This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.

There’s no Spanish in Caldwell County’s elementary school curriculum, but in classrooms at West Lenoir Elementary this week, vowels softened and consonants rolled.

Leslie Barger, a Spanish teacher at West Caldwell High School, and West Caldwell principal Jeff Link teamed up with West Lenoir principal Kristy Hollar to bring high school students to West Lenoir to teach a week of Spanish classes.

Students in Spanish I, II, III and IV at West Caldwell have been taking teachers’ spots for about an hour at West Lenoir each day since this week. The high schoolers used dances, BINGO games, YouTube videos and songs to teach hola and adiós and me llamo and all the other basic Spanish they could fit in an hour.For the older students, who spent their own class time practicing songs and mapping out art activities, it was an exercise in leadership and creativity, Barger said. (They learned, too, how to improvise – after a technology issue, Barger said one student told her, “We just had to explain it.”)

And for the elementary students, the classes were a chance to immerse themselves in Hispanic culture and to scratch the surface on learning a new language, Barger said – a skill that could be valuable for them, even lucrative, in an economy that places a premium on bilingual employees.

It also gave the kids a sense of the work that lies ahead if they’re going to, later on in the middle and upper grades, gain that knowledge.

“It gives them an insight into other cultures and an appreciation for language – for how difficult it is to learn another language, and what time it takes,” Barger said.

After this week’s lessons, West Lenoir’s students know how to say “hello” and “goodbye” and “how are you?” and the names of los colores – and that’s a start.