At La Escuelita Arcoiris, the answer is "Si"! Carlow alumna Megan Rooney builds upon preschoolers' aptitude for language.
Megan Rooney ’09 stands before a class of preschoolers, who listen attentively to the story she’s telling. English is the first and, many times, the only language spoken in the students’ homes, but Rooney is telling her story in Spanish.
The children closely follow the Spanish words, occasionally asking questions in English, then respond accordingly to the Spanish answer.
Rooney founded La Escuelita Arcoiris, a Spanish language immersion school, in 1999. At first, the school met in her home, with a close-knit circle of five students in addition to her own children.
“Those first clients are still some of my best friends,” she says. Gradually, word spread of the Spanish immersion school, and it quickly outgrew her home, moving to two different churches before arriving at its current location in Congregation Beth Shalom on Beacon Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
Seeking possible funding opportunities, Rooney met with the Grable Foundation and learned about Keystone Stars, a state initiative to improve early learning opportunities. To join, she would need her master’s degree.
Rooney turned to Carlow for her graduate degree in education.
She says everyone at Carlow made her feel welcome, in particular, faculty members like her thesis advisor, the late Marjorie Logsdon, PhD, and Judith Touré, EdD, chair of the Education Department, whose research methods class challenged Rooney to excel.
“Megan and I connected over our shared love of language learning and teaching, and the value of crosscultural awareness,” says Touré. Rooney’s graduate work at Carlow affirmed her decision to immerse children in another language.
Second language exposure expands children intellectually, culturally, and emotionally, Rooney says.
“A child [exposed to a second language] will be able to understand the intricate nuances of language more quickly than non-bilingual students,” she says. “What they gain enhances all areas of learning.”
By Drew Wilson