Cynthia Garcia-Doane isn’t so concerned about winning a 1998 bilingual educator award. The teacher at Oxnard’s Rose Avenue School worries that she could be one of the last award winners.

Garcia-Doane, named the 1998 Teacher of the Year by the California Association for Bilingual Education, fears a ballot initiative could mean English only in state schools.

“I’ve thought about that, and it makes me very, very sad,” the kindergarten teacher said. “There’s so little accurate information about the bilingual program.”

Californians will cast ballots on June 2 to decide if the state should introduce a one-year, English immersion program in place of the current program. Polls show a majority of Californians favor abolishing bilingual education.

Stanley Diamond, chairman of the California English Campaign, which claims to have 200,000 supporters, has called bilingual education a “wasteful, failed system.”

There are improvements to be made in the system, Garcia-Doane admits, but, she said, popular support for the initiative is based on inaccurate information.

“People think bilingual education is not teaching English when the goal is to teach English,” said the Ventura native and Buena High graduate. “The goal is to stay at grade level academically while they’re learning English.”

It is particularly important to keep kids performing at grade-level expectations in their first few years in public school, Garcia-Doane said.

“One of the reasons I came to work with young people, especially kindergarten, is the research on early learning,” the UCSB graduate said.

Studies show that what kids learn in their first few years of school is critical.

“That’s one of the big reasons why class-size reduction has been so popular,” Garcia-Doane said.

Her work to gain insights about early education is one reason Garcia-Doane thinks she was chosen to win the award.

Impassioned as she is about teaching, Garcia-Doane, the oldest of 10 children, said she’ll work hard to defeat the English-only initiative.

Gloria Matta Tuchman, co-author of the English-only initiative, has predicted a bitter, emotional fight over the ballot measure.

That’s about the only thing they agree on, Garcia-Doane said.

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