Curriculum creator honors Anna teachers

By Joshua Baethge
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
Dr. Richard Gomez (left) and his consultant Rosie Sandoval (third from left) recognizes Pre-K teacher Neyse Hall and her assistant Maria Gutierrez

Earlier this month, Dr. Richard Gomez, co-creator of the Gomez and Gomez Dual Language Enrichment Model, presented “Exemplary Instructor Awards” to three Harlow Elementary teachers. Pre-K Teacher Neyse Hall and Shirley Garnsey as well as first-grade teacher Alexa Hernandez were all honored for implementing the 29 best practices associated with the dual language curriculum.

Gomez also recognized instruction coordinators Danica Suarez, Jinny Brewer, and Lindsey Johnson, as well as Harlow principal Kelli Abohosh and Executive Director of Federal Programs Paula McMillion for their efforts to support the program.

Pre-K Teacher Shirley Garnsey and her assistant Marisol Diaz are recognized by Dr. Richard Gomez and his consultant Rosie Sandoval.

McMillion oversees federal grants and bilingual programs for Anna ISD.  About four years ago, she began researching the Gomez program and how other districts had implemented it. The education model teaches kids in both two languages throughout the day. 

Previous programs for non-native speakers usually taught kids in their native langue first, introducing English later. Under the Gomez model, children are learning literacy in Spanish while also being introduced to English. In Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade, they have language arts, science and social studies in Spanish.  They speak English in math and specials like music, P.E. and art. They also have alternating “language days” during non-instructional times.  This means they may speak English on Monday, Spanish on Tuesdays, and so on. 

“Research shows that students that are in a dual language program versus a traditional bilingual one really seem to excel a lot more,” McMillion says. “This is not just on tests but becoming fully bilingual, bi-literate and bicultural. That's our goal: to have students that are all three of these things.”

First-grade teacher Alexa Hernandez (center) is congratulated by Rosie Sandoval and Dr. Richard Gomez for her work with the Gomez and Gomez Dual Language Enrichment Model.

The Texas Education Agency has been pushing districts to focus more on dual language instruction. The data shows that students in traditional bilingual classes progress to a certain point and then even out.  Those learning in the dual language model are much more likely to get to the same level, or even outperform, native English speakers.

More than 700 schools throughout the country now use the Gomez and Gomez model.  Anna ISD introduced it at Harlow in Pre-K and Kindergarten last year.  This year, the school added first grade, with plans to continue adding another grade level next year.  The program will continue to grow with the students.

Eventually, Anna ISD officials hope to transition the voluntary program into a two-way model that would include an equal number of native English speakers.  While that may be a few years away, McMillon says that the district has a lot to be proud of with the progress it has made so far.

“For us to be in the second year of implementation and have 50 percent of our teachers reach that exemplary level is amazing,” she said. “I feel like our teachers have done a great job of embracing the program, our parent support has been wonderful and our kids are growing by leaps and bounds.”