Elsa Muntzing


Interviewer: Spell it and give me your title.

Elsa Muntzing: K. I’m Dr. Elsa Muntzing. I teach 5th and 6th grade Spanish immersion at Cherry Hill Elementary.

Interviewer: OK, Mrs. Muntzing. I’m going—I’m going to be asking you questions and if you can kind of—in the video I’m never going to appear and neither—my questions won’t appear either. So if you’ll kind of restate the question as you answer it, it will help.

Elsa Muntzing: OK.

Interviewer: Well, can you tell me a little bit about your classroom program?

Elsa Muntzing: K, what can I tell you on my classroom program. It is a 5th and 6th grade Spanish immersion; we have a variety of students. The majority of the students are white and they are placed in the program by their parent interest of learning a foreign language. This children mostly have been from 1st grade up and because I’m the 5th and the 6th grade Spanish immersion teacher, when the children arrive to my classroom are very fluent in reading and writing in Spanish, the same like uh speaking and understanding.

Interviewer: And do you have children that are native speakers as well as the English speaking kids?

Elsa Muntzing: Uh, yes. This year we have changed a little bit and we have as a matter of fact, I have been the one that always fought to have the children that for the first time try—come from Spanish speaking country to put them in a Spanish immersion program to be able to evilode them. To see how they place themselves compared to the curriculum for the American schools in their own native language and see what are their weaknesses and strengths. And from there, you know, guideline the different program for them to be able to help them to meet all the standards that American schools has.

Interviewer: Tell me about Hime a little bit.

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Oh, he’s my sweetheart. He’s very, very loving. He’ll—Hime Olpesa is a child that came about two weeks after school started into my classroom. Um, he was put in my classroom because that uh—he was in an American—in an English class and he could not perform absolutely anything in that class. His teacher asked me if I will “please help him to give him some test to find out in which level he stays—he—he was.” And so I just said, “OK, I’ll help.” “Uh, just talk to him orally first.” Um, even in my—in his language he was very low.

Interviewer: In Spanish.

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) In Spanish. And so I went back to him and I said I will be glad to pass you some information for my 5th grade Spanish immersion for Hime, that is in your 5th English class. So we tried for another week and still was nothing accomplished. So that’s when we did the move and I was willing to take him into my classroom.

Interviewer: So he’s been in your class for most of this year?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Yes. Yeah. The first three weeks he was in English and then he has come most of the first semester and he’s still in my classroom.

Interviewer: And what is your program like for him?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Too hard.

Interviewer: Yeah but is he—is he—do you teach him half a day in Spanish and half a day in English.

Elsa Muntzing: Um, no. Uh, what we do is that uh we cover all the subjects in Spanish. We go social studies, science, math, reading, writing, and at the same times I am giving all the concepts in Spanish and we work in Spanish all the problems. I clarify, because the other children are English and their tests—standard tests will be done in English, I tell them the vocabulary that they will be facing when they have that concept in the English test. So I do an oral review of the same concept we have in reading and writing in Spanish, in English.

Interviewer: So, part of the day you teach in Spanish and part of the day in English?

Elsa Muntzing: No, I teach all day in Spanish.

Interviewer: And so he is—he is in your class for part of the day and then another teacher’s class for part of the day.

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) No. Uh, he comes to my classroom at 9:30 in the morning, his scheduled time, then he stays in my classroom until uh 9:15 he goes to recess, 9:30 he goes to a specialty and uh he’s going to art. Then at 10:10 I pick them up…

Interviewer: Is his specialty taught in English?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) In English. It’s an art class and it’s in English. And then he will come into my classroom and I—I had a grandmother that has been coming for one hour. From 10:10 until about 11:00 she has been helping uh Hime to read in Spanish and to memorize times tables. And then at 11:00 Hime will go to English as a second language for about another 50 minutes to learn the basic vocabulary and communication skills in English.

Interviewer: At what level of reading would you say he’s on right now?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) I would say between 1st and 2nd grade.

Interviewer: He’s currently in the 6th grade, right?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) 5th grade class.

Interviewer: K. So he—he’s reading at a 1st grade level in Spanish.

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) In Spanish, um his math skills is maybe 2nd grade, um writing skills the same, 2nd grade. Uh, what I have found out is that Hime has been enrolled in school but has not going to school steadily. Uh, he has been sometimes taken out of the school to help and work and farm with the parents. And apparently school was not that important at that time for them. So he’s—he tries. He’s a very good boy.

Interviewer: How long has he been here in the United States?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Since uh August—the end of August.

Interviewer: So he just came directly from Mexico?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Yes.

Interviewer: Can you repeat that?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Oh, yeah. Hime has been in the United States since the—the end of August and that’s all the—the English or the schooling that he had got here.

Interviewer: Are there things that he does well in class?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Uh, he’s very positive. Uh, he’s very helpful. He’s willing to work. Uh, he gets very frustrated because even though he wants to work, he wants to please me, he wants to get his work done, uh he doesn’t understand the directions. It is sometimes—they’re too high above his level, even though I have decreased 1/3 of the class work for him. So if he has 15 math problems to do, sometimes three, if he finishes three with help of an advanced student, my own help, or someone else’s help, that will be a great success. Um, Hime wants to learn. He’s overwhelmed with the language, with the curriculum, with the amount of work, with the—the speed of the system.

Interviewer: The language is Spanish right?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Yes.

Interviewer: So even—he’s overwhelmed even in Spanish?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Yes. Uh, for example, in the grammar part when we cover grammar part, present tense or regular verbs, he can speak the language but he cannot identify part of the speech. And so when we have reviewed already nouns, verbs, pronouns, singular pronouns, plural pronouns, he can speak the language but he doesn’t have an idea of what kind of words that he’s using in his own language.

Interviewer: All right. What would you say (clears throat) are the most challenging things for him?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) The social um acceptance, the feeling that he can’t be part of this society. Um, that he—doesn’t matter if he speaks a lot of the language that he can survive here. Um, he’s sometimes—he has two other friends that they are Spanish and they—they don’t come to school for any reason, he’s lost. He’s all by himself. Uh, he’s shy in a way even though with his own people he’s a very out going, very nice boy.

Interviewer: What kind of friendships has he formed here?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Only the ones in the classroom. With those—the—the only friends that Hime has in the school would be the ones from his classmates, those who can communicate with him in Spanish, those who can give him the directions of different kinds of games that they’re playing outside are in Spanish. If not, he’s all by himself.

Interviewer: Tell me about his self-confidence.

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Um, when he’s in the classroom, uh he—he feels good uh even though he doesn’t work at the same speed or as much as the other kids, he feels accepted. He feels good. He knows that he—he’s cared for. That he—he knows he’s loved by the other kids. He’s a great soccer player and so he—he uses that on recess and the kids love him and want him to play for their team and that really helps them, you know, to boost his self-esteem. And in the classroom, he’s a good friend. He’s a very good friend; he’s always smiling and happy. And kids like him for that too.

Interviewer: What about his self-confidence. Oh, I mentioned that. Just a second. What about his motivation?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Motivation. He likes to come to school. He likes to come to school. Um, he doesn’t want to come to school when I am not here uh because the other substitute teacher doesn’t know the contract that I have done with him, the special treatment that he gets because of his condition. And so he is labeled like he doesn’t want to work and he’s lazy. I was gone for two weeks and uh—and I was the—the note that the substitute told me, you know, “Hime doesn’t want to work in the class. He um doesn’t pay any attention or pay an interest on the work assigned.” But it’s because uh probably he doesn’t understand it. He needs a lot of reinforcement, a lot of repetition, a lot of guidance. Sometimes I go by him and I say, “This is the question I want him to answer.” And because he cannot read it and so I have to read it to him. And when I read it to him, he will answer to me in Spanish and I will tell him, “Yes, that is the correct,” just put a checkmark, so he doesn’t have to copy and he doesn’t have to answer it. But if the substitute teacher doesn’t know his, you know, weaknesses, then he’s a lazy one.

Interviewer: What kind of improvement have you seen?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Um, now he can write. About 10 percent of the assignments are turned in. Um, he calls for attentions. He calls—he asks questions. He—he calls for help. Uh, before he would just sit over there and stare at the book or play with his pencils. You know, and not that he wanted it maybe to do that, but he didn’t feel secure enough to ask questions, or maybe he doesn’t want to make a fool out of himself.

Interviewer: Have you seen improvement in his skill as well?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) Yes. He can now um recite all the times tables up to number five. He couldn’t before at all. Uh, he can’t, you know, recital some of the tenses of the verbs in his own language. He’s still struggling with the translation. For example, “To run.” (Speaks Spanish) He knows what (speaks Spanish) is and he can uh conjugate and oppress it for all, but he cannot remember the translation into English and how to use it in English. He knows how to use it in Spanish. He knows now that uh—he will go--the noun or the—the uh pronoun and then the action or the verb. He knows and that will make, you know, a sentence. And so he—he can do that now. He couldn’t that before. So he—he’s progressing.

Interviewer: What kind of progress have you seen in his reading?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) He likes to read picture books and he likes to read the same book two or three times and um it hasn’t affect me at all, the things that now he likes to read is a great improvement. And even though he likes to reads the ones that someone will help to identify words and he can repeat it and now he doesn’t need any help and he can go through those lines without help. That’s a great improvement.

Interviewer: Talk about his story at home.

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) At home. The parents both work. They’re not educated. They don’t have not even elementary school finished. They are very hard workers. They work in farms, the mother cleans houses and uh he’s loved. He’s cared for. The parents send him clean to the school. Uh, one time it was very cold, it started snowing in the middle of the school day and the mother walked from home and brought him a coat. Another time he um forgot an assignment and uh he called home and the father brought it and he was not scold or anything like that. It’s—you know, it was a nice pat on the back. And so I—I think that in his home uh they have a good relationship. It’s harsh—it’s very hard.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you’d like to say about him or about what you would like to see happen with him?

Elsa Muntzing: (referring to Hime Olpesa) One of the things that I would like to take place with all Hime’s, the children that come from other countries to the states is that uh the school system will not place those children in English according to their grade level. But if the—the school has the program like ours, Spanish immersion, that those children should be put first in the Spanish immersion, should be tested to find out the grade level that they really are and from there on have a Spanish-speaking teacher and tutors to help them to improve their—their knowledge and their skills up to the American level and then place them. If not we are just setting them for failure and they will never be able to understand, they will never be able to uh complete assignments, they will never be able to perform. And their self-esteem, it will go down. The other thing is when a child feels accepted and feels some kind of success during the six hours that the child is in school; it’s more likely they will learn the foreign language easily. That he will accept the society easier. That he will be willing to follow all the rules that this society has for them. Instead, not rebelling, not just quit in school, just that uh building up some anger and frustration inside. Um, there’s a lot of Hime’s, not only in this school but in many other schools and if they don’t receive the right help at the right time they will be a problem for this society and it’s not because the child wants it to be like that. He probably was not guided from the very start or helped to feel good about this society. He’s just trapped out. Parents are here and he have to be here and he will defense and cope the best that he can with or without the knowledge, with or without the help of a teacher, with or without the help of this society. That’s about it.

Interviewer: OK. Well, thank you very much.

Elsa Muntzing: You’re very welcome.