A new program beginning this year at Stevenson Elementary School will teach students the basics of the Spanish language even as they learn the fundamentals of writing and reading English.
Under the new program, students in grades 1-3 will participate in a 30-minute Spanish class each week.
The class will connect to a fourth-grade Spanish class that also will begin this year at Edison Intermediate/Larry Larson Middle School.
Ultimately, the district's goal is to build a foreign-language program that will carry students from elementary school through high school, Stevenson Principal Angela Ullum said.
"Certainly, we're not expecting that our elementary students will become fluent in Spanish," she said. "This year the focus will be on building basic vocabulary and communication in Spanish."
Stevenson's program will be taught by Emily Deprez, who has taught Spanish classes at the elementary level the past seven years in Wake County, N.C.
Deprez said she and her family are making a return home to central Ohio. She previously taught in the Hilliard City School District.
The curriculum at Stevenson will include students learning Spanish words in categories such as greetings and introductions, colors and shapes, body parts, family and weather, she said.
"It's the basic skills that will provide a building block for using Spanish throughout school and the rest of their lives," Deprez said.
Elementary-age children demonstrate a particular knack for learning language, even a foreign language, she said.
"Their brains are just wired to learn language at that age," Deprez said.
Early in her career, Deprez taught high school Spanish.
She said she has found elementary-age students show greater skill at learning another language than the older students.
"They are so eager and excited to learn Spanish," Deprez said. "They come into class really eager to learn. They also love to learn about the Spanish culture.
"It's really a lot of fun to teach them."
For more information about Stevenson's foreign-language class and curriculum, visit rlsspanish.weebly.com.