Texas

Alaskan educators are trying to preserve their native Yupik language

At the heart of bilingual programs is to ensure that students master not only their language but also their culture and personality.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – Teachers and administrators of the Lower Kuskokwim School District of Alaska recently visited the Grand Prairie Independent School Zone in Texas to learn best practices in bilingual education.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District program works to protect the mother tongue of the Yup’ik language. It’s a language that was once considered a “dirty language,” recalls Christina Robbins, principal of an elementary school in the Lower Kuskokwim School District in Bethel, Alaska.

“Students under the age of 10 were taken away from home communities, sent elsewhere, and punished for speaking a local or” dirty “language,” Robbins said. “What happened in these cases was not pleasant, and at the end of this period, children may or may not return to their communities.”

Robbins explains that those who are taken from their families and then return to their communities are no longer “adaptable” because they can no longer speak their mother tongue.

“You end a really dark period in our history where local members of the community have lost their rich histories,” Robbins said.

Thus, for the past 10 years, teachers from the Lower Kuskokwim School District have been working to formulate bilingual programs developed after the structure used by the Grand Prairie Independent School Districts called Gomez & Gomez.

The program aims to promote not only language skills, but also dual literacy and biculturalism. At the heart of bilingual programs is to ensure that students master not only their language but also their culture and personality.

Yup’ik bilingual program has about a thousand students in more than 21 different schools. According to the Alaska Mother Tongue Center, Yupik is the state’s largest mother tongue and is spoken by about 21,000 people.

Robbins recalls presenting the program to a parent advisory committee and receiving a response from an 84-year-old elder.

“I wish I could go back to school now,” said Elder Robbins. “I’m 84 years old, but I want to go to kindergarten again to learn with these books – because these are the books that made me want to learn.”

Prior to 2010, students switched to Yupik until the third grade. The students then repeated the English level in the classroom before continuing their education in English.

Dr. Celina McEntire, a bilingual assistant for GPISD, explains that the district approaches language development through content. Students’ core subjects, such as mathematics, science, and social sciences, are taught in both their mother tongue and English.

“This way, students can actually build their first language in first grade and then add an extra layer of second language,” McEntire said.

Although GPISD focuses on the bilingual program in Spanish and English, Robbins said it is inspiring to see where the program could one day be.

“We are both equally passionate about preserving our language and our students and making them whole,” Robbins said.

Alaskan educators are trying to preserve their native Yupik language

Source link Alaskan educators are trying to preserve their native Yupik language

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