On July 12th, 2018 the DC Language Immersion Project gathered the leading experts and practitioners of multilingual education to celebrate the work of a community committed to providing access to linguistic and cultural competence to all children. DC Immersion had the honor of awarding 12 Multilingual Education Awards to some of the most inspiring people who work to further multilingual education in DC.

Multilingual Education Leader Awardee Councilmember Grosso said “This is, I think, the future.” and talked about the importance of being good neighbors in the District of Columbia “and that means we have to speak more than one language. We have to engage in cultural understanding and sensitivity in a way that really opens our doors”. Grosso added “I want to give a quick shout out to my partners at OSSE” who embraced the Office of Multilingual Education and vowed to support schools and parents that would like to see multilingual education in their communities. 

Councilmembers Nadeau, Allen and Robert White received Multilingual Education Champions awards for their outspoken support for equitable access to multilingual education. Councilmember Nadeau was commended for her advocacy not only for her child but for all other Ward 1 children. Her leadership in supporting the desires of her constituents is best practice.

“I grew up in South Dakota – we didn’t really have dual language… Please continue your efforts to ensure every child has access to dual language. It is making a difference.” said Multilingual Education Visionary awardee Vice President Jack Jacobson who four years ago was instrumental in encouraging a fledgling DC Immersion to better explain the need for dual language education in the District of Columbia. DC Immersion thanked all members of the State Board of Education for their support and engagement over the years. The Multilingual Education Mover and Shaker award was presented to newly elected State Board of Education Student Representative Marjourie Alicea, a socially engaged bilingual student.

The Multilingual Education Innovator award was given to two school leaders who have taken bold and innovative steps to bring multilingual education to predominantly English speaking African American communities east of the river. In 2016 Principal Rembert Seaward opened the first dual language program at Houston Elementary DCPS, in the Deanwood community of Ward 7, because “Kids should be able to speak more than one language. It’s only us in America that speak only English”. With her replication of Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS due to open this coming school year in Ward 7, Executive Director Erika Bryant adds French to the languages being offered in dual language immersion programs east of the river. These two educators are leading the nation in running dual language programs in communities previously left out of the conversation on dual language, and are united by their belief that all children can be multilingual regardless of home language or zip code.

“This community of people who value bilingual education is clearly growing. It’s a community of inclusion, innovation and social sustainability.” said Multilingual Education Network Builder awardee Berenice Pernalete. Berenice is Mundo Verde PCS’ Instructional Guide and the founder of Acento Learning an “espacio colaborativo para educators EN español” and the initiator of the DC Dual Language Educator Network Facebook group which now has over 180 members and which is used by educators across the region to share resources and advertise positions.

“I feel like we are in the crest of this wave that will hopefully sweep the whole nation. And DC Immersion is the Tsunami that is pushing us there.” said Multilingual Education Constant Gardener awardee Katarina Brito Dual Language Program Developer for DC Public Schools. “When I started 14 years ago, we had one dual language school with K-6th with 400-500 kids. Now we have 11 programs with 3,000 kids.”

Thank you Multilingual Education Teacher Hero awardee Melinda Wilson Fuller for fundraising through Donors Choose to learn Spanish to communicate with her Latino students and to ensure her students in the Autism classrooms could participate and benefit from the dual language program at Houston Elementary. You are an inspiration!

And last but not least, the award for Multilingual Education Believer went to Kavitha Cardoza, correspondent for Education Week and PBS News Hour for her national work highlighting the demand for and the benefits of multilingualism. Her much-needed in-depth reporting informs and changes hearts and minds across our nation.

See you all next year!

Full list of awardees:

Multilingual Education Leader Award: Councilmember David Grosso
Multilingual Education Champion Award: Councilmember Robert C. White, JR
Multilingual Education Champion Award: Councilmember Brianne Nadeau
Multilingual Education Champion Award: Councilmember Charles Allen
Multilingual Education Visionary Award: SBOE Vice President Jack Jacobson
Multilingual Education Innovator Award: Principal Rembert Seaward, Houston Elementary DCPS
Multilingual Education Innovator Award: Executive Director Erika Bryant, Elsie Whitlow Stokes PCS
Multilingual Education Constant Gardener Award: Katarina Brito, Dual Language Developer, DC Public Schools
Multilingual Education Teacher Hero Award: Melinda Wilson Fuller, Special Education Teacher, Houston Elementary DCPS
Multilingual Education Mover and Shaker Award: Marjoury Alicea, SBOE Student Representative
Multilingual Education Network Builder Award: Berenice Pernalete, Instruction Guide, Mundo Verde PCS

Multilingual Education Believer: Kavitha Cardoza, Correspondent Education Week/PBS News Hour