When most of the students started kindergarten in Gisela Daniel's class they hardy spoke any English. "These days speaking two languages is so important. It has opened so many doors for me."
Daniel grew up in Puerto Rico and next fall she'll teach kindergarten in both English and in her native language. She says this is the perfect age for them to soak it all in, "they have no inhibitions. They're risk takers and they go for it. They pick it up very fast."
Principal Krissy Brown at Jesse Beck Elementary School says the two-way immersion is a perfect fit for the students. Brown says, "our goal is to have them fluent by 5th grade."
This bilingual program or two-way immersion is being done in 300 schools nationwide. The program will start next fall and perhaps spread to other schools because school officials say 30%of the Washoe County School District is made up of Hispanics.
Half the kids in the class will be English speakers; the other half will speak only Spanish. They will learn history, math or science in English one week then the same lesson will be taught in Spanish the next week.
Over 40 parents have signed a waiting list to get their kids into this program.
The grandmother of a Jesse Beck student says, "I think they should learn English if they're going to be citizens of this country, indeed I do. They need to learn English but it wouldn't hurt us to learn a little Spanish too."
The $12,000 it took to start the program comes from federal grant money.