Austin ISD's dual-language program ignites passion for culture, learning new languages at Summitt Elementary School

Summitt Elementary Schoolu2019s Vietnamese dual-language program hosts several events and is involved in the community.

Summitt Elementary Schoolu2019s Vietnamese dual-language program hosts several events and is involved in the community.

Image description
Dual-language program at Austin ISD ignites passion for culture, learning new languages
Image description
Dual-language program at Austin ISD ignites passion for culture, learning new languages
Image description
Dual-language program at Summitt Elementary School
Image description
Dual-language program at Summitt Elementary School
Image description
Dual-language program at Summitt Elementary School
Image description
Dual-language program at Summitt Elementary School
Between rows of portables at Summitt Elementary School in Northwest Austin is a hidden oasis of a tiny pond filled with orange fish, round tables shaded by grass-covered umbrellas and benches surrounded by flowers.

This outdoor patio serves as a meeting space for parents whose children are in the Vietnamese dual-language program at the school.

Austin ISD offers one-way dual-language programs, which are intended for students learning English, and two-way dual-language programs, which cater both to students who speak English and to those who are learning English, in both Spanish and Vietnamese.

Seven North Austin AISD schools offer a one-way dual-language program in Spanish, and Summitt offers both a one-way and two-way program in Vietnamese.

“The added benefit of dual language is that it also recognizes and maintains and honors the first language as well,” said David Kauffman, director of AISD’s Multilingual Education Department.

AISD’s goal in dual-language classrooms is to achieve biliteracy, bilingualism and biculturalism.

“We’re just trying to offer language opportunities for as many students as we can,” Kauffman said.

Summitt’s Vietnamese dual-language program was the first of its kind in the U.S. when it began in 1981, said Thuy Nguyen, Summitt’s bilingual instruction coach who has been spearheading the program for over 20 years. The program was first housed at Walnut Creek Elementary School but was relocated in 2008 to Summitt when Walnut Creek faced overcrowding.

In the 2017-18 school year, Summitt had 842 students, of which 23.4 percent were Asian, according to the Texas Education Agency. Nguyen said the Vietnamese program has about 270 students, including native Vietnamese speakers and native English speakers.

Nguyen said interest in the program from families who are Vietnamese but speak only English is a result of a change in tide when Vietnamese families, including Nguyen’s, immigrated to the U.S. after the Vietnam War ended in 1975. She said the initial thought was just to learn English and assimilate instead of embracing their culture.

“But now after 40 years, they realize sooner or later their kids learn English anyway and now they still have parents and roots in Vietnam, and … most of the parents right now, they are young professionals; they wish they had learned Vietnamese and put their kids in the program in order to learn Vietnamese.”

When Nguyen came to AISD 20 years ago, she said the program was similar to English as a Second Language, in which non-English speakers are taught in only English in an effort to catch up.

This practice, Nguyen said, can lead to a student losing his or her native tongue and feeling a loss of identity.

Students learn social studies and math in Vietnamese, and English and science in English. Children may enter the program as early as kindergarten.

Summit’s dual program also includes after-school services, including homework assistance and cultural learning, such as learning martial arts or the dragon dance, she said.

“The reason why we’re a successful program is the cultural aspect,” Nguyen said.

Sarah Orman’s two children, fourth-grader Sander and first-grader Lyla, are both in the two-way program. Last year, the family went to Vietnam along with others in the program.

“When we got back from Vietnam, there were about three days where my daughter wasn’t speaking English,” Orman said.

She said she has observed both her children quickly pick up the new language and also learn empathy toward immigrants who are learning a new language and culture.

“There have been two times where a student came in not speaking hardly any English, and both times it was really sweet to see how the English-speaking kids would take them under their wing,” she said.

Sander also had a recent lesson in Mandarin, and Orman said he was able to quickly pick up on that language.

“Now they have a foundation for learning new languages,” she said.

Additional reporting by Emma Freer

For more local education news, please see all of the local stories from our Education Focus edition.
By Amy Denney
Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and then senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition and covering transportation. She is now managing editor for the nine publications in the Central Texas area.


MOST RECENT

Austin ISD students will begin the 2021-22 school year Tuesday, Aug. 17. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Take a look at Austin ISD’s newly approved calendar for the 2021-22 school year

Austin ISD trustees have approved the academic calendar for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Winter storm damage could prevent 10 Austin ISD campuses from reopening next week

Austin ISD students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 1 for the first time since Winter Storm Uri.

A tree's branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm

With 200 to 400 apartment and condo complexes in Austin still without water, City Council is aiming to direct aid and relieve some of the financial burden felt by residents following the devastating winter storms.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Here is everything you need to know about Williamson County’s COVID-19 vaccine plan. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Here is everything you need to know about Williamson County’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

Here is a breakdown of what happened, how decisions were made and how vaccine distribution is moving forward in Williamson County.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.

Photo of a snowy residential street
'Bad data is worse than no data': Austin health officials unsure how storm affected coronavirus spread

Weekly testing and hospitalization averages will not be updated by Austin Public Health until Feb. 27.

Icy road in Austin
State expects no significant delays to Northwest Austin road projects due to winter storm

Several transportation projects around Northwest Austin are back on track after brief pauses caused by Winter Storm Uri.

Taquero Mucho
Downtown hotspot Gabriela’s announces two new North Austin restaurants

Modern Mexican establishment Gabriela's announced two upcoming restaurants in the North Austin area.

Here are some spring break camp options available for your kids in and around Northwest Austin. (Community Impact Staff)
Spring break camps open for your kids in Northwest Austin

Here are some spring break camp options available for your kids in and around Northwest Austin.