Head immerses herself in education

Nov. 24, 2010

Susane Head (Download Image)

Head immerses herself in education

Gordon Y Yano, yano1@llnl.gov
For Susane Head, the chance to enroll her children in a dual language immersion program in school was important enough to determine where her family would live. The Spanish-English immersion program at Valley View elementary school in Pleasanton convinced the Heads to settle in Pleasanton.

"I wanted my children to take advantage of the program as a way to open their minds to other cultures and languages, and to learn more about their own Latino heritage," said Head, who leads the Lab's Work-Life Program in Strategic Human Resources Management. "The dual immersion program at Valley View seems to attract people who are interested in looking at things from a multicultural perspective."

Head's parents are from Guatemala and El Salvador. Growing up, while her parents spoke to Head and her sister in Spanish, their daughters typically replied in English. "Like many immigrants, they wanted their children to assimilate into the new culture, so they wanted to make sure we learned English," Head said.

Head and her husband -- himself a native English speaker with Canadian roots and some college Spanish -- have a 9-year-old son, a fourth grader in Valley View's immersion program. They also have a 4-year-old daughter, who will enter Valley View's kindergarten immersion program next year.

The aim of Valley View's immersion program is to have a 50/50 split between students who are native Spanish speakers and students who are native English speakers. In kindergarten, instruction is almost entirely in Spanish. By the fourth grade, half of the class day is conducted in Spanish and half in English. "Even their oral presentations are conducted in Spanish," Head said.

Head and her husband both volunteer their time at the school, helping with bulletin boards, correcting tests and assisting students in either Spanish or English.

"While I speak some conversational Spanish at home, my son is now learning academic Spanish, which includes math, science and social science," Head said. "In the third grade, Valley View students are required to enter the school's science fair, and the immersion kids have to produce and present their project boards in both English and Spanish. This has been a fun and challenging learning experience for all of us."

Educational programs at Valley View Elementary are just some of the programs supported through grants to students and teachers by the Pleasanton Partners in Education Foundation (PPIE), a HOME Campaign agency. PPIE is a community-based organization that seeks to enhance student learning through partnerships between education, business and the community.

"I know there are other Lab employees who volunteer at Valley View, as well as other schools supported by PPIE grants and their other programs," Head said. "The HOME Campaign is one of the foundation's friends of PPIE-level sponsors. It would be great to see us get to the bronze or silver levels."
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