Cool Schools: Ann Smith Elementary

Local News

A teacher in the Madison County School District is helping to break down the language barrier at a fast changing school. Ann Smith Elementary is this week’s “Cool School.”

Juan Gonzalez moved from Mexico seven years ago for graduate school. But now he’s teaching Spanish speaking students the English language.

By students, we mean more than just kids. Over the course of about three years, dozens of parents have learned under his direction.

“Sixty to seventy different parents. Some of them have been here for two or three years,” Gonzalez said.

The English Language Learner (ELL) class meets three times a week, and even some weekends.

“We speak about grammar. We speak about all of that. But then sometimes we have to jump into ‘okay we need to change the environment back home, because that is not helping your child to succeed. You need to create a special place for them to succeed academically’.”

The class sparked from the fast growing Spanish speaking population in the Madison County School District.

“We’re teaching ways they can help their students when they come how me with homework,” Principal Karen Harness said.

Of the 700 students at Ann Smith Elementary, there are around 150 whose first language is not English.

“I would say close to 20-25% of our student population. We even just after Christmas have enrolled students coming in from California…Just over the break have enrolled anywhere from four to eight students,” Harness said.

The school celebrates the wave of diversity, and Gonzalez is helping to build the bridge.

“When they come into the country, they are isolated because of the language. So by helping them with acquiring English as a second language, then we are helping them to have a better life, to fit into the communit,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez wants to expand this program and offer English speaking parents the opportunity to learn Spanish. That is still in the works.

If you know of a school, teacher or administrator doing something cool, nominate them for our “Cool Schools” segment. Just send an email to coolschools@wjtv.com with your idea.

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