She prefers immersion

When Suni Fernandez started teaching eight years ago, she thought bilingual education was “the greatest thing.” But two years later, the Oceanside Unified School District teacher noticed that her second-graders weren’t learning English because they were spending most of their timel speaking Spanish.

Fernandez, whose parents are Spanish and Dominican, learned English in Catholic schools in California and Spanish in Spain. She became literate in both.

The certified bilingual education teacher understands children’s obstacles in mastering a new language. She thinks immersion is better but she would like her school to add Spanish reading lessons for older children so they can become biliterate.

He’s switched sides

Kenneth Noonan spent his professional life pushing for bilingual education, but now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of backing English immersion. A former bilingual education teacher, Noonan helped found the California Association for Bilingual Education in the early 1970s. Almost three decades later, Noonan was forced to throw out bilingual education when a proposition passed in 1998, shortly after he became superintendent of Oceanside Unified School District near San Diego.

Since starting the English immersion program, Noonan has watched many students blossom in English.

“Forget what the studies say. They need to look at the kids,”said Noonan, who is Hispanic.

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