Bilingual Brain Power at St. John Vianney Catholic School

By Jennifer Drow, special to the Florida Catholic Newspaper – December 8, 2017

Eager children are boosting bilingual brain power at St. John Vianney Catholic School in Orlando. Pre-K students are now learning in both English and Spanish as part of the new dual language program, the first of its kind in the diocese.

St. John Vianney is just one of many schools benefitting from a $2.6 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The money will breathe life into the program through summer 2022 across Greater Orlando and Tampa Bay. Principal Cathy Marshall promises Catholic teachers will be accompanied on this journey. “We will have access to already successful dual language schools,” says Marshall. Their curriculum, scheduling, assessments and parent education will assist us in making good decisions about our curriculum.”

Marshall worked closely with experts from both Boston College and the University of Central Florida get this program off the ground. Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Henry Fortier, is proud of her hard work and dedication. “The partnership with Boston College in developing this program has been truly rewarding,” explains Fortier. “The latest partnership with the University of Central Florida highlights the importance of being bilingual in a global economy.”

St. John Vianney Parish pastor Thomas Walden is also excited about what this means for the future. “The best time to learn another language is at an early age,” says Father Walden. “Since our children will be the leaders of the 21st century, our dual language program will provide them the linguistic tools necessary to succeed in a multi-cultural society.” Former parish pastor, Father Miguel Gonzalez, agrees, “The true winners of this partnership will be the children, who will be able to develop and strengthen their God-given academic skills.”

Brittany Hainen’s son is in the program and she can already see big changes. “As parents, we are learning from our five-year old and he has inspired us to learn Spanish with him,” explains Hainen. “It’s fun to ask him what new words he learned today and we are fascinated by how naturally he has picked up on pronunciation of the language. It has also been a great opportunity to talk about and encourage diversity as he is naturally connecting to children whose native language is not the same as his.”

As Principal Marshall and her team forge ahead, they’re asking for a little help from the faithful. “This is a 21st century initiative that supports our Church,” shares Marshall. “I am grateful for the trust and vision of Bishop Noonan and Mr. Fortier in the establishment of this program. Please continue with your prayers!”