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Parental communication also a hurdle

Post Independent Photo/Kara K. PearsonMarychuy Regaldo laughs while posing with her children, Betty Martinez, left, and Jorge Marinez in their Carbondale home. They moved to Colorado from Chihuahua, Mexico.
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Marychuy Regaldo sits at her kitchen table flanked on either side by her eighth-grade son, Jorge, and 10th-grade daughter, Betty. She spreads out newspaper pages, pictures and award certificates as if they are a table cloth.”She’s really proud of what we have done in so little time,” says Betty Martinez. Betty is a sophomore at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. She received a plaque for advancing five levels in her first year of English as a second language at Carbondale Middle School. That was three years ago when she and her brother moved from Chihuahua, Mexico. Their mother had been in Carbondale for 10 months already.Betty and Jorge translate for their mother as she unfolds one La Mision newspaper after another – a picture of Betty manning the radio controls at the local Spanish-language radio station, Betty standing next to her Day of the Dead painting, Jorge’s recognition as “best dressed” in the last two years’ Carbondale Middle School yearbooks. “She wants me to be better at math instead of best dressed,” Jorge says.Regaldo tries to be involved with her children and know what they’re doing at school. But she has discovered communication with teachers and administrators can be frustrating and intimidating since she doesn’t speak English and most of them don’t speak Spanish. Luckily, area schools have made strides to hurdle communication barriers with liaisons and other Spanish-speaking personnel.Regaldo used to be very intimidated.

“She was kind of scared,” Regaldo says through Betty. “You think, ‘What am I going to tell them? How do I say what I want?’ It’s a big wall, the language.”The language barrier limits and intimidates teachers as much as parents. Area school districts are finding new ways to tackle the issue.A source of frustrationBefore liaisons and dual-language education, parents and teachers had to be creative if they wanted to communicate.”In this valley, there is always someone who speaks Spanish,” Betty said. Regaldo would have to find that person in the schools when she wanted to know what was happening with her kids.

Sue Tarbell, who teaches eighth grade at Glenwood Springs Middle School, said she turned to other teachers and to bilingual students to translate in parent meetings.”When people came into the office and nobody understood what they needed, you had to pull a teacher out of class or a kid out of class, and that’s not really fair,” Tarbell said.Mitch Spencer, an eighth-grade teacher at Glenwood, said communicating with Spanish-speaking parents was a source of frustration.”We try to talk to parents as much as we can,” Spencer said. “I can’t talk to them myself. I have to resource another teacher who speaks Spanish.”He said he always went to the English Language Learners teacher, which made him reluctant to contact parents in anything but the most dire of situations.”You get sick of bothering the same people all the time especially when you know they’re already really busy,” Spencer said.



Including parentsDebbie Redmount, an ELL teacher at Basalt Elementary School, said she’s felt a huge weight come off her shoulders since the district hired community liaisons. “Teachers used to come to me with notes to translate or ask me to call so-and-so because they’re so far behind,” Redmount said, “and sometimes I didn’t really know much about the kid I was calling home for.”Difficulties with bilingual communications don’t just hinder parent and teacher communications. It also drives a wedge between Latino parents and English-speaking parents, which impacts overall parent involvement. For example, in February, Glenwood Springs Middle School parents were invited to a St. Valentine’s dinner.”Only one Latino family attended,” said Alejandra Ricco-Jessup, the community liaison for Glenwood Springs middle and high schools. “Part of my job is to integrate them into the school community.” Ricco-Jessup, who started in December, said she plans to bring Latino parents into the school at least once every two months by hosting events and meetings.”I think people will feel more like they can come,” Ricco-Jessup said. “They have someone they know they can talk with.””I think people will feel more like they can come,” Ricco-Jessup said. “They have someone they know they can talk with.”


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