NEWBERRY — For over six years, a partnership with Newberry College, students and faculty has enabled Newberry Elementary School to host a Spanish Academy, the only one of its kind in the Newberry County School District.
The extracurricular Spanish instruction is available for students in grades 2 through 5. The Spanish Academy is staffed by six college volunteers and overseen by Gregory Cole, a professor at Newberry College.
The volunteers cover a variety of material including greetings, name/age, colors, numbers, animals, days of the week and months of the year, and seasons. Sessions include a brief review and then move on to the topic for that day. Pictures and informal conversation are used to reinforce learning.
“The curriculum for Spanish Academy is largely based around teaching our students the basic linguistic knowledge as well as fun cultural aspects such as Día De Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) and Flamenco Dancers,” volunteer Sarah Johnson said.
Johnson has volunteered over two years with the program and the education major considers it a calling. The other volunteers come from varied backgrounds. One is a forensics biology major, but she makes time in her full schedule of labs and classes to spend time with children. Another is bilingual from growing up in Germany. Two volunteers (Mexico, Costa Rica) are native Spanish speakers.
“I think going to the elementary school shows students that we care,” said volunteer Ashley Stout. “Learning a new language at an early age gives the students opportunities to be advanced in Spanish when they get older. Some students speak Spanish in their homes, so they also help us.”
Challenges from learning the language require that students be resilient and supportive of one another.
“This first-hand experience teaches the students about the patience and kindness which should be shown to students in their class who are learning English,” Johnson said.
The character skills, social emotive learning and academic learning are all things the volunteers are thankful to help promote within Newberry Elementary students.
“I love working with this group of students because it gives me the opportunity to instill new knowledge into them,” said volunteer Tamara Stemmer. “It makes a difference to me knowing that I gave them a new challenge and an understanding of the world around them. Through working with these students I know that (we) have put something good into a world where there is so much hurt and bad times. “