By Kim Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Kindergarten can be an emotional time for both students and parents. Parents are often leaving their children for a full day for the first time, and kids are starting school.

But imagine, if on top of that, you were sending your child into a classroom where another language was spoken?

That’s the case with Senora Christina Velasquez’s Spanish immersion kindergarten class.

Velasquez is not only helping kids at the Spanish Immersion Program at Minnewashta Elementary in Excelsior get adjusted to kindergarten, but she’s also teaching them a new language. And her success has floored parents.

That is what makes her this week’s Excellent Educator.

Velasquez knew her students might need extra TLC on the first day of school

“They were maybe a little bit nervous, maybe a little bit excited,” she said.

But half a year later, they’ve embraced the language and their teacher can take the credit.

“I act everything out which they think is really funny because it’s kind of like a game of charades constantly,” she said.

Velasquez’s love for the Spanish language dates back to her childhood. Her grandparents are migrant farm workers from Mexico. In high school, her family hosted a foreign exchange student from Spain. Then she spent a summer there herself, learning the value of language immersion.

“It’s always been a part of my life and I’m very proud of it,” Velasquez said.

Teaching has always been a part of her life too. Both parents are teachers, which influenced her decision to be one. She landed her first job in Puerto Rico.

Now she’s back in the states, giving students here the tools they’ll need to thrive in a multicultural world.

“It will for sure be a part of their life forever,” she said.

Parents are amazed at the progress.

“Sometimes I don’t even think they know that they’re learning Spanish,” Kathleen Heimermann , a parent, said. “Just the warmth and the enthusiasm she has for learning has just been wonderful.”


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