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'Generation One': Helping Kids Learn English -- And Spanish, Too

Mark Birnbaum
Inside Teresa Martin's dual language kindergarten class at Bowie Elementary in Grand Prairie ISD.

North Texas schools have transformed the way they teach English – by teaching Spanish, too. 

Dual language programs are the focus of the latest installment in a KERA American Graduate series called Generation One.

At Bowie Elementary in Grand Prairie, Spanish-speaking kids are learning both languages as early as pre-kindergarten. KERA visited Bowie to learn how dual language programs work. 

Kindergarten teacher Teresa Martin wants her kids to speak both Spanish and English. Reaching them in kindergarten is critical, she says, because learning two languages works best when you’re very young.

“Those kids that do come in strong fluently, that pick up the Spanish – they can write it, speak it and read it phonetically – the English comes in a little bit easier,” she says.

Explore the interactive series here.


One in three Texas kids is either an immigrant or the child of immigrants. Over the next several weeks, KERA will explore the challenges these children face and the ways North Texas schools are trying to weave them into the American tapestry.

These kids have to learn a new language, adapt to a different culture and try to fit into a community that may not embrace newcomers.

Here are earlier chapters in the series:

Chapter 4: How Schools Can Help Immigrant Kids

Julian Vasquez Heilig has spent years studying how schools educate immigrants. He’s a professor at California State University, Sacramento. He previously worked at the University of Texas at Austin. He spoke with KERA and shared his thoughts on what can be done to help immigrant students, high-stakes testing, and a possible breakthrough in North Texas.

Chapter 3: She Escaped Violence For A Fresh Start in Texas

The third story in the series introduces Dilcia M. Asencio Mazariegos, who left Guatemala in 2012 to get away from a violent family member. She attends Plano East Senior High School where she's enrolled in English as a Second Language classes. But she's also been juggling two jobs.

Chapter 2: Going From Spanish (Or Urdu Or Arabic) To English

The second story in the series takes a look at how the Grapevine-Colleyville school district is responding to the dramatic demographic changes. In recent years, the number of students learning English — they’re called English language learners — has climbed 60 percent. The district partnered with the police department to create the Grapevine Community Outreach Center. And the district launched the Language Assessment Center over the summer. Kids who aren’t native English speakers get tested at the center and are then placed in the right language program.

Chapter 1: In A Land Of Strangers, Paving His Own Path

The first story features David Kapuku. Just two weeks after arriving from Africa, David enrolled at Conrad High School in Northeast Dallas. He started school in a new country where students speak a different language. It can be overwhelming. Now, a year and a half later, David is helping other refugee kids making the transition.

About the series

Each Tuesday through the end of the year, stories will air on KERA 90.1 FM. Explore the stories in KERA’s digital storytelling project, which features videos and aninteractive graphic showing where Texas’ foreign-born population comes from.

Read the series here.

Generation One is part of KERA's American Graduate initiative.