Lyseth Elementary School, home of the only public Spanish immersion program in Maine, has won the Ministry of Education, Embassy of Spain’s School of the Year 2020 Award in the elementary school category.
The Portland Board of Public Education and Superintendent Xavier Botana honored Lyseth for the achievement at the Board’s April 28 meeting. Lyseth Principal Lenore Williams; Carlos Gómez, the district’s Director of Language Development; World Language Specialist Annemarie Orth, Spanish immersion program teachers and students and families were all recognized for helping to foster and grow the program.
The school learned about the award earlier this month. A ceremony was planned for early May in Washington D.C., but now is postponed to the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 30 schools from across the country applied for the award and two schools emerged as winners. Lyseth is the recipient at the elementary level. A school in Florida, the Coral Way K-8 Center, was the middle school selection.
In announcing Lyseth’s award, the Ministry of Education congratulated the school for its “outstanding immersion program.” The ministry said Lyseth was selected for a variety of reasons, among them “the administrative team’s and staff’s enthusiasm and dedication to the Spanish language and culture.”
The immersion program was begun at Lyseth in 2014 with one kindergarten cohort, spearheaded by Grace Valenzuela, now the district’s Executive Director of Communications and Community Partnerships, and former superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. A new class was added each year. There is now an immersion classroom at each grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Superintendent Botana said, “The Portland Public Schools is proud that Lyseth Elementary School has been recognized for its unique immersion program. Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the United States and biliteracy in Spanish and English is an important skill that makes students attractive to college admissions offices and future employers. We’re very grateful for all the work by dedicated staff, students and families that have made this program such a success.”
The Ministry of Education said the “school is working hard so their students meet the state requirements to earn the Seal of Biliteracy on their diplomas, once again showing their commitment to bilingualism.” Also, the ministry said, there are “multiple samples of the presence of the Spanish language throughout the school. Its library stands out with plenty of resources for bilingual learning and education, classroom decorations, and the Museums of Mexican and Spanish Art, which foster an interest in the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. Spanish signs and posters are visible throughout the school’s common areas.”
The ministry added, “The jury was impressed by the quality of the audiovisual information provided about the projects and educational programs they carry out in their Spanish immersion program.”