Lee County’s only dual language program taught at Tice Elementary

Reporter: Anika Henanger

An elementary school is preparing students for the future with a challenging dual language program, the only one in Lee County, which puts those kids at an advantage against their peers.

Many kids find the first day of school scary. For instance, consider Tomas Simaj’s first day at Tice Elementary School. He was in a new country and did not speak English.

“When I got here and the teacher spoke to me,” Simaj said, “yeah, I panicked a little.”

Now, Simaj and all of the other students in Tice’s dual-language program learn in both Spanish and English. Half a day is spent learning in the former, while the other half is in the latter.

Bilingual teachers, like Maria Santiago, are vital to the program.

“In the little ones, it is the best to learn both languages,” Santiago said, “because they are like sponges!”

Santiago is helping students transition from Spanish to English and vice-versa. The lessons also affect families because the students will practice at home with their parents.

Kelly Godinez said she had learned so much, she translates for her mother and siblings. For right now, Tice’s program is the only one in Lee County, with about 150 students learning twice as much.

“I would help them learn English,” Godinez said. “I would help them do their homework and how to learn the language.”

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