St. Matthew staff leads workshop for dual language teachers

Brenda Portillo, who teaches kindergarteners in Spanish at St. Matthew, explains the assessment method the school uses to track academic progress in dual language learning Sept. 26. (courtesy photo)
Brenda Portillo, who teaches kindergarteners in Spanish at St. Matthew, explains the assessment method the school uses to track academic progress in dual language learning Sept. 26. (courtesy photo)

St. Matthew is a one-classroom-per-grade school, but the majority of its students double up on the learning with complementary lessons taught in English and Spanish.

The dual language staff highlighted student learning and assessment during a state conference of the Arizona Language Association and the Teachers of Language Learners Learning Community Sept. 26 at Mesa Community College.

Matt Toomey, who teaches in English to third- and fourth-graders at St. Matthew, facilitates discussion during a Sept. 26 workshop aimed at language learning instructors. (courtesy photo)
Matt Toomey, who teaches in English to third- and fourth-graders at St. Matthew, facilitates discussion during a Sept. 26 workshop aimed at language learning instructors. (courtesy photo)

St. Matthew is in its sixth year of a 50/50 model immersion approach to learning meaning students spending half of their school day learning in Spanish and the other half learning in English. The model begins in kindergarten and extends to fourth grade.

Administration plans to grow the program so that students are supported in language learning in every grade. The dual-language learning approach is research-based with evidence pointing to higher academic achievement among students. They’re also better prepared for an increasingly global and bilingual workplace.

St. Matthew School is in its second year as part of a national consortium of Catholic schools that are implementing and assessing models of dual language learning. The Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools is led by Boston College faculty and other university researchers.