BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — It’s the first of its kind in Florida and only the second in the country.
Students at Rolling Green Elementary School in Boynton Beach are participating in a dual language Haitian Creole program.
The School District of Palm Beach County has close to 10,000 Creole-speaking students, and this is a new way to reach their community.
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When you walk in the front office of Rolling Green Elementary School, there are signs of Haiti everywhere. With a more than 60% Haitian population at the school, it was a no-brainer to start the district’s first Haitian Creole dual language program.
From Creole to English, the kindergartners at Rolling Green are the only students in Florida learning their lessons in both languages.
“Some of them, they hear the Creole, but they don’t speak it,” said teacher Patricia Michele.
In Michele’s classroom, it’s Creole only. The lessons, the posters on the wall, and everything in between.
“They’ve never been to Haiti. By me teaching that, I can teach them culture and what the Haitian culture is all about,” Michele said.
WATCH: Teacher Patricia Michele instructs students in Creole
This new dual language program is a nod to the strong Haitian community in the area, giving students the opportunity to learn in the language they hear at home.
“The community has wanted something like this, so to be able to give back to them, that’s something we’re most proud of,” said principal Allyson Manning.
Across the hall from Michele’s class, students spend the other half of their day in Marquita Brown’s class learning English.
“This is a way to affirm their language and culture, as well as to educate them in English and Creole and inspire them to achieve success academically,” said Jameson Stell, the School District of Palm Beach County’s program planner for world languages and global studies.
Stell helped the program come to fruition and calls it a bridge for all students.
“We have students more comfortable in English. We have students more comfortable in Creole. And they have the opportunity to feel that comfort in their home language, as well as the productive struggle in the second language they are learning at the same time,” Stell said.
Manning said it’s proving beneficial already.
“A lot of the parents say, before, they weren’t able to help their students at home. And now they are coming home and trying to learn things in their native language and they can actually assist. And that’s a huge boost for the parents and they are really excited,” Manning said.
Michele hopes teaching in her native language helps inspire these young students for years to come.
“I am praying this program is successful,” Michele said. “That one day I will see the kids that I taught one day in kindergarten, and now they’re improving to high school. That’s my goal.”
The dual language program is only in kindergarten at Rolling Green Elementary School, but each year the school will add another grade level.
A second elementary school will also begin the program next year with hopes of eventually expanding to middle school and high school.
For more information about the dual language Haitian Creole program, click here.