Pilot Program Brings Spanish Classes to South Knoxville Elementary School



KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) – South Knoxville Elementary launched a new program this fall, teaching Spanish to second and third graders. The students immerse themselves in the language and the educators hope to make the pilot something permanent.

“I think it’s exciting to discover another culture. We have a certain diversity in our school, in our district and it’s great to learn about it from a different perspective, a different perspective, ”said Dr. Tanna Nicely, Principal of South Knoxville Elementary School.

The school partners with Centro Hispano in East Tennesssee to bring in teachers once a week and guide students through an interactive Spanish immersion.

“Something as simple as language can really open the world up to people,” said Claudia Caballero, President and CEO of Centro Hispano.

The nonprofit organization is the primary resource for the Latin American community in East Tennessee.

“Much of the world speaks Spanish. Being able to have these language skills as basic as they can be is beneficial, ”Caballero said.

School and community leaders are already seeing how bilingual education can help children from all walks of life.

“Really increases your earning potential, your worldview, your comfort in navigating the world, your opportunities and your ability to see different people and different cultures in a new light,” Caballero said.

Principal Dr Nicely says they have decided to target younger grade levels because science shows that the sooner a child is exposed to a new language the better.

She believes it is an invaluable life skill and that learning is contagious.

“I think once we have the data and are able to share it with other directors in the district, I feel like this is something that is going to catch on. You have seen it yourself; the excitement is enough, the data is enough to say it’s working, ”said senior manager Dr Nicely.

The county commission, city council and school board all helped launch the program.

The pilot program is funded until December.

If successful, community and school leaders may wish to roll out the program to all elementary schools in the district.


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