RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — Eastlawn Elementary School in Rantoul is working to create an inclusive environment for students with all different backgrounds. It’s one of the two schools in the district with a dual literacy program where students learn in both Spanish and English.
Juanise Moya and Evelyn Costabella are two of the teachers encouraging students to be their authentic selves.
“A day looks like in a bilingual classroom is a lot of many mixing of languages,” Moya described.
Her bi-lingual classroom of 21 third graders is a prime example of that.
“I have students from Guatemala, from Mexico, from Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic, from Honduras,” she described.
When they all get together, their backgrounds come together. Students interact and collaborate together throughout the day.
“Some groups are in Spanish, other groups are in English,” Moya said. “Kids are in contact with both languages at the same time.”
Costabella is a special education teacher in Moya’s classroom.
“We work together, we co-teach with the normal classroom teachers,” she said. “The children never know they’re in SPED because we’re just ‘the other teacher!'”
Costabella’s goal is to make sure the children feel included and comfortable no matter what.
“It respects the identity and background of every single person and that’s what I love about bilingual education,” she said.
Moya said the environment is important for everyone, but especially “newcomers.” Those are students going to school in the United States for the first time.
“I remember that she was so shy and afraid because it was her first time meeting in a U.S. school and then when I say ‘hola coma estas?’ that is ‘hi, how are you doing?’ she was like ‘ahh’ I can find someone that can understand me,” Moya said.
Moya knows moments like those are what make teaching so special.
“It doesn’t matter which language they use, they’re going to have someone that will understand them. It doesn’t matter if they’re speaking in Spanish or if they’re speaking English,” she added.
Research from the Department of Education notes there are many benefits of bilingual education. For example, they report switching from language to language in the brain helps with cognitive development. It can also help with social-emotional learning when students have more ties to their family and culture.