Meriden Schools Focus on Outreach, Curriculum and Culture

MERIDEN — Lucrecia Zavala Magee experienced first-hand the struggles immigrants go through as they transition to a new culture when she moved to the United States at age 27.

Over the next school year, through a new position at Meriden Public Schools, Zavala Magee will help students stay connected to their roots in an effort to ease their transition process.

Over 58% of Meriden Schools students identify as Latino. The school district is helping Latino students stay connected in the upcoming school year through language and history classes, parent involvement, and cultural events.

As a bilingual elementary school teacher in Meriden, Zavala Magee enjoys working with her students because she feels she can help create a connection between school, parents and the community.

This school year will bring him the opportunity to start a new role as a multilingual literacy coach, helping bilingual teachers in the classroom. She explained that elementary students learning a new language have a tough job trying to learn the content and the new language at the same time. Part of the goal is to help teachers facilitate students’ language transition.

Argentine-born Zavala Magee would also like to develop a bilingual curriculum so students can learn in both English and Spanish throughout fifth grade, she said.

The current program at Meriden begins teaching students to read and write in Spanish. The English language begins to be introduced gradually to students in kindergarten and first grade. In the second year, they switch completely to learning English, explained Zavala Magee.

Part of her job is to develop a connection with families. For Zavala Magee, it is important to show parents that teachers understand and are aware of their difficulties. She said she was proud of the work Meriden educators do to raise awareness of different cultures and help the immigrant community.

Awareness, curriculum, culture

Lysette Torres, director of equity and instruction for Meriden Public Schools, explained that one of the efforts the district is implementing is the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP).

The program allows a team of educators, including Zavala Magee, to connect with students and families through home visits. The program seeks to provide support to students while emphasizing attendance.

The school system also provides training for educators focused on culturally and linguistically appropriate teaching. There are plans to launch two multilingual labs, a “safe space” in a classroom where students can go for support, Torres said.

Torres is aware of the need to reach American-born students with Latin roots. That’s why teaching the history of African American and Latin American history will be helpful, she said.

Joshua Orlinsky, head of the social studies department at Platt High School, will teach African American and Latin American history, a course that must be offered in all high schools in the state, Orlinsky said. He noted that students are not required to take the course and that between 50 and 55 students have signed up to take it at Platt. Orlinsky said he felt “honored” to be able to teach the class. He mentioned that learning about this type of history is meaningful for students because the course reflects an important component of the Meriden community.

Nadine Rosa, who also teaches at Platt, leads student projects and activities such as cultural exhibits to celebrate Hispanic heritage. She used to put up displays in her classroom, but three years ago she decided to start throwing a full-scale party. Exhibits are now school-wide and include student-selected Hispanic historical figures. Part of the celebration also includes a disc jockey playing Spanish music during lunchtime and a raffle of themed t-shirts, water bottles and books. Rosa’s goal is for students to take up the project in the future.

Anyone interested in donating funds for the celebration can contact Rosa at [email protected]

[email protected]: @KarlaSantosNews

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