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The little boy was shy and seemed to be struggling in school. Then one day, a new teacher came on the smartboard screen in his classroom and began teaching the class Spanish. His face lit up. “I speak Spanish!” he said. His enthusiasm inspired other children to participate and from then on, he became a leader, helping his classmates learn his native language.

The teacher, Gloria Batista (Señora Gloria to her students) tears up as she shares the story. Raised in a bilingual home herself, she met the child while piloting a new partnership between Capital Region Language Center and Arbor Hill Elementary School in Albany, NY.

 

“To see someone who looks like you and talks like you is powerful,” she explains. Batista has been teaching Spanish with the Capital Region Language Center for 17 years.

The student comes from one of the 20% of families at Arbor Hill who speak Spanish at home, according to Shanae Lawrence, who is Community School Site Coordinator at Arbor Hill. When Lawrence polled students and parents about potential enrichment classes, Spanish language was at the top of the list.

 

Capital Region Language Center Provides School Language Instruction 

That’s when she reached out to the Capital Region Language Center. For nearly two decades, CRLC has been providing language instruction in area schools. Whether teaching middle school languages at Doane Stuart, high school English as a Second Language at Emma Willard, or providing short-term enrichment programs like the one at Arbor Hill Elementary, CRLC offers nearly a dozen languages, beginner to advanced, pre-K to adult. 

“Our goal was to expose students to language,” Lawrence explains. “And we are big on equity, so being that we have Spanish speaking families, we wanted them to feel a part, while also giving exposure to students who may not have that language experience.”

Capital Region Language Center teaches Spanish at Arbor Hill ElementaryShanae Lawrence, Community School Site Coordinator, explains partnership with Capital Region Language Center.

Today, Arbor Hill is the only neighborhood elementary school in Albany providing Spanish language instruction to students in the primary grades (PreK – 3rd), during school hours. After piloting the program last Spring, Señora Gloria began teaching first graders this September during Hispanic Heritage Month, and will continue providing four-week sessions for the other grades, throughout the school year.

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Batista teaches remotely on screen, allowing her to be in all the classrooms of a given grade level at the same time. The classroom teachers take turns unmuting, so she can hear the children in small groups and have them answer questions.

“You should see their faces when she’s on screen,” Lawrence says. “The students are singing, repeating phrases back to her, the feedback has been great.”

 

Many Benefits of Language Instruction

Lawrence says having an experienced teacher, providing a high-quality lesson that children enjoy serves multiple goals.

“We know learning another language benefits young brains, and we want to expose students to new opportunities and help prepare them for middle school,” she says. But there is also a more immediate payoff. “When you have something fun and engaging, like Señora Gloria’s class, it encourages students to come to school and helps improve attendance.”

Lawrence says she hopes to expand the partnership with CRLC, to eventually include fourth and fifth grade.

CRLC teacher Gloria Batista leads a Spanish class with first graders at Arbor Hill Elementary School in Albany, NY.Capital Region Language Center teaches language classes for children

CRLC teacher Gloria Batista leads a Spanish class with first graders at Arbor Hill Elementary School in Albany, NY.

Batista, who also teaches Spanish to young children at Malta Montessori and does a Spanish story time at the Clifton Park Library, says she is “in the presence of greatness” every time she is with children. She hopes exposure to a new language and culture impart a lifelong lesson that her students will carry throughout their lives.

“Yes, we’re different, but we are really so similar,” she says.

In addition to school-based classes, CRLC provides instruction in nearly a dozen languages including Spanish, Korean, Arabic and English for businesses, unions and organizations. On-site or online, we offer small classes to encourage conversation or specific one-on-one meetings to address a specific concern (pronunciation, grammar, etc.).

Contact us to get started.