District Courts Mexican Teachers

Adams County officials go South in search for bilingual education

Five bilingual teachers from Mexico will join Adams County School District 14 next year as part of a teacher exchange program between America’s southern neighbor and Colorado schools.

District 14 officials flew to Mexico City last week and spent four days interviewing six teachers and meeting with Mexico’s Ministry of Public Education.

John Lange, Adams County District 14 superintendent, said more than half of the district’s 6, 100 students are Hispanic, with the number of Spanish-speaking children continuing to increase.

The district encompasses Commerce City and parts of Thornton and unincorporated Adams County. Details of the agreement need to be ironed out before school district and Mexican government officials sign it.

”We were very impressed with the caliber of the people, and we had total cooperation with the Mexican government,” Lange said.

Lange said the interviews with the Mexican teachers were conducted in English.

Marcela de la Mar, executive director of the Mexican Cultural Center of Denver, said her country has a four-week exchange program for Mexican teachers to instruct migrant families for the summer. It is not as extensive as the program with the school district, she said.

The cultural center operates out of the Denver office of Mexico’s consul general on behalf of that nation’s Program for Mexican Communities Abroad.

De la Mar said government officials hope the program could expand to include other districts.

The Adams County district plans to assign two teachers in January to Central and Dupont elementary schools, where bilingual faculty members are immediately needed, Lange said.

A third instructor will be assigned to teach math and science at a middle school, Lange said. Two instructors are expected to arrive at the school district in August.

In the next two years, the district hopes to add 10 more Mexican teachers.

Lange said the district decided to seek help outside the United States because of the dearth of qualified bilingual teachers around the country.

The district has a three-year transition program for Spanish-speaking students. The curriculum involves teaching the children the core subjects in their native tongue while instructing them in English in another class.

School board member Jack Murdoch credited Gov. Bill Owens’ September visit to Mexico with helping to open the doors for the exchange program.

”We are looking at the demographics from Adams County, and there certainly has been quite a change in the last five years,” Murdoch said. ”We’ve invested quite a bit of money in staff development.”

Murdoch said the district’s scores among bilingual students are the highest in the state. But to keep up with the student demand, the district needs to explore as many alternatives as possible, he said.

”It seems like a natural progress of improvement to involve the Mexican government in this.”

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