Twenty years ago Ed Ewing was flipping through the Turlock Journal when he came across an article about the new bilingual and biliterate educational opportunities through an immersion program at Osborn School. After showing his wife the article, the couple decided that once their 1-year-old son was ready, they would place him into the program not knowing that one day Ed Ewing would preside over the school as principal.
“We have been grateful ever since for the opportunities that the immersion program has given our family,” said Ewing who seen thousands of lives changed through the innovative program.
On Wednesday, Osborn School, now the Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, celebrated 20 years of dual language education by hosting a gathering that allowed former students, teachers, administrators, language specialists and more to gather and honor the program that made an instrumental impact on their lives.
“The Two-Way Immersion Program has given Turlock Unified School District a global outlook on education. It gives students the opportunities to expand in over 22 Spanish speaking countries and that’s just the tip of the ice berg,” said Josie Ban-Alaniz, a founding teacher of the immersion program. “Not only are the students bilingual and biliterate, but they are multicultural as well.”
The inaugural classes began at Osborn School in the fall of 1993, with just two kindergarten classes of 30 students each. By the 2011-2012 school year, the entire school became a immersion campus with the name changed from Osborn School to Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy to reflect the magnet program. Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy is anticipated to have the most students of any elementary school in the District next year.
While the success and growth of the immersion program is a testament to the value the District has placed on multicultural education, it was a rocky start in the 1990s when the concept of a cross learning model to build fluency in two languages was relatively new to the area. Modeled after a program in San Jose, the immersion program at Osborn was the first dissemination site in the Central Valley. A team of TUSD leaders researched the San Jose site in order to develop the existing bilingual program at Osborn.
“In the beginning it was a fight to get the program started, and now it’s a fight to get in,” said George King, retired teacher in the District. King’s wife Nancy Snodgrass is a bilingual special education resource teacher in the District and served on the committee that traveled to San Jose to spearhead bringing the immersion program to the District. Their son, Colin King, was in the inaugural immersion class at Osborn and graduated as the valedictorian of Turlock High School’s Class of 2006.
Turlock’s successful immersion program has since been replicated throughout the Valley at 14 other sites and is growing, according to Rosa Molina, executive director of the Association of Two-Way and Dual Language Education, a national nonprofit. The program’s effectiveness is evident not only by the fluency that students have achieved, but by students’ increased awareness of the world around them. According to founding teacher Therese Marques, the immersion program cultivates sensitivity and prepares students to become contributing members of the world.
“The students are more open-minded to get to know different individuals as they move on to other schools,” said Erica Maldonado-Higle, an Osborn teacher of 15 years. “This isn’t just a school, it’s a lifestyle.”