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Sumter school introduces first Spanish enrichment program for elementary students in the district

Spanish enrichment classes and Project Lead the Way Curriculum is now being offered to students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

SUMTER, S.C. — Lemira Elementary School is the first elementary school in Sumter School District to offer a Spanish enrichment class. It’s also adopting Project Lead the Way curriculum to teach students about engineering. 

Kymberly Salas Hernandez is Lemira's first Spanish enrichment teacher. In fact, she's the only elementary school Spanish teacher in the district currently offering classes to students kindergarten through fifth grade.

"This is a new adventure for me and I like it," Hernandez says.

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She is originally from Venezuela, but she's been in Sumter for five years. This is her first year teaching at Lemira. One of her students is 8-year-old Caylynn Ingram. Ingram's mother Lashae Nance says her daughter is filled with "pure excitement" when it comes to the new class offering.

"Anytime she comes to Spanish class, she’s like ‘Mom, I learned this today. Mom, I learned that today," Nance laughed.

Teaching students early helps students absorb the information quickly, which sets them up for future success according to Hernandez.

"We need to teach this language for the children because this is the future in this country. It’s the second language in this country," Hernandez said.

Principal Stephanie Gregg tells me this decision comes as the Hispanic population is rising at the school. The school used Title I funding to create the new class.

"We wanted our students to be able to speak with each other to build community and also to be able to broaden their horizons especially when they become older and be able to come global competitive citizens because of being bilingual," Gregg explained.

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In addition, Hernandez says introducing a second language earlier can prepare students for success as they transition to middle and high school where Spanish classes are already required.

"We can’t wait for middle school or high school. I think when you are younger, you learn so fast. More easy," Hernandez shared.

Nance agrees, saying Caylynn has already started to teach her cousins some of the new phrases she's learned.

"They’re young so the information absorbs better," she said.

Gregg is a Lemira alum and says she's proud to see the school evolving as the community grows.

"It feels absolutely amazing just to see the impact of the decisions that we make as a leadership team and how our students are benefitting from it," Gregg shared. 

In the future, Gregg says the school eventually hopes to create a Spanish immersion program.

This year, the school has also introduced Project Lead the Way. Shikaia Campbell teaches this curriculum, which focuses on science-based problem-solving, engineering and team work.

"I’ve been seeing more happy faces when they get to work together. I’ve been seeing them actually thinking beyond what they…you know, 'cuz sometimes kids think 'Oh, I can’t do it.' But they’re feeding off of each other and they're like 'Okay, you’re right I can do this. Okay let’s try this," Campbell explained. "They keep going above and beyond and I love it."

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This comes as Lemira leadership hoped to improve science scores, Gregg told me.

Campbell thinks this can improve testing scores, while also helping students in the "real world."

"They’re gonna be able to have more opportunities than most people would have now I believe like engineering, the computer scientists," she shared. "They enjoy learning new things, especially when they get to work together as a team. They’re like ‘Miss Campbell, how do we do this?’ And when I get to show them different ways of how to figure out the problem...find the problem, figure out the solution, they’re excited."

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