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Killeen ISD teachers explain the challenges of teaching bilingual students virtually

virtual learning
Posted at 5:55 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 19:42:50-05

KILLEEN, TX — Teachers already have full plates, but teachers in a bilingual setting with English and Spanish-speaking students have two full plates.

Virtual learning comes with its own challenges, but bilingual virtual learning is a whole other ball game. Creating separate lesson plans for not only their in-person students but online ones as well takes up a lot of teachers' work days and even trickles into after work duties.

Moriama Rosario Martinez teaches a bilingual 3rd grade class at Pershing Park Elementary in Killeen, one of the four bilingual elementary schools in the district.

"I would just work with my kids one-on-one if some of them needed that extra help, and that's just what I did to help them out," Rosario Martinez said.

Rosario Martinez not only works one-on-one with her students, but tries diligently to build relationships with them and their parents.

"I give them my personal phone number. I know not a lot of teachers do that," Rosario Martinez said.

Bilingual teachers have to find out what language each student is dominant in, and then work with them not only in that language but also build the skills of the other as well.

"We have to be able to differentiate for all of them. It's been a little bit challenging, but we're doing it," Rosario Martinez said.

Bilingual ELS Specialist Hilga Vazquez works closely with many of the Killeen ISD teachers to provide a support system for them when things get tough.

She even connects other bilingual teachers as they understand each other's teaching challenges in a pandemic.

"Sometimes 9, 10 p.m. they are collaborating via text, making sure they're meeting the needs of their students," Vazquez said.

Making relationships with their peers is important, but all teachers agree that the relationship between the student and teacher is number one.

"The most, one of the most, important things for them to cooperate and feel they are supported by me," 5th Grade bilingual teacher Sonia Douglas said.

Douglas has been a bilingual teacher for seven years, and in her time has loved watching her students grow and learn to speak both Spanish and English.

It's a very important skill to have, and Douglas says these classes will help her students in the future.

"Right now, they may not see it, but at the end being bilingual is one of the most amazing things a human being can experience," Douglas said.