In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Cape Hatteras Elementary School (CHES)’s Dual-Language Immersion (DLI) classes presented a School Day for Cultural diversity in their cafetorium. On Wednesday, October 24, first and second grade students from the DLI program honored the traditions and cultures of Guatemala and Venezuela.
DLI is a program designed to teach language acquisition at an early age by providing instruction in both English and Spanish. DLI programs have quickly sprouted up throughout the U.S. as the number of non-native English speakers continues to grow. There are an estimated 2,000 DLI programs across the country, and four of five elementary schools in Dare County currently offer the program.
Students at CHES have the option to enter the program in Kindergarten, at an age when absorbing new information comes more easily, and they continue in the program until they graduate from the 5th grade. At CHES, native Spanish-speaking instructors Maria Aponte and Manfredo De la Cruz teach half of the day’s instruction in Spanish and half in English. This method of instruction has been shown to increase critical thinking skills, cognitive development, and cultural sensitivity among young language learners.
“It is an environment where we share our differences and make them new opportunities to grow as responsible and cultured human beings,” Aponte said of the DLI program at CHES.
CHES’s Cultural Diversity Day on Wednesday celebrated the heritage of both Aponte, who is from Venezuela, and De la Cruz, who is from Guatemala.
The program kicked off with a warm “Bienvenidos” from two DLI students to a crowd of proud parents and teachers as more students held up the flags of Venezuela, Guatemala, and the U.S. Just like in the DLI classroom, students spoke in both English and Spanish throughout the programs.
DLI second grade students recited an 1891 poem call “La Niña de Guatemala” by José Martí in Spanish completely from memory.
First grade DLI students reenacted a scene representative of Venezuelan culture and tradition. The boys wore straw hats and casted nets, while girls danced in white dresses laced with the traditional Venezuelan colors: red, blue, and yellow. A camera man and reporter from the class narrated the scene in order to convey Venezuela’s incredible diversity to their audience.
Second grade DLI students then performed a group dance to a traditional Guatemalan song. Boys wore colorful hats, while girls wore dresses made in Guatemala which depicting scenes representing the beauty and topographical features of the country known as the land of eternal Spring.
The program concluded with a thank you to Sherry Couch, the current CHES principal who will soon be leaving her position. Couch has over 20 years of experience working with students in both middle and high school, and was named Dare County Schools Principal of the Year in 2016. Aponte spoke of Couch’s dedication to the school and presented her with a gift while De la Cruz thanked her for giving him the opportunity to teach DLI students at CHES.
“We want to honor a woman who gave everything to this community and school. Mrs. Couch, thank you for all that you have done,” second grade DLI students announced.