Written by Kera Wanielista, Skagit Valley Herald

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — Judging by their eagerness to answer questions, it’s hard to tell that some students in Andy Bishop’s fourth-grade class at Jefferson Elementary School once struggled to speak English.

“My sister and my cousin spoke English and I didn’t understand a word,” said 10-year-old Jizlinn Martinez-Cruz. “It was hard pronouncing the words.”

Like many students throughout the Mount Vernon School District, Jizlinn worked hard to learn to communicate not only in English but in Spanish as well.

“When you grow up you could get a better job (if you speak more than one language),” said Kimberly Madera, 10, who not only speaks English and Spanish but Mixteco, an indigenous language from southern Mexico.

In the weeks before school ended, a group of students in Bishop’s class made a video to share with their classmates what it is like to grow up being bilingual and at the intersection of two cultures.

“Even though it’s difficult, it’s part of your life,” Kimberly said in the video.

It’s a struggle Karla Ayala, a student-teacher working in Bishop’s class, can understand.

“Growing up (being bilingual) ... it was kind of tough,” she said.

Not only did she struggle to learn English, she had to be the translator for her parents, Ayala said.

Having no one in the classroom who looked like her or understood her struggle also made it difficult.

“If I would have seen people that looked like me, I would have skyrocketed,” she said.

She’s happy to see a new generation of students being encouraged to embrace their culture.

“I’m glad that it’s OK to say it and for the kids to know that they’re not alone,” she said. “The fact that (these) students are going home excited because they’re able to see someone who looks like them who’s a teacher ... it’s amazing.”

Their diversity is what Bishop said he wanted the students to highlight through the video.

“There’s a lot of kids that are bilingual that are actually kind of embarrassed about it,” Bishop said. “I always try to tell them to be proud of it. I try to empower them.”

The video is the latest in a series Bishop makes to help his students succeed.

Principal Tim Newell said the videos give students and teachers something to look forward to.

The attitude toward bilingual students wasn’t always so positive, Newell said, and this video helps highlights why the students should be proud.

“The bottom line is we just care for our kids,” he said. “Whatever language they can speak, and whatever language they can learn.”

For the students featured in the video, they hope their stories help inspire other kids.

“Other kids can see we speak more than one language and they can never give up if they want to learn another language,” said Gladys Espinoza, 10. “I would tell them to never think that they’re not going to learn to speak Spanish. Never give up until your dreams come true.” •


Information from: Skagit Valley Herald, http://www.skagitvalleyherald.com