SOUTHBOROUGH – Joy Head’s fourth grade classroom at Margaret A. Neary School was filled with excitement on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
The students were playing BINGO in Spanish.
After hearing the BINGO numbers in Spanish, students took turns crossing out numbers. The students got excited as the number of blank spaces on their cards grew fewer until one student finally yelled, “Bingo!”
It was one of Esther Valverde Collado’s World Language classes, which are new to both Neary and the Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough this year.
Valverde Collado told the Community Advocate that her Neary coworkers have been her favorite part of the job so far.
“They are very supportive,” she said. “They really care and they show it. … Every day is very nice when you’re working with nice people. I do agree that it is good people that make good places.”
Neary Principal Kathleen Valenti presented the program to the Southborough School Committee during their Nov. 8 meeting.
“This is great that this is up and running,” said School Committee member Kenturah Martin. “I know it’s been a while in the making.”
Parents and a School Committee member recommended forming an exploratory committee to see what world language could look like at Neary back in 2018.
Valenti lead the committee, which visited schools and researched different programs.
This year, Neary was able to build hiring Valverde Collado into its budget.
Valverde Collado, who is from Madrid, was hired then through a new partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Early and Secondary Education and the Education Department of the Consulate of Spain.
This is Valverde Collado’s first time in the United States.
“I was so looking forward to coming here,” she told the Community Advocate. “This was totally an adventure for me, but I was so eager to take this and try and learn professionally and personally.”
She had to move her life to Massachusetts quickly over the summer.
Valverde Collado has been exploring the state and nearby states on weekends since then.
Valenti described the program as a foreign language exploratory program.
“This is really building a solid foundation and a launching point for our students as they transition to the foreign language programs at Trottier [Middle School],” Valenti said.
Valverde Collado goes into each of Neary’s 14 classrooms twice a week to teach both Spanish and French.
Valenti said the program is less about language acquisition and more about exposing the students to other cultures and countries.
“They’re exploring other cultures and countries, learning about music, traditions, languages and lifestyles,” Valenti said.
She said Valverde Collado has also been working with the school’s special teachers, including the music and art teachers.
Valverde Collado has introduced them to famous people, such as the salsa singer Celia Cruz.
“Actually, they didn’t know what salsa music was,” Valverde Collado said. “They looked it up and found that [Cruz] was called the Queen of Salsa. They thought salsa was sauce.”
That has given Valverde Collado the idea to explore different music genres.
This year, the fourth and fifth graders are receiving the same lessons, but Valenti said that, next year, they will build a new part of the program for fifth grade.
“Although our program is in its infancy and we’re building the plane while flying it, I’m proud of the work that she’s doing,” Valenti said. “I’m excited about how our students are responding to the instruction. The passion and dedication in giving them this world language experience has been a true collaborative effort.”