Every Friday morning this school year, select Friendswood High School seniors are working with 140 Bales Intermediate students to teach them the basics of the Spanish language in the Bales’ Spanish Club. The partnership is the result of a new Board-approved class at the high school called Spanish Seminar.
For FHS students to be a part of the class, they must be a senior who has either passed the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam or scored in the mid-to-advanced range on the ACT Foreign Language exam. The students are expected to create a database of lesson plans, brainstorm fresh ideas, and then teach the youngsters in a way that is easy for them to understand.
D’Ann Hervada is teaching the seminar and played a major role in partnering with Bales Principal and former FHS Spanish teacher JT Patton to get the Spanish Club started at the intermediate campus.
“As I was planning the new Spanish Seminar class, I was cognizant of the district’s vision of building authentic experiences and relationships in order to prepare students for global citizenry,” Hervada said. “I felt this collaborative effort would be reflective of the strategic plan by providing a much-needed skillset to our younger students while allowing the seniors to have leadership and volunteering opportunities.”
Hervada said the main goals she has for the program is to share the high school students’ love for Spanish with the students at Bales while teaching them basic Spanish during a 40-minute lesson once per week.
“The passion that the seniors have for the Spanish language and culture is contagious,” Hervada said. “My hope is that this will spread to the younger students and they will also develop a love and appreciation for the Spanish language, culture and people.”
This love is already being instilled in the Bales students.
“It’s really fun,” Bales fourth-grader Elaina Holtvluwer said. “Today we’re learning the colors. Last Friday, we learned how to greet one another. I want to learn everything.”
The program is equally as rewarding for the seniors.
“I like seeing [the kids] learn and seeing the smiles on their faces as we’re teaching them,” FHS senior Abigail Folzman said. “Kids’ brains are like sponges: they absorb everything that we say. Now is the best time to teach them so they remember by the time they get to Spanish at the Junior High.”
According to Holtvluwer, learning from other students is what makes the program extra special.
“I like [learning from the seniors] better,” Holtvluwer said. “They’re in advanced classes and they know a lot.”
Hervada said she believes the partnership is beneficial for all groups involved.
“Innovative and authentic learning is occurring for both student sets,” she stated. “One of the highlights of this endeavor is that the Bales students who have prior experience in Spanish are quickly identified to volunteer and model conversations and pronunciation for the rest of the class. They become star students. The seniors in this program are students who are very involved in many programs at FHS and the younger students probably recognize them and have admiration for them as they are and have been the faces of FHS and my hope is that they want to be bilingual, just like them.”
Hervada said she plans to expand the program to the other elementary and intermediate campuses.
“My desire is that this program will develop into a permanent partnership between FHS upper-level Spanish students and FISD elementary students to provide Spanish instruction to all students,” she said.