April 27, 2016
I am reaching out to you about our initiative which will support cultural and linguistic diversity in Bellevue School District through introduction of another dual language immersion program – with English and Russian languages. As you may know, Bellevue schools have 2 dual immersion programs (in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish), which demonstrate terrific academic success and allow many kids to feel recognized in the community. Unfortunately, many kids still do not have access to proper language education, whereas the resources which we have in Bellevue – the most diverse place in our state – are in abundance.
Working as a substitute teacher in BSD405, I meet Russian-speaking kids in almost every classroom. As it turns our, Bellevue and Redmond together have over 11 Russian preschools, a great number of Russian businesses, and are home to over 4000 families (with more Russian speakers in Kirkland). But the reasons for starting such a program in Bellevue go far beyond numbers and statistics.
If you look at the example of the state of Utah (which already offers 6 languages and expands it to 8 next year), or even a little closer – Portland Public Schools (also has 6 immersion programs, and looking to expand), lots of emphasis there is put on learning languages early in life. The research shows that language acquisition during elementary school happens faster, more effectively and less stressfully. With such structurally challenging languages like Russian it is probably the only chance for students to master all the aspects of the language at a native-speaker level.
The steps towards success we made so far:
- we started a petition over a week ago, and by now have 400 signatures (link to the petition: https://goo.gl/XCy0Sm);
- we had a successful presentation at Bellevue School Board meeting on April 19 (link to the recording: );
- in my conversation with one of the School Board members I heard approval of our initiative and support of the proposed idea;
- we started a Facebook group to keep everyone updated (link to the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1706236566331226/);
- in cooperation with OneCityProject (a non-profit which promotes language education programs) we were able to identify certified and prospective teachers for the program.
Right now we are looking for support from the broader community, because such programs make positive change not only among immigrant population, but enrich school culture, educational practices and bring new opportunities for monolingual families. We would like to find connections with the people who share our values – who are also passionate about education and giving their kids best opportunities. Our next steps will include a Russian book donation campaign, building connections with local businesses, getting heard by the media and petitioning to the State.
Such a partner like Washington State Coalition for International Education would mean a lot to our initiative. Please, let us know if you would like to consider cooperation, and if we can assist you with any concerns.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I am looking forward to your reply.