Denver Public Schools launches radio program to teach English to Spanish speakers

Denver Public Schools is launching a radio series aimed at teaching English to Spanish-speaking parents and families. Called Maestro en Casa (Teacher at Home), the series will debut on September 15 on MARIA 1090 AM.

At a press conference at Kepner Middle School this morning, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the district's 30,000 Spanish-speaking students add to its diversity -- "and we celebrate that diversity." But he said he hopes learning English will help their parents communicate better with teachers.

Making sure parents understand and speak English will ensure that "they can go ahead and become part of the American dream," said Frank Gonzalez, the principal at Kepner, where nearly 40 percent of students are English language learners.

"I have yet to meet an immigrant family who do not want to learn English," said city councilman Paul Lopez, whose district includes Kepner. "I have yet to meet an immigrant family who do not want their kids to be educated."

"That's why this is such a great resource," he added of Maestro en Casa. "Because all you gotta do is click on your radio."

The program was developed by a Texas-based organization called Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together, or MATT. It consists of six courses: Introduction, In the Workplace, Finance, Health Care, Education and Citizenship. Participants need to tune into the radio three times a week: Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9:30 and 10 a.m. Each lesson takes four weeks to complete, and Maestro en Casa will run for thirty-five weeks.

To sign up, participants need to fill out a simple form and receive a set of workbooks that compliment the radio lessons. For more information on how to sign up, folks can visit the website of the DPS Multicultural Outreach Office.

The office already has a radio show on MARIA hosted by director Alex Sanchez. Called Educa, it's broadcast for one hour three times a week and focuses on education and DPS policy. Since statistics show that that the average Spanish speaker listens to the radio or watches television for nine hours a day, Sanchez says it's an excellent outreach tool.

He hopes Maestro en Casa, which DPS is paying to broadcast, will be just as effective. In the first hour and a half of today's event on the side lawn of Kepner, 202 people signed up. DPS parent liaisons had put out the word to families, and the event was well-attended.

"We will be able to assist hundreds, if not thousands, of Spanish-speaking people acquire the most important skill: to communicate in English," said MATT Executive Director Aracely Garcia-Granados. DPS's goal is to register 5,000 participants.