Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School Spanish students visit Seymour Elementary School
By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
“It was an interesting experience,” said Alyssa Porrino. She had just completed reading the book she had written in Spanish to a group of 20 first graders at Seymour Elementary School in Syracuse.
Alyssa, along with 11 other Bishop Ludden students, traveled to Seymour on Feb. 29 to read books that they had written in Spanish to five classrooms of kindergartners and first graders.
The interchange between Grimes students and the bilingual Seymour students began five years ago, after Grimes’ Spanish teacher Sharon Bearer was introduced to Ruth Tenorio-Henry, a social worker who works at Seymour. “I wanted the students to use the Spanish they were learning,” said Bearer. “It’s really a wonderful experience for my students, and the little ones really enjoy it. It’s an eye-opening experience for my students to walk into a bilingual classroom — it’s good for them.”
“This is an excellent interchange,” said Tenorio-Henry. “The high school students develop their Spanish skills and the younger students see how the older ones are interested in their language.”
Bearer’s class of sophomore regents Spanish students began to write their stories last September and then added illustrations to the books in January. They worked on their Spanish language skills as well as developed their creative writing talents. “It was a challenge for them, but I have a hard-working group of students,” remarked Bearer.
Bearer said that animals were the prevalent theme throughout the books this year. Megan Dennehy and Elizabeth Reck wrote Benito Aprende a Volar (Benito Learns to Fly); Alyssa Porrino wrote Biscuit Aprende a Bailar (Biscuit Learns to Dance) and Conor Bennett and Ryan Grace wrote Jerry. In addition, Emily Bearer and Kathleen Fallon wrote Jorge y el Sombrer (George and the Hat); Katherine Wilcox and Courtney Henson wrote Leon el Leon (Leon the Lion); Adriana Sereno and Kyle Huff wrote Un Amigo Nuevo Para Buddy (A New Friend for Buddy) and Michael Christie wrote Vivia en una Tienda de Campana en mi Patio Trasero (I Lived in a Tent in my Backyard).
While visiting Seymour School, Alyssa Porrino and Michael Christie read their books Biscuit Apprende a Bailar and Vivia en una Tienda de Campana en mi Patio Trasero. The first graders sat in rapt attention while the high school students read their books. Their presentations spurred many questions from the younger students.
“The kids were very nice,” said Michael. “I had a lot of fun doing it.” Michael said he liked writing his book and especially enjoyed illustrating it.
Conor Bennett and Ryan Grace, who wrote the book Jerry, read their book to a group of kindergartners. The children seemed to enjoy the presentation. Afterwards, the kindergarten teacher told the two young men that they had inspired her class to write a book after listening to the story.
After reading to the class, Conor said that the experience was “pretty cool.” Ryan and Conor took turns reading the book in Spanish and English.
The two young men were inspired to write the book by their cross-country coach, Jerry Smith. They said that Smith often tells them great stories about his experiences in the sports field. “Our coach is a cool guy,” said Ryan.
Seymour School offers a bilingual program with the goal of making all students proficient in both languages. A significant portion of the student population at Seymour is Latino. The program fosters better relationships and brings the bilingual community together.
As participants in one of 300 bilingual programs in the U.S., students study both English Language Arts and Spanish Language Arts. Classes are taught for a week in Spanish and then the next week in English.
“We are proud of the program here,” said Seymour principal Marie Lostumbo. “It’s a very unique school. Lots of good things happen when you show children that their ethnicity is valued.”