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Accelerated Spanish Program

Maria Gil Gonzalez - Spanish Immersion Program


In 2022, Baylor launched a program for a cohort of students raised in English-speaking homes who have become fluent Spanish speakers thanks to their participation in St. Peter’s Episcopal School’s Spanish language immersion program.  The cohort continues in the Accelerated Spanish course focusing on language and culture until their ninth or tenth grade year when they can then enroll in AP Spanish or opt to study other languages.

Spanish Instructor María Gil González, a native of Spain, was hired to lead the new Accelerated Spanish course.  “When I first met this incredible group of students, I was very impressed with their level of Spanish,” she said. “Being able to learn a language the way these students did at St. Peter’s, and are doing here, makes such a difference in the way the students feel about language and how engaged they are.”

St. Peter’s, one of approximately 30 schools from which fifth graders matriculate to Baylor, had begun offering language immersion methodology to students in 2014. “Until then we were teaching Spanish twice a week for 30 minutes starting in kindergarten.” said Meredith Ruffner, St. Peter’s Head of School (and parent of Alex Ruffner ’09). “But research shows that biliteracy is best achieved through immersing students and starting as young as possible.”

Baylor's course is also open to heritage speakers — someone who speaks Spanish at home — or others who are advanced in their language. Two non-St. Peter’s students are in the group. “They all seem genuinely happy, and I think this class also provides them with a feeling of belonging and safety,” said González.

Baylor's World Languages Chair Ruth Ann Graham notes that research and experience show that bilingual or multilingual students are practiced in perspective shifting and empathy. “Multilingual students understand that many cultural values are not universal, are accustomed to dealing with ambiguity, and are primed to acquire an additional language.” Adds Graham, “That is what we want to teach and show students in their language classes. Bringing in students like the St. Peter’s kids, who are truly fluent in at least two languages, is such an asset to our classrooms and peer groups.”

Pictured above (left to right) are Middle School students Mason Moughrabi, Carlos Garcia, Pei-Ying Olsen, Spanish instructor María Gil González, Lian Moran, Landry Brown, Phoenix Ayala, and William Cushman.