'Excelentes' students excel in unique Holy Family program - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

'Excelentes' students excel in unique Holy Family program

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Speaking fluent Spanish comes easily for college bound students, Lela Udry, Carly Heying and Christopher Wuertzer, 2017 Dubuque Wahlert graduates.

They've been speaking Spanish for the past 13 years, starting in Kindergarten, as part of the award-winning Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Immersion program. The program has won several awards, and was named the #2 Spanish Immersion Program in the United States. https://www.holyfamilydbq.org/our-lady-of-guadalupe

KWWL first covered the students when they were Kindergartners in the OLG Program in the 2004-2005 school year. A followup story aired when they were 5th graders in the 2009-2010 school year.

Carly said, “I'm glad I got into it pretty young, because I can start with the basics, and get more and more advanced.”

“Learning another can have just a huge impact on your life,” Christopher told KWWL in 2010.

Rebecca Fabricius is a former KWWL Dubuque County Gold Star Teacher. She returned returned to Dubuque some 15 years ago to become the very first teacher for the Spanish Immersion Program.

Today, Rebecca works for Loras College and understands the value of Spanish Immersion.

“And, it's inspiring really to see how far they've come. Because, while I happened to be he when the program launched, no one knew how far it would go. So, to see them grow as individuals, and to and as fully functioning, from an educational perspective fully literate in a second language, It's really encouraging and really inspiring.

Lela, Carly and Christopher stayed with the Spanish Immersion program all 13 years.

Carly added, “I really love what we're doing. I love learning about culture. I love learning just purely the language itself...So, I don't think there was ever a struggle, am I going to use this or am I not...I thin it's just building a good foundation for me for later...no matter what I choose to study,

even just learning to learn in a different way.

Christopher points out, "Our teacher this year, Senora Olivera, she's from Spain. Most, in elementary, were from Columbia.  So, you get a little different perspective on it. We started, at the beginning of the year, from texts that from the 14 and 15-hundreds in Spanish. So, trying to understands those and push through those was not easy. But, I think it will definitely pay dividends in the long run.”

Says Lela, "Sticking with Spanish, I something that is going to help me travel in the future, and gain an understanding of where people are coming from. And, also, since I have Spanish and English. It kind of gives me a Latin foundation. So, I 'm hoping to pick up Italian and French in college."

Rebecca's daughter, Amali, is also in the Spanish Immerse Program, learning to speak Spanish from International Teacher, Jaime Gordo, a native of Valencia, Spain. Our Lady works with the the Iowa Department of Education and the Spanish Embassy to recruit international teachers, like,Jaime.

The Our Lady Program has expanded beyond Kindergarten, to preschool, says Immersion teacher, Michelle Hartman, "We have a dual language Pre-K, which is a 5-hour program. They do English and Spanish. And, then we have an immersion Pre-K, which is a 3-hour program. So, the kids get their first steps into the Spanish language, and some of the vocabulary, before they get into Kindergarten"

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