BOERNE — One of the state’s top-ranked dual-language teachers is helping Boerne Independent School District open more doors for students by encouraging them to become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural.

Aida Pérez, the second grade dual-language teacher at Fabra Elementary School, recently was recognized by Education Service Center, Region 20 as Bilingual Teacher of the Year.

“She takes great pride in not just her class, but the entire program and trying to strengthen that program and give those kids the best education and opportunities,” said Troy Latiolais, the school’s assistant principal.

Technology has opened the doors to globalization and diversity, and tomorrow’s professionals must learn how to share information today, said Pérez, a native of Bogota, Colombia, who has been teaching 30 years, the past 11 at Fabra.

“Nowadays, people can communicate with anybody around the world in different languages,” she added. “If we don’t expose them to different languages, they will not meet the challenges of the 21st century. They will not be ready to be the global leaders that we want to have in this country again and continue to have in the future.”

In BISD, dual-language students learn literacy and other subjects in Spanish and English, beginning in kindergarten and continuing through elementary school, with new middle school options available, too. The program is offered at Fabra, Kendall and Curington elementary schools, with a total enrollment of 434 pupils.

Those studies could be added to Van Raub and Herff elementary schools, scheduled to open August 2018 and August 2019, respectively.

“Boerne’s growth and parents’ interest (are) ensuring their child has the opportunity to become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural,” said BISD spokesman David Boggan.

Learners not living in areas zoned for the curriculum are also eligible. Cibolo Creek Elementary School students who are accepted go to Curington or Kendall, while children in Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary School attend Kendall.

Fabra has 110 schoolchildren in the dual-language program for the 2017-18 academic year. Classes combine native English and Spanish speakers.

Kindergarteners start with 90 percent Spanish instruction and 10 percent English; first-graders, 80-20 percent; second-graders, 70-30 percent; and by fifth grade, instruction is evenly divided.

“Once they have the semantics, the syntax, the vocabulary in their first language, they transfer those skills of how a language works and then they learn better and faster in a second language.”

For the duration of the school year, the same teacher is used in self-contained kindergarten through fourth-grade classes. Instructors teach language arts, reading, writing and math in Spanish, and science in English.

Once in fifth grade, learners have multiple teachers for different subjects.

Children must start the program before first grade.

BISD officials said the objective is to increase pupils’ proficiency in both their native language and the adopted one, encourage improved academic performance, and create “positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors,” according to the district website.

“The overall goal of the program is by the time the students finish their schooling, they’re not just bilingual, they’re bicultural. They’re fluent in both languages and they have a good understanding of both cultures,” Latiolais said.

Pérez said classes can be challenging, but schoolchildren develop at a higher level.

“When you take little ones, they’re sponges,” she said. “They absorb everything, and nothing is too difficult for them if you take your time to really see how to teach them, find out what materials and resources are good for them, and you try to address each little one in terms of their needs and difficulties.”

Pérez, who learned English upon moving to America with her husband, said she understands the struggle of mastering a new tongue. She attended the University of Illinois and earned a graduate degree in linguistics.

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