Students learn in 2 languages at this unique school


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When students walk into the Leviton Dual Language Academy, they’re greeted twice: “¡Bienvenidos estudiantes! Welcome students!”

At the unique public school in Providence’s West End, it’s not just the words of welcome that are bilingual. Children are taught every subject, from reading to math to science, in both English and Spanish.

The special program requires an extra level of collaboration. Everything from teachers’ lesson plans to the layout of their rooms is designed to help students learn in both languages.

“We want our classrooms to mirror each other, so that way the students are enthusiastic about learning and they feel at ease,” Kimberly Gibeau said.

“It builds, the program just builds, when my children go to Kim,” Robert Prignano added. “Kim doesn’t repeat what she taught, she just builds on what I taught. It’s content, the language doesn’t matter.”

Gibeau and Prignano are second grade partner teachers at Leviton. While Providence students don’t head back into the classroom until Sept. 4, the teachers were at the school on Wednesday, putting the finishing touches on their preparations for the upcoming year.

The pair says most of their students are native Spanish speakers and the school’s unique setup is advantageous for learning.

“The children use parts of their brains that if you’re studying and learning only in one language, you are not activating,” Prignano explained. “The stronger they get in Spanish, the stronger the transition becomes to English.”

“My students are really good at critical thinking and problem solving,” Gibeau said.

Prignano said beyond the learning benefits they’ve seen, the program sends a message to students that their Spanish language is valued.

“Just the model itself tells the children, ‘we value your culture, we value your language, we value you, we value who you are as a child,'” he said.