By Megan Spees
(The following article appeared Oct. 27 in the Daily Gate City newspaper in Keokuk.)
It’s been a “semana emocionante” – exciting week – for students and staff at Keokuk Catholic Schools as they launch a Spanish program funded by a $585 grant from the Keokuk Area Community Foundation.
At the helm of the foreign language instruction is fifth grade teacher Madalyn Reynolds, who’s in her first year on the KCS staff. She previously substitute-taught ESL classes in Burlington, Fort Madison, and Muscatine. One of those schools had a dense population of Spanish-speaking students.
Reynolds attended St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education with Spanish minor. Having spent eight years learning Spanish in school and growing up among a large Hispanic population in Muscatine, she looks forward to broadening her students’ cultural horizons.
Reynolds meets 20 minutes a day with each class in grades 3-5. Lessons for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are comprised mostly of oral instruction as well as worksheets, storybooks and conversational practice between students. She also developed lesson plans that K-2 teachers can incorporate into a variety of subjects — numbers, colors and other fundamentals.
The grant will carry the curriculum through the rest of the school year, but KCS can apply for more funding to continue Spanish instruction. Principal Laura Marsot said culminating activities will take place the week of Cinco de Mayo.
“I’m excited we will have the opportunity to do something new and different,” she said, also noting that language development at an early age — especially a foreign language – can boost a child’s cognitive abilities.
The staff’s primary goals for the program, according to Marsot, are “planting seeds of interest,” increasing students’ cultural awareness and showing students that learning language can be fun.
She sees Reynolds as an important asset to the school.
Well into her third month of teaching at KCS, Reynolds believes she’s found “a great community, great coworkers and great kids.”
“They’re a very well-behaved, respectful group of kids,” she said about her students.