What Is Immersion Education & Is it the Right Choice for My Family?

This post is brought to you by New Mexico International School. We at Albuquerque Moms Blog choose to work with organizations we feel bring value to our readers.

As I walk into the class, I hear an 8-year-old native English speaking child raise her hand to answer the teacher’s question.  “Conflict, maestra,” she says.

“Sí,” the teacher repeats in Spanish, “conflicto. That is a cognate – what does it mean?”

The child goes on to explain, in Spanish that a conflict is a “problem that needs a solution.” The dialogue between teacher and all the students continues, in Spanish, about how conflicts always occur. They discuss how we can not only solve conflicts, but that grow and improve the world through this process of conflict resolution.

This is not a normal discussion for third graders.  Or even adults for that matter.  This is a third grade classroom and the level of understanding in both languages surpasses the knowledge base of an average student in a monolingual class.

The children at this school have been immersed in Spanish since they were in Kindergarten. And by now most students are able to decipher what words mean in English by the Spanish root of the words.

bilingual and immersion education at New Mexico International SchoolAs a bilingual educator, witnessing children learn a second language in an immersion program always seems like magic to me.

The brain in the early stages is able to produce the sounds correctly to absorb a different word for what they already know. It truly expands the size of the world for the student. When a child participates in a quality immersion program that teaches a second language, the curve at which they acquire Spanish exponentially speeds up. The academic language that the children learn at this school is quite remarkable.

Not only am I an educator, but I am also a mother of two children who attend a language immersion school. As I am a daughter of immigrants, it is imperative to me that my children are able to communicate with their grandparents and family who don’t speak English. It is vital, that they are able to communicate in the language of their family.

It always impresses me that the children who attend this school have the same beliefs. For these children, Spanish is not their 2nd language, but rather the 3rd or in some cases 4th. We have had families from Estonia, Russia, Brazil, Taiwan and the Middle East.

Research shows, that bilingual speakers consistently show dominance related to problem solving, task-switching, and mental flexibility. In a diverse world, multiple languages are a gift for our future generations. The ability to communicate across cultures to know each other will serve to bring peace. The more we know of each other, the less we fear. Understanding leads to unity. How is this type of knowledge taught you ask?

If you want this for your child, then you should consider enrolling him or her in a quality immersion school.  My children attend New Mexico International School (NMIS).

At NMIS, we are trilingual school where we learn through inquiry. Inquiry-based learning emphasizes the student’s role, rather than the teacher telling the students what they need to know. They do this through encouraging the children to explore what they want to learn about, asking questions and sharing ideas.

The teachers at NMIS also implement GLAD strategies, which focus on language acquisition by using visuals, songs, and truly meaningful activities instead of just memorizing facts. We are part of a small handful of International Baccalaureate schools in our city. Our school curriculum goes beyond our physical walls. The students build their knowledge through exploration, experience and languages.

My children are immersed in Spanish beginning in kindergarten. They play Suzuki violin starting in kindergarten and receive art twice a week. They practice Aikido, Yoga, and in some occasions ceramics or computer coding.  My 4th grader is even learning his third language – Arabic! All this is under one roof, at a free public charter school. I truly won the lottery!

NMIS is having 3 upcoming information sessions for interested families: March 2, 18, and 31. Please attend one of these sessions to receive a lottery admission number. To RSVP, please visit their website or call 505-503-7670.

About our Guest Blogger:: Julia Rivera-Tapia

Julia graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor’s degree in Education and began teaching in 2005. In 2009 she moved to New York to obtain a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Columbia University.

Julia is passionate about immersion and bilingual education and witnessing the magic when students begin to read and write! Besides teaching kindergarten, she has been a first grade teacher, early childhood liaison, an instructional coach, an IB coordinator, and has served as a school leader in many capacities as well as an advocate in non-profit organizations throughout the community. Mrs. Rivera-Tapia has experienced the growth of New Mexico International School. She feels truly fortunate to be able to be a part of this new phase in her role as school Director. Julia is married to Luis and is a mother to three amazing bilingual children who are beginning to learn Arabic,

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immersion education, bilingual education, New Mexico International School