story by Claire Miller
One of the shyest students in Sarah Brownlow’s second grade class always did her best to speak Spanish with her peers in their dual language classroom.
When the girl’s family decided to temporarily foster a young boy from South America, she was the one member of the family who could speak Spanish – and perhaps, the one best equipped to make him feel comfortable in a strange new place.
“My student was able to reach out to this new boy because of her education. In the end, isn’t that what education is about – equipping our students with the skills they need in order to take advantage of the opportunities in life?” she said. “This is why I teach.”
Brownlow, who teaches at Beulah Elementary School in Douglasville, Ga., has been teaching in dual language immersion settings her entire career and will graduate this December with a master’s degree from Georgia State University’s College of Education & Human Development.
Her master’s concentration in dual language immersion offers insight into how children can become both bilingual and biliterate in English and Spanish while mastering grade level content. As they reach specific language benchmarks, students become proficient in the target language they’re learning and gain insight into a culture different from their own.
Add that new knowledge to the experience she’s had teaching in a dual language classroom, and Brownlow can see how learning subjects in another language makes a big difference in her second grade students’ lives.
“Academically, my students have proven more successful on reading, math, social studies and science assessments when compared to their monolingual peers. Their brains are able to make connections between concepts, which helps them store and retain information,” she explained.
“Socially, they are able to engage in conversations with people that they might not normally be able to due to a language barrier. They are more culturally aware of the world and the differences and similarities people across the globe share.”
This story originally ran in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Research & Innovation, the College of Education & Human Development’s biannual research publication.