Hobbton Elementary teacher urges county school board to consider Spanish program

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

August 27, 2013

A Hobbton Elementary School teacher came before the Sampson County Board of Education Monday night to share his desire to see a Spanish language program implemented in the system’s elementary schools, a move he believes will produce more bilingual students who will be better prepared, upon graduation, to enter America’s multilingual society.

A third generation teacher, Todd Warren is employed with the county schools as an English-as-a-second language (ESL) teacher at Hobbton Elementary School where he instructs students from immigrant families and serves as the school’s English/Spanish interpreter. Prior to teaching at Hobbton Elementary, he worked as an ESL teacher at both Union Intermediate and Union Elementary.

Warren also informed the school board that he is certified in four areas including Spanish K-12, ESL K-12, middle grades social studies, and elementary K-5; has taught Spanish in Durham Public School; taught ESL for the state’s community college system; and taught English for two years in Mexico.

“I consider myself very knowledgeable in the topic I bring to you tonight — the importance of Spanish language instruction to our English-only students,” said Warren, noting that he was specifically referring to “our black, white, and Native American students who will graduate Sampson County Schools speaking only English.”

He reminded the school board that those students will be “entering a global economy where monolingualism is a handicap and a local and national workforce where Spanish ability has become, in many professions, a distinct advantage, if not in some cases a prerequisite.”

Warren pointed out that the county school system has the ideal situation for addressing the issue of monolingualism in its student population. “Sampson County Schools has the opportunity to turn what has historically been considered a negative — a large population of Spanish-speaking students who must be taught academic English — into a positive.”

He described those Spanish-speaking students as an “untapped critical mass of Spanish-speaking ability,” adding that “if properly directed and utilized, could bring all of our students into full Spanish/English bilingual fluency.”

An emphasis on Spanish language education for all of the system’s elementary students isn’t just something only he would like to see, Warren pointed out. “Truthfully, the ability to use Spanish is a desire of many of our students and parents.”

While teaching at Union Elementary, he shared that he conducted a telling parental survey during kindergarten registration. “Out of the 100 or so parents — white, black, Native American, and Hispanic — only two parents told me that they would not want to enroll their children in a three year English/Spanish immersion program. The desire is there and we could be successful.”

Warren stressed that “an ambitious elementary Spanish program needs the support of administration” and he asked the school board remember that as the search for the system’s next superintendent.

“When hiring our next superintendent please consider making sure that he or she understands and would actively support the implementation of a Spanish language pilot program in one of our elementary schools,” urged Warren. “If our next superintendent comes into his or her new position understanding that this is a desired goal of Sampson County Schools then it can be designed and implemented for success.”

School board chairman Telfair Simpson thanked Warren for his concern and his comments, noting that an elementary Spanish language program is “something to consider.”

Simpson added that candidates for the superintendent position may be bilingual or even multilingual. Although a positive, Warren replied that it’s not as important that the new superintendent speak more languages but that he or she is supportive of such a program.

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at