English as a Second Language instructor puts English first

Teacher's approach praised in Birdville

California might welcome Bivra Mock’s views on bilingual
education. But in Texas, the Birdville teacher’s beliefs would
likely not be endorsed in a state education policy manual.

Mock, who teaches at middle schools and speaks Spanish fluently,
said she believes that the longer students are in bilingual programs,
the longer it will take for them to master English.

“I don’t teach anything in Spanish,” she said. “We’ve got to
succeed in English.”

Succeed she does with the students in her English as a Second
Language classes, Birdville school district officials said.

“She takes those kids who come in here and don’t speak a word of
English and, in just a short period of time, those kids are …
making tremendous strides,” Haltom Middle School Principal Jack
Atkins said. “She’s just extremely dedicated.”

To help her students attain fluency, Mock, who spent 25 years
teaching in Venezuela and nine years with Birdville, said she
provides constant praise and immediate help to a student struggling
to decipher a word on the blackboard or in a text.

Across the nation, bilingual education has been a controversial
topic the past decade. In June, more than 60 percent of California
voters approved Proposition 227, which eliminated the state’s
30-year-old bilingual education program. Opponents of bilingual
education say it deters students from learning English.

The League of United Latin American Citizens and teachers
organizations have challenged Proposition 227 in court.

“Being able to communicate in both languages is essential,” said
Dee Zuniga, president of the LULAC chapter of Hurst-Euless-Bedford
school district.

Texas endorses bilingual education, as does Birdville. Students
in bilingual programs receive half their lessons in their native
languages, which in Texas programs is predominantly Spanish. Texas
officials believe that the programs allow students to learn English
without sacrificing the learning of new concepts.

Mock’s stance doesn’t conflict with Birdville’s because the state
does not require school districts to provide bilingual education
programs at the secondary level, where Mock teaches 45 sixth-,
seventh- and eighth-graders, said Wanda Ballard, consultant for
bilingual “We would not want to put her at the elementary bilingual
classroom,” Ballard said. “But at her middle school level, she’s
really not going against anything instructionally.”

Mock said she begins by helping students with their homework until
they can do it themselves. She showers them with steady praise,
often referring to them as “the bright ones” or the “too-smart
ones.”

On Tuesday, she helped a few seventh-graders with an English
assignment. The students were instructed to write a series of poems
in different forms, including haiku, narrative, limerick and shape.

Mariana Rodriguez, 12, asked Mock to help her spell a few words,
while Maria Araujo, 13, developed a sentence: “Houston was a good
president.”

Mock then encouraged Araujo to think of more descriptive words.
“Let’s say something more. Maybe we could say where he lived,” the
teacher said.

Araujo immigrated to the United States from Mexico about a year
and half ago. Mariana was born in New Jersey but left as a baby for
her parents’ homeland, Costa Rica. She returned to the United States
last year unable to speak English.

Her fluency has increased rapidly, and Mariana expects to enter a
regular classroom as early as next year. But she is hesitant.

“Miss, you go high school with us,” Mariana told her teacher.

Mock smiled and joked, “No, I’m getting rid of y’all. I’m sure
not going with you.”



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