New Spanish & Mandarin K-8’s opening on Lorain

From the “Family Matters in West Park”, Winter 2016 edition

GALA will be the first Mandarin immersion school in the state. The plan is to open the first language immersion school this fall (2016) in the building formerly occupied by St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) School on West Park’s Lorain Ave., near the W.140th St. “Education Corridor.”

Studies suggest that bilingualism (understanding two languages) and language immersion education (learning in two languages) is beneficial for academic success, cultural competency, and the brain’s cognitive function and perhaps even mental health. Research is available at the GALA website, http://gala-prek8.org/ on language immersion education as a process of learning and the benefits of the immersion model.

Students in our neighborhood, and anywhere in Ohio, of any income or ethnicity, and perhaps who have no exposure to either of GALA’s target languages for immersion (Mandarin or Spanish), can become bilingual here. The goal of the school is for students who speak one language to learn two languages, no matter if their parents only speak English, too.

GALA’s program will immerse English-speaking students into Spanish or Mandarin by teaching nearly everything — art, science and math— in the target language. The idea, in part, is that students fluent in two languages will have an advantage in the global job market. In this way, immersion is considered a value-added educational program.

Founder, Meran Rogers says, “preschool is in our plan, but we will likely not start that program until after our first year of operation. In our first year, we are only enrolling grades K-1. We will grow a grade every year until we reach PreK-8.”

Because Rogers was born to immigrants newly arrived from both Poland and Taiwan, there were multiple languages at home with English being used rather late in her youth. She reported to Crain’s Cleveland, “I didn’t learn how to read until late in the first grade,” she said. “It wasn’t until we moved to Lakewood at the end of first grade that I was put in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class.”

As an adult, she realized learning a second or third language is actually a gift in a diverse community, family, and world. She tried to pick up Mandarin in college at Case Western Reserve University and also while teaching in Taiwan, but realized that adults have a much harder time acquiring languages than children.

GALA is excited to welcome Jessica Gilway as Principal of GALA. Bilingual in Spanish, Jessica has had immersion experiences herself – living, teaching and learning in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Jessica has served as a certified bilingual educator, as well as helped to launch a two-way dual language immersion program at a K-6 elementary school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Most recently, she served three years as director of a charter school in Boone, North Carolina. Jessica recently returned to her hometown of Cleveland after graduating with her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.

“I believe that dual language immersion is not only the best way for children to learn a language, but it is really the best way for children to learn about themselves, others, and the world around them.  Becoming bilingual has opened many doors for me in my life and I am excited to help lead GALA as it works to provide the gift of becoming bilingual to children in Cleveland. Also, I am incredibly passionate about experiential education and love working with children as they discover what our global community has to offer them,” Jessica shares.

Currently, Jessica is busy hiring an assistant principal, literacy coach, family support liaison, teachers, and staff for both the Mandarin and Spanish immersion programs, the job descriptions for which can be found at gala-prek8.org/opportunities/. In her free time, Jessica also enjoys spending time with her family doing outdoor activities, cooking, and African dancing, as well as makes art in the forms pottery, jewelry, and book binding.

GALA will follow an International Baccalaureate (IB) framework, just like St. Edward High School and CMSD’s Campus International K-8 downtown, the only CMSD school with a lottery so far.  GALA is in the early stages of this process in pursuing authorization as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. GALA will submit a candidacy application in April 2017 to receive authorization by August 2020. Although GALA will not be authorized until 2020, the school will implement the IB PYP from the start of our opening year.

For those unfamiliar with IB, it is a Swiss-based education program renowned for its academic rigor, international curriculum and high standards. IB schools develop intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills for students to live, learn, and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Currently, there are more than 3,718 IB schools in 147 countries.

Learn more about IB at: www.ibo.org and learn more about GALA at  www.gala-prek8.org. Look for their community open houses early in 2016. The school can be contacted by emailing info@gala-prek8.org or calling 216-315-7942. You can also find them on Facebook or sign-up for their e-news on their website.

Student applications are now being accepted and forms are available on GALA’s website.

Meran explains, “On our application, where it asks for program interest, a student can indicate interest in Mandarin only, Spanish only, or either. This filters applications for the lottery appropriately. In the case of an applicant choosing “either,” their application will go into both the Mandarin immersion program lottery AND the Spanish immersion program. So…if the student wins in both lotteries, they would be asked to choose. If they choose Mandarin, then a space will open up in the Spanish program. We would then move to the next person in line for the open spot in the Spanish program.”

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