Think Different By Philip Rebentisch

Think Different By Philip Rebentisch


In the late 1990s, Apple® computers had a problem. The machines may have been technically superior to the personal computers of the day, but Apple’s sales and corporate management were in tatters. Steve Jobs, one of Apple’s founders, returned to the company and oversaw an innovative company philosophy and advertising campaign. It was entitled “Think Different.” Working from this mindset, the company’s fortunes changed and today Apple Inc. is one of the most successful companies on the planet.

Our Students Are Better Prepared for Global Citizenship – Marci Mongan, Community Outreach Coordinator

In our ever-changing world, critical thinking skills are essential to students’ success in school, in the community, and in life. People who possess the innate ability to view the world from different perspectives, to think differently, will have the tools to thrive in a future that in many ways already exists. The Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School guides its students from the outset to think outside of the proverbial box. In fact, in many ways there is no box for these young students. The technology that exists today enables people to work and communicate with anyone in the world, and it’s vital that our children are competitive in the global marketplace. This is a core tenet of the DLI program.

Language is a Treasure – Monsignor Lorenzo Miranda, Pastor of the Parish.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School provides a rigorous, California standards-based curriculum that integrates Catholic values into every element of the school. The DLI program began in June 2017 for Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and Kindergarten. It is a “50/50 model” where native English speakers are immersed in Spanish to be biliterate and bilingual, while native Spanish speakers improve their Spanish skills and become biliterate and bilingual in English. Social Studies, Religion and English Language Arts are taught in English, while Spanish Language Arts, Math, and Science are taught in Spanish through 5th grade and then the languages switch for 6th through 8th grade. The school looks forward to the expansion of the DLI program through eighth grade.

The Kids Are Not Translating Words, They Are Speaking the Language and That’s a Critical Difference – Theresa Voeltz, Principal

The DLI program provides for diverse, open thinking and a superior educational and spiritual environment compared to its public school counterparts. Research studies have repeatedly shown that learning in two languages results in improved cognitive brain development. It appears to be working in real life. Early literacy scores at the school are significantly higher than last year, achieving the Archdiocese-mandated 55 percentile benchmark in English. Testing for early Spanish literacy is still underway, and the hope is that the Spanish benchmarks will be met as well. To take the long view, improved benchmark scores means the students will be better prepared for their path to high school.

This is Where We Wanted to Invest Our Time – Tim and Debbie Sullivan, Parents

Tim and Debbie knew they wanted to enroll their kids in a Catholic school. Tim attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help through 5th grade and attended Mass at the church. Still, they felt it was important to consider various options to ensure the school they chose was the right fit. They did their homework, toured the school, and sought feedback from friends and other parents about the school. Debbie was also keenly interested in a small school environment and all the different activities. For them, DLI was an added benefit beyond the academic, spiritual, and communal nature of the school. Since enrolling in the DLI program, they’ve already seen a change in their son’s thinking process, and he now speaks Spanish with his older relatives. It’s a common story among parents of DLI students.

They Will Have Lifelong Memories – Jeanette Cortez, Parent

Growing up, Jeanette attended Catholic schools and she currently works at a public school. Like the Sullivans, she especially likes the small school size, the various student clubs offered at the school, family gatherings after Mass, BBQs, and the carnival. Her daughter is highly motivated and is excelling in the DLI program. Jeannette learned Spanish from her grandmother and freely admits that she feels immense pride when her Kindergarten-age daughter “corrects” Jeanette’s Spanish at home. Beyond the academics however, religion and a sense of family at the school were important parts of the enrollment decision-making process for both Jeannette and her husband.

Jeannette, Debbie, Tim and many other parents firmly believe that their children’s ability to think in two languages is crucial to their cognitive growth and development. This duality, along with the cross-cultural elements that are innate to the program and the school, help instill a sense of family and community at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. Moreover, parents talk about the potential for making life-long friends.

Teaching the Parents

Helen Haas is the lead teacher in charge of implementing the DLI program, and both she and lead TK English teacher Blanca Martinez started with the DLI program in June. The DLI program here is fortunate to have two teachers per classroom, one leads in English while the other assists and then they switch roles for Spanish. This enables individual attention and warm relationships with their students.

One challenge of the DLI program is for those parents that do not speak Spanish. So, to help those parents take part in their child’s Spanish homework, Helen creates YouTube® videos of flashcard lessons to bring Spanish vocabulary into the home. Quite literally, these parents are learning Spanish along with their children to help them during homework time. The school is fortunate to have iPads® and Apple TV in the classrooms as educational tools, and both Helen and Blanca agree that the use of technology has been a wonderful, effective tool.

Stories of TK and Kindergarten children knowing no Spanish prior to the DLI program and then excelling in Spanish confirm the positive cognitive benefits of a DLI program, including:

” Language proficiency in both English and Spanish.
” Improved communication abilities.
” Enhanced listening skills.
” Exceeding performance standards of monolinguist learners.
” Increased problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
” Greater multicultural appreciation.
” Far better preparation for U.S. and worldwide career paths.

Perpetual Motion at Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The school bustles with activity from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. due to day care, classes, vibrant student clubs, and other popular extracurricular activities. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the children really want to be at the school, and valuable time management skills are ingrained into their daily lives. This is another added benefit for their academic career through high school and even college preparation. A typical DLI school day begins with morning assembly, in English, but songs sung during the assembly are in Spanish. The TK and Kindergarten students break for recess at 9:00 a.m. in their own playground, and during recess and lunch, teachers speak to the students in Spanish. The kids have the option of speaking in either English or Spanish, and often, both are heard. Learning a vocabulary and syntax in two languages allows students to express themselves in diverse ways which certainly makes for twice the fun during recess and lunch!

The teachers, faculty, staff, and parents foster a positive learning and spiritual environment at the school and it is truly a second family for all concerned. The mentoring/buddy system of pairing older students with younger DLI students is a very important part of the school, and the older students now want to learn Spanish. Parents of English only homes also want their students to learn Spanish. As a result, parents, students, and school staff all wish there was an expanded DLI program. They recognize the cognitive and social benefits of the DLI program and the enormous, positive impact it has on the students, the school, and their community. As Apple learned many years ago, thinking differently creates diverse perspectives and options that are essential for navigating the passageways to success.

To learn more about enrollment, click here, or call us at (562) 869-9969.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School is a TK-8th Catholic grade school in Downey, California.

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