Photo: Tracy Maness / Staff Photo
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As someone opens a door into one of more than a dozen classrooms at Crossing Borders International Preschool, young smiles greet them with in different ways: Hello, hola, bon jour, nǐ hǎo.
The immersion language school that meets on the campus of Christ the King Lutheran Church teaches English, Spanish, French and Mandarin to children 18 months to kindergarten. But new things are in the works. Crossing Borders just opened its own new 5,000-square-foot additional building earlier this fall and plans to start an Arabic program next fall.
Founder and CEO Elvia Taylor said she started the school for adults 19 years ago in The Woodlands and Katy. Now, she is the franchiser of those schools and instead focuses on the preschool, which she began in 2006. Coming here from Mexico, she said it was easy for her and her family to lose their native language. So she wanted to help families avoid that.
“I’d notice that a lot of the kids here in Houston were having a hard time being bilingual, including families that are second-generation families or anything,” said Taylor. “And their kids are not speaking. In my case, I was married to a white guy, who my son was not speaking Spanish, and my sisters, the same.”
Some of the children come to learn English, but many are at the school because their parents want to preserve the language and culture of their native lands, said Gidelys Rodriguez, customer service and enrollment and social media specialist at the school. She came here from Puerto Rico and had an easier time of learning English because her parents provided cable TV with lots of English shows to watch and only English books and reading materials.
“I always make a comparison of when you go to college and you try to learn a second language, but you only have it for one hour every two days,” Rodriguez said. “So if you’re not in an immersion program, it’s going to be an uphill battle for sure.”
That is why Taylor said she wanted to have an Arabic program to help families maintain their culture, even as they might mostly speak English in the rest of the world.
“We have so many families that are from those countries. They want their kids to learn,” Taylor said.
Academic Adviser Carmen Campos has more than 25 years of experience in the field and knows each of roughly 250 children in the school. She said the immersion method is very effective. After growing out of the preschool, many students go on to immersion schools like The AWTY International School, Mark Twain Elementary School Dual Language Program and Mandarin Immersion Magnet School, where Campos said Crossing Border students are often referred to as more advanced than some other students coming in.
“In the language that the parents choose, like Spanish, students imitate the sounds and everything, and they learn. So the body language helps the teacher,” said Campos. “But the most important part is that the teacher speaks only the language that the parent chooses.”
The school has been at the church for 10 years. Although it still uses its original building at the church, Rodriguez said she is thrilled to have some of the school’s very own additional space that it can decorate and manage freely. It gives the school 17 classrooms in total.
“It’s an amazing experience, and it’s giving us space to grow and to teach more kids a second or third language, so that’s always incredible. And we are able to welcome in more families into the school, which is important.”
The school does offer camps and after-school programs to help students with retention.
Rodriguez said what makes the school great is that not only do they learn and retain well, they absolutely enjoy it.
“You can see it in the way that they come in every day. They get excited. They’re always happy. They’re always willing to learn, which is important.”
Crossing Borders International Preschool’s 17 classrooms are not filled, so there is room for more students. The school is located at 2353 Rice Blvd. To learn more, visit https://www.crossingborderspreschool.com/.