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WHS launches school year with Spanish immersion

District 833 students headed back to school Tuesday, but they weren’t the only ones excited about the start of a new school year.

“It’s that energy and excitement and enthusiasm that is really awesome,” East Ridge High School Principal Aaron Harper said. “The reason why we’re here is to work with kids.”

This year is especially exciting for Woodbury High School Principal Linda Plante since this marks the first year her school will include the high school Spanish immersion program.

“I’m looking forward to having Spanish immersion in the building,” she said. “It really is the culmination of two and a half years of work.

“It’s going to be wonderful to have those students in the building, so that’s got to be right up at the top of the list.”

Spanish immersion implemented

Spanish immersion is a program that serves non-Spanish speaking families that live within District 833 boundaries.

At Nuevas Fronteras, founded in 2004, students in kindergarten through fifth grade are immersed in Spanish as they learn reading, writing, math, science, social studies, art and health.

At Cottage Grove Middle School students take social studies taught in Spanish and a Spanish language class.

Now that the first Spanish immersion class has reached the high school, Plante said it’s going to be exciting to see the program fully realized.

A total of 20 Spanish immersion students will find themselves in the halls of WHS this school year.

“I really believe in the program,” Plante said. “An immersion program of any kind has such benefits for students.

“We are in a global economy, so when they get out into the work world, they are going to need that experience.”

Since the high school program is a partial-immersion program, this year’s freshmen will be taking two immersion classes — human geography and Spanish language and culture.

“I think it’s going to be a big boost to all of our foreign languages,” Plante sad.

In addition to implementing Spanish immersion, Plante said she is just excited to see students again.

“It’s fun to see how they’ve changed,” she said. “The seniors are the leaders of the building, so I love to see them step up to that.”

Even though Harper said he is excited about some of the new course offerings East Ridge will have this school year, he said he is most excited about this year’s teachers.

“I’m a big believer as a learning leader that people matter,” he said. “One of the things that I am so thrilled with is that I believe we have the most talent amongst our staff that we’ve ever had.

“It’s gotten us to a point where we feel really, really good about who we have put in front of kids.”

Even though East Ridge will only be welcoming eight new teachers, he said the staff that East Ridge has developed over the past five years has risen to the challenge.

“We have found folks whose values and beliefs are in alignment with our vision,” he said.

One new face that will be seen around the East Ridge halls is Brent Comeau, who will be taking the reins as the new band director.

“I am jazzed that Mr. Comeau has decided to be a Raptor,” Harper said. “I’m extremely excited to see him transform and grow our band.”

Advice for students from Plante, Harper

With every school year comes new students and both Plante and Harper have words of wisdom to share with their students.

“Get involved in every part of school,” Plante said. “Even though we certainly stress the academics, but we all know there is more to this world than just academics. Have some fun, build relationships.”

Harper has this advice for seniors:

“Seize the moment, you are only a senior once,” he said. “High school should be one of the best times of your life.”

For freshmen, Harper advises them to be themselves.

“Take risks, let the anxieties go and just be yourself,” he said. “Don’t worry about what others think because by the time you’re a senior, it’s not going to matter anyway.”

Both Harper and Plante said they are eager to see what the new school year brings.

“Here we come,” Harper said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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