Southampton ESL director seeks international designation for high school


Southampton High School’s director of English as a Second Language classes is looking to bring Southampton into an elite group of dual-language education institutions known as International Spanish Academies.

If he is successful, Southampton students will be able to graduate with a certification in Spanish from the Ministry of Education in Spain.

Being designated an International Spanish Academy, or ISA, would not only bring prestige to the school, but it would also make the students stand out to colleges, said L. Joaquin Mendez, guidance counselor and ESL director. The most-used languages in the world are English, Spanish and Mandarin, he noted. If students leave high school proficient in two of the three, he said, they will have the tools to deal with the changing world.

ISA designation would also open the door for teachers from Spain—paid for by a grant from the Ministry of Education—to come to Southampton to act as language and culture assistants. They will not only teach the language, but also the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries and could even conduct classes in other subjects, such as math and science, in Spanish.

The door would swing the other way as well, giving Southampton’s faculty the opportunity to teach in Spain. And while they are there, the teachers can develop their bilingual skills, Mr. Mendez said.

Many of the details are still to be worked out, including where visiting teachers would live, but he said he hopes to “close the deal” soon.

Mr. Mendez’s initiative has the endorsement of the School Board, and President Donald King said he is very confident that it will be successful.

“It’s huge,” Mr. King said. “Anytime you can share cultural ideas with each other, we come to know each other a little bit better and bring our world closer together.”

Southampton is in a good position to get the ISA designation, Mr. Mendez said. “Most of the things required we already do,” he pointed out. The school includes Spanish in the curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade and offers Advanced Placement classes for college credit.

Mr. Mendez himself was an ESL student, having been born in the Dominican Republic and moving to the 
Bronx when he was 15. He did not know a word of English, he said. He acknowledged that people with anti-immigrant sentiment have shown resistance 
to dual-language education, but 
said he has not heard anything negative about the potential ISA designation.

“They haven’t figured out how to say something negative about kids studying and learning more,” he quipped.

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