It takes Diana Villamill about five times to get her kindergarten class to sit cross-legged on the classroom carpet.
“Cruzada,” she repeats, crossing her legs while sitting in her chair.
Villamill is one of Hodge Road Elementary’s newest teachers, taking on the position of being the Spanish teacher for the school’s new dual immersion language program.
“(The students) are learning fast,” she said. “This age is the perfect age for them to learn. It has been a little bit difficult (for students) who don’t know (any Spanish) … but they are interested and eager to learn.”
Villamill came all the way from Colombia to teach the class through the VIF International Education language immersion organization.
She’s taught in the United States before and before she came back, she was teaching English in Colombia. She has taught in several other immersion programs in Colombia, but she said the one at Hodge Road is the first of its kind she’s ever been a part of.
“This program is different because it’s having the students every other day,” she said. “(There is) one day in English and one day in Spanish.”
Villamill works in partnership with another kindergarten teacher, Krystal Eakes. The two plan lessons together and also take on other duties as a team, like parent conferences.
And even though Villamill’s primary responsibility is her students, she said the program will ultimately help parents who may not speak English.
“Some parents can speak Spanish but not read or write it,” she said. “So it can help them if their child learns (in Spanish).”
Hodge Road principal Debra Pearce said when going through the hiring process, Villamill stood out to her because of her prior teaching experience, that she was a native speaker, not just bilingual and because her dialect of Spanish seemed to most closely match what Pearce hears at school.
Spanish-speaking countries often have their own variations of Spanish, much like different regions of the United States have different accents. Pearce said she has no way to know for sure, but it seems most of her Spanish-speaking population speaks a dialect mostly used in Mexico and central America, making Villamill a good fit.
Since Villamill received training and was part of VIF, the organization assisted in her hiring process. They picked a handful of candidates for Pearce and her staff to choose from and they later conducted interviews via Skype.
And that’s when Villamill sealed her fate as the new Hodge Road teacher.
“Her passion just came through in her Skype interview like none other. … She looked like just a right fit for Hodge Road,” Pearce said.
And so far, Villamill is impressed with how the program is progressing, despite only being in its second full week.
“I am very interested because it’s such a new program,” she said. “The whole school is so interested and supportive.”