It was a packed house in the Mark Twain Elementary school library on Saturday when dual language families and supporters from that last 20 years gathered to celebrate a milestone anniversary. The room was filled with excitement and nostalgia for the journey that had begun for many of them in the kindergarten classroom of Graciela Martinez, who continues to be the beloved teacher welcoming them into this special community.
Terry Armstrong, from HISD’s Multilingual Department, who along with Graciela Martinez, helped to write the proposal that started the first dual language classrooms in Houston was on hand for the celebration. She was honored for her support, she reminisced at the uncertainty of the program twenty years ago, and marveled as to how far they have come. She said, “Our first class of students have now gone on to college, and have become productive citizens.” She has a personal connection to one special student who was part of the the inaugural class, her son.
As a bilingual parent in Houston, I am grateful for the option to send my child into a learning environment that celebrates and promotes speaking more than one language. In a dual language classroom there is a balanced number of Spanish and English speaking students. They learn both languages together, serving as models to one another, and the result is amazing. These students are a family of global citizens who are not only bilingual, but biliterate.
We began our children at Mark Twain, in the dual language program, and left for a variety of reasons, none having to do with this wonderful program and its incredible teachers. I felt so privileged to have been witness to this event, and to reconnect with members of our dual language family.