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Our Lady of Guadalupe Awarded as one of the 8 Best Spanish Immersion Programs

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DUBUQUE, Iowa — The Spanish Embassy in the United States is praising a program in Dubuque. It calls the innovative foreign language program at Dubuque’s Holy Family Catholic schools one of the best in the nation.

Like many Spanish Immersion schools, administrators at Our Lady of Guadalupe hired native Spanish speakers to teach all subjects strictly in Spanish. That elementary school has now been open for 13 years and teachers say they’re really starting to see the results.

In Mr. Garcia’s 5th grade class, you’ll hear all kinds of chatter. But one thing you won’t hear is a word of English.

O. L. G Principal Lori Apel said, “The children do not translate the language. They think in the target language because the process is so natural.”

Teachers say O.L.G. 5th graders can have in-depth conversions in Spanish because they started speaking at such an early age.

“In Kindergarten and 1st Grade its full immersion. All of the content areas are instructed in Spanish,” said Apel.

Aleece Duggan, a Wahlert High School Junior, is a members of Catholic school system’s first class to study Spanish for their entire education. She thinks her Spanish skills will come in handy later in life.

“If I go into the medical field, I am hoping to help people who speak Spanish,” said Duggan.

Longtime Wahlert Catholic High School Spanish teacher Becky Varley says there’s a big difference between teaching students who came from an English speaking elementary school and those from Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“They have experience with lots of native speakers. They have to build on the skills that they’ve developed and take them forward “ said Varley.

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