DECA Students Celebrate Dia de los Muertos

Submitted by Denair Elementary Charter Academy

For some students at Denair Elementary Charter Academy, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) already is an important part of their family culture. For hundreds of years , it has been a time for Latinos to honor friends and relatives who have passed away.

But for non-Latino DECA students, Wednesday was a learning experience, an opportunity to understand how others remember and celebrate loved ones who are no longer alive.

Dia de los Muertos occurs Nov. 1-2 each year. Though the timing is close, it is not the Latin version of Halloween. Artistic skulls often are part of the altars created at home or at cemeteries, but Dia de los Muertes is about family, not candy.

“It’s a way to show love and respect for one’s ancestors,” said Bibiana Alonzo Sandoval, DECA’s Spanish language lab instructor and one of the coordinators of Wednesday’s event.

More than 500 kindergarten through fifth-graders were ushered into the DECA gym during the time they typically had either a physical education period or their twice-weekly Spanish class.

In the gym, teachers spoke about Dia de los Muertos in English and Spanish as part of a Power Point presentation. Five altars created by students were arrayed around the gym along with a mural of student artwork.

Sandoval and DECA learning director Laura Cardenas led students from altar to altar, taking time to explain the significance what was on display. There were photos of grandparents and others being remembered, along with other traditional items like marigolds, candles, paper skulls, cookies and various decorations.

In many Latin American countries, children who have died are celebrated on Nov. 1 while adults are remembered on Nov. 2.

It is the second year that DECA has included Dia de los Muertos as part of its lessons across all grade levels.

“This is a joyful tradition in Latin American countries that honors relatives who have passed away,” said Principal Kelly Beard. “I believe it is important to help all children understand different cultures.”

Spanish Club Is Natural Extension of DECA’s Language Program

DECA Spanish Club

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Spanish instructor Donna Williams has been one of the most popular, energetic and inspirational teachers on the Denair Elementary Charter Academy campus for many years. Her enthusiasm for her students – and her subject matter – bubbles through every lesson in each class.

So it should come as no surprise that when Williams returned from Christmas break this year with the idea to begin a Spanish-language service club, her students embraced it with the same excitement Williams brings to her work. That is to say, they loved it.

The Sociedad Hispanica de Amistad, known by the acronym “SHA,” is national group affiliated with the American Association of the Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. Williams attended a national conference for foreign language teachers in December. AATSP leaders were impressed to learn of DECA’s commitment to teaching Spanish to every student and offered her a membership on the spot. She, in turn, was delighted to hear about SHA.

In Williams’ mind, it was a perfect fit. DECA’s chapter was formed in January and already has 50 members in third through fifth grades. It is called Los Manos de Esperanza (“Hands of Hope”) and is the first in the Central Valley.

“I had wanted to start a service club using our Spanish as a mode to promote languages, as well as serve our community and school, and the SHA offered exactly what we were looking for,” Williams explained.

Students attend weekly meetings during their lunch period, where they plan and participate in language-based activities. Already, the club hosted a Spanish teacher from nearby Stanislaus State University for a meet and greet. In March, they organized a clean-up project on the DECA campus, counting and singing in Spanish while moving from classroom to classroom for 25 minutes. Continue reading “Spanish Club Is Natural Extension of DECA’s Language Program” »

Denair Middle School Hires New Spanish Teacher

Isabel Alvarado

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Ms. Isabel Alvarado is the new Spanish teacher at Denair Middle School. She graduated from Atwater High School and went on to CSU Stanislaus where she graduated in 2012 with a double major in Spanish and Sociology.

Ms. Alvarado is a native Spanish speaker who came to the United States at age 10. She was challenged learning English and took it in stride when classmates teased her about her difficulty speaking English. This hard working student pursued her education and helped other students struggling with English. In college, she worked for the migrant program tutoring students.

In the classroom, Ms. Alvarado works on providing engaging activities to help students learn vocabulary and have fun speaking in Spanish as they are learning. She loves when her students participate in her lessons.

Ms. Alvarado is collaborating with other Spanish teachers in the Denair Unified School District to make a continuous curriculum that best meets the needs of students. She hopes her students continue studying Spanish in high school.

Ms. Alvarado believes in the power of learning a second language and reminds her students that bilingualism can help them get jobs and assist them in traveling the world.

Ms. Alvarado is this year’s Middle School soccer coach as well.