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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Just eight months into their first year of Spanish language classes, Stearley Elementary School kindergartners and first-graders understand the language to a degree that surprises instructor Melinda Castillo.

She said the program is far better than Spanish immersion, in which all subjects are taught in the language.

“You often had to balance what was important, the Spanish language or the lessons that had to be taught,” said Castillo, who once taught the immersion method.

She said she had to sacrifice teaching the language to ensure students learned the requirements of other subjects.

Now, at Stearley, Castillo speaks Spanish almost entirely during her language-only class.

“It’s like opening their little brains and pouring the knowledge in,” she said of her young students.

Her students enjoy the experience as well.

“I like that we learn Spanish so we can speak the language if we go somewhere that a lot of people speak Spanish, we will be able to understand them,” explained Tenysia Rivera, 6.

“And, we may be able to teach them English,” adds Avery Sullivan, 6.

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