Yakima School District teachers learning Spanish to better help their students

    Yakima School District teachers learning Spanish to better help their students.

    YAKIMA, Wash.- With many pictures and bright colors the posters look like something you may see in your child's classroom.

    However, it’s some of the Yakima School District's teachers who are taking in this lesson of learning Spanish.

    "We use the very same teaching techniques that we would in the classroom to help students acquire English,” Chief Bilingual Officer John Kerr said.

    There're two classes a week. One for teachers with almost no Spanish background and the other for those that have some understanding of the language.

    Kerr is one of the instructors for the classes and said about half the district's students need help when it comes to English.

    He said these lessons allow the teachers to see the classroom from the kid’s perspective, which allows them to better present their subjects.

    “You have a toolkit of strategies that will help English learners acquire English while at the same time learning rigorous academic content,” he said.

    Mikki Boughton is a teacher at Garfield Elementary and has some experience with Spanish from taking it in high school and college.

    She said about 90 percent of her class are Spanish speakers and the lessons help her understand what it's like for them- from forgetting what a word could mean to finding new ways to help the information stick.

    “Instead of being like I taught you this. It's ok. Let's think back on what you know, what we learned and what mental cues can you remind yourself with to help you understand,” she said.

    Boughton said being able to learn her student’s language will also give her a better chance to understand who they are and where they come from.

    “Within a language there's also a culture. If you don't know that language you can't access that culture,” she said.

    With parent teacher conferences coming up, Kerr said the more Spanish the teachers know, the better each of them can work with parents to help their students.

    “By acquiring some of the language structures that they need with parents this will really strengthen our community relations, it will strengthen the communication between parents and teachers and that is a win-win for our district and our families,” he said.

    Kerr said the district worked with La Casa Hogar to partner some native Spanish speakers with those learning the language.

    The teachers will be able to use Rosetta Stone until this summer so they can keep practicing their Spanish even after school is over.

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