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Helena elementary school teaching students to be bilingual

Posted at 3:58 PM, Feb 18, 2020

HELENA — There's a new language pilot program at Jefferson Elementary School in Helena.

Last semester, Kindergarten through 5th grade students took part in an 8 week course learning how to speak French, and this semester they're learning Spanish.

If you were to walk by Mrs. Heather Lieburg's 2nd grade classroom on a Tuesday morning, you wouldn't hear a math or history lesson; instead, you would hear Spanish.

2nd grade student Paige Hammon says, "well, we learn about Spanish, and its really fun, like, she'll say a word and we have to learn it out loud."

Spanish teacher Ciara Ryan says, "our goal with this program is for the students to enjoy learning a second language, and to be pretty much immersed in it, so we don't conduct the entire class in the target language, but we conduct probably 70-80% of the class in the target language."

2nd grader Ben Mincemoyer says, "Spanish is really fun, and I love Spanish!"

Teacher Ciara Ryan speaks four different languages (she is multilingual, or ella es multilingue), and she says the benefits are endless.

Ryan added, “There are major benefits to learning a second language at any age, and it doesn't matter what language any language is useful, but in particular, at this age children learning a second language, it enhances their problem-solving, critical thinking, analytical skills, it increases their ability to think creatively."

The Spanish class is already in its third week and Ciara says it's clear the students are grasping the concept.

The Spanish course is 8 weeks long, and will wrap up on March 24th.

It's a pilot program spearheaded by the Parent Teacher Council.

Right now, it's only being offered at Jefferson Elementary School.