnnelly Acosta was born in Venezuela but lived in Spain before eventually moving to Indiana.
“It’s the most wonderful experience I’ve had in my life, in my professional life and personally too, because it’s another country for us, for my family,” said Jahnnelly Acosta, Spanish as a second language teacher 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, which means staffing can be more difficult, but it’s definitely worth it,” said Mariama Shaheed, Founder and CEO from Global Prep Academy.
According to Shaheed, they work with world indianaa non-profit organization, to find certified teachers who can commit for five years.
“Any time students walk down the halls and see people who look like them and speak a language they understand, understand their culture, it’s a game-changer,” Shaheed said.
The school says it hopes to get a second building in three to four years.