addalingua immersion and love for Puerto Rico: increasing student cultural awareness

January 16, 2018

One of my greatest joys is the opportunity I have to talk with administrators, point people, and teachers about what matters to them in their addalingua immersion programs.

Our conversations cover the intricacies of the addalingua frameworks, discussing how current decisions in the program impact the overall implementation of its design, and most frequently (and my favorite) conversing about student learning.

measuring increased cultural awareness in addalingua immersion

Student learning in addalingua immersion programs manifests itself in a wide variety of ways, although each is connected to one of the three goals of immersion education:

  1. academic achievement
  2. high levels of proficiency in both the immersion language and English
  3. increased cultural awareness and sensitivity


Recently, Militza Mendoza, point person and third grade teacher at Covenant Christian School in Mishawaka, IN shared a story during an addalingua office hour that relates beautifully to that often difficult-to-measure third goal from the list above. Her students and their families went above and beyond to illustrate the level of awareness, care and sensitivity that learning Spanish has helped create.




On September 20, hurricane María wrought havoc on the island of Puerto Rico, Militza Mendoza’s homeland. The fear of the hurricane itself was surpassed by the fear of the aftermath in the days after the storm. Militza feared her family was in danger or had been harmed.

Covenant Christian School pulls together for Puerto Rico

Concerns grew when all communication severed between the island and the U.S. mainland for weeks after the storm. That was when her classroom of students, and the Covenant Christian community stepped in to offer support to the teacher and point person they care so deeply about, and in turn, to the island of Puerto Rico.

Her students began writing letters of love and encouragement. Check out what they had to say.


Dear Puerto Rican friends,

Hi, my name is Justin and I live in Indiana. Do you want to know how I know how to speak Spanish? It’s because my teacher is Puerto Rican and she’s teaching me Puerto Rican Spanish. I’m writing this letter because I know that you guys are passing through a tough time and I want to send you strength. I don’t know you, but I know that you’re great and I wrote a song for you and your family. It’s like Despacito, but different and I’m going to send it with this paper. If you know my teacher, Militza Mendoza, she’s the best in the world and she’s Puerto Rican. She says that we should write letters so that kids who are feeling sad know that God is with them.

Justin from Covenant Christian


Dear Puerto Rican students,

Hi, my name is Juliana Belcher and I want to help Puerto Rico. I want to help so much that I’ve written a song. I’ve visited Puerto Rico before the hurricane and I want for it to look as beautiful as it did before [the storm]. So, I gave money for Puerto Rico and I’m going to have a concert and people will give lots of things for Puerto Rico not only for kids but also teachers. I feel for you.





This is just a pair of the heart filled letters sent to Puerto Rico by Covenant Christian’s addalingua immersion program students.

As their initiative gained momentum, the families wanted to do even more than write letters. They planned, ideated, and responded to the need by donating pallets of goods to the people on the island.

student drawing of a heart for Puerto Rican students impacted by hurricanes.

Check out the news link below to see the impact that Militza Mendoza’s students and their greater school community have had (8 tons of supplies!). And to think…the students are able to express themselves so clearly, so eloquently and so passionately in the language spoken by the heart of the recipients. That, we know, makes it mean even more upon arrival.

Mishawaka students send truck load of supplies to Puerto Rico

learning Spanish increases student cultural awareness and sensitivity

It’s more challenging to measure one’s cultural sensitivity than, perhaps, academic achievement or language skills. But, we’d dare to say that the connections these students are making using language as the engine to inspire action is a definite example of success toward that third goal.


January 16, 2018

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