Pioneering bilingual program at Mastery Schools of Camden provides students with multiple advantages inside, outside classroom - Mastery Charter School
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Pioneering bilingual program at Mastery Schools of Camden provides students with multiple advantages inside, outside classroom

TAPinto Camden
By Janel "Jaycee" Miller

CAMDEN – Students whose primary language is Spanish were not always encouraged to speak that language in the classroom, a scenario that Sandra Dominguez, a bilingual teacher at Mastery’s Molina Elementary School in Camden said she knows all too well.

“I did not have the opportunity to really express myself in my native language and grow in both (Spanish and English) during my K-12 journey,” Dominguez said. “At one point, I did not want to speak Spanish anymore because doing so made me feel isolated.”

That was then, and this is now.

In the fall of 2024, Mastery Schools of Camden will expand its bilingual offerings for native Spanish-speaking students. Building on the success of a pioneering bilingual program at Molina Elementary, one-way dual language immersion programs will be launched at Cramer Hill Elementary, McGraw Elementary, and Molina Elementary for incoming multilingual kindergarten students.

Enrolled students will receive academic instruction in both English and Spanish to become bilingual and bi-literate learners.

“These programs are designed to support students academically and incorporate the literature and historical perspective of their backgrounds into the curriculum and classroom culture,” said Lisa Walsh, Mastery Schools’ senior director of multilingual education. “Through this expansion, we’re hoping to reduce feelings of separation and produce stronger, more well-rounded graduates who have a leg-up in the post-secondary world thanks to their bilingual status.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 53% of Camden’s population identifies as Hispanic. Mastery’s bilingual program is primarily geared towards multilingual learners in kindergarten through sixth grade or students in that population and in those grades whose primary language at home is not English and who are simultaneously learning how to speak English, Walsh said in an interview.

If space allows, heritage Spanish speakers — those who are schooled primarily in English but have a personal, familial or community connection to Spanish and have a strong understanding of the English language, according to Catholic University and American University — will be allowed to enroll, Walsh said.

The bilingual program currently offers a tutorial model in language arts, math, science and social studies with reading and writing instruction in Spanish and reading interventions in Spanish, Walsh said.

If you have questions or need more information about Multilingual Education, please email Mastery’s Multilingual Education team ([email protected]).