Little Language Learner participants hold up their certificates during the awards ceremony

Students gain deeper appreciation for educators, new career skills through Little Language Learners Program

May 15, 2024 – Camila Guerrero, a junior at Mandarin High School, said her appreciation for teachers grew deeper this year.

That’s because she – along with approximately 40 of her high school peers – spent the year teaching elementary school students a new language through the district’s Little Language Learners program.

“I don’t think we had any depth of knowledge of how much it really takes to teach these kids and especially learning a new language,” Guerrero said. “Watching them grow was just amazing.”

Guerrero was among the honorees at a recent ceremony recognizing the Little Language Learners volunteers.

Since early in the school year, these students from Mandarin and Fletcher high schools have worked to light up the classrooms with smiles for the children at Greenland Pines and Neptune Beach elementary schools while teaching American Sign Language (ASL), Spanish, and French.

They created lesson plans that included learning about days of the week, weather, food, numbers, and body parts in another language.

“As a native Spanish speaker myself, I got to meet other kids who spoke Spanish as their first language and they were just so excited to learn something new and to show their other friends and communicate with their parents like ‘Hey, I learned this,’” said Guerrero.

But it wasn’t just the elementary school students who picked up some new skills. Mandarin High junior Alicia Thomas said volunteering taught her patience and professionalism.

“It was definitely one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done,” said Thomas. “Just seeing how much the kids learned and how excited they were every time we came over. Honestly, it was really fun seeing how much they grew too.”

Ingrid Carias – the district’s director of ESOL, Dual Language, and World Languages – said the goal of this program is to  help students become proficient in multiple languages.

“We want every student to learn a new language without having to travel outside of Duval County Public Schools,” said Carias. It changes the student’s mindset, it changes their character, and encourages students to be dual language teachers in the future.”

Guerrero said her future looks even brighter thanks to this program.

“A lot of people enjoy hiring people who know more than one language just so you can help out and help other customers or whoever you’re working with,” said Guerrero. I sort of get to be a bridge almost between these two places.”

Visit the Little Language Learners webpage to learn more information.

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