Parents in Redmond now have one more option when considering preschools for their children.
The North Bend-based Spanish Academy has opened a new location in the Washington Cathedral located at 12300 Woodinville-Redmond Rd. N.E. in Redmond. Founder Kimberly Houde said one of the main reasons for the expansion was because many families said they would like to see a location in the Redmond and Woodinville area — unique to this location is a gym and indoor swimming pool.
“We started off with this little preschool with a few kids and it’s really grown over the years,” she said.
The Spanish Academy, a Spanish-immersion preschool, began 10 years ago when Houde and her family returned to the United States after living in Argentina. Her daughter was two years old at the time and accustomed to speaking and listening to Spanish and Houde wanted that to continue.
She started looking into a school that would cater to her needs, but couldn’t find anything.
“Ten years ago, (Spanish-immersion schools were) pretty much nonexistent,” she said.
So Houde, who speaks Spanish with an Argentine accent, decided to start her own school and the Spanish Academy was born.
At the school, which is open to children ages 2-5, the curriculum is taught in Spanish almost 100 percent of the time. Houde said the only time teachers speak English is if a student is misunderstanding an important academic concept, addressing behavioral issues or in the case of an emergency.
Houde said they use a lot of pictures, charts and other visual and tactile tools during lessons, which include letters, numbers, colors, opposites, art and nature.
“It’s a very structured program,” she said.
Class sizes are no more than eight students per teacher with students of all ages from 2 to pre-kindergarten.
Houde said some parents also decide to keep their children in the program an extra year if they are on the young side in their grade.
When the Spanish Academy opened, there was only one location open in North Bend and about two percent of students came from families with at least one Spanish speaker. Now two more locations have opened — in Bellevue and Redmond — and about one in every 10 students has at least one Spanish speaker in their family.
“That’s new,” Houde said. “That didn’t happen 10 years ago.”
She said part of the increase in Spanish-speaking families may be due to an influx of Spanish-speaking families to the area.
With non-Spanish-speaking families, Houde said parents understand the benefits of learning a second language — especially at an early age — in a society that is becoming more diverse with more intercultural interactions. She said with 21 Spanish-speaking countries in the world, being able to speak the language will only help the students later on in life.
“With a Spanish education and knowing how to speak that language … it’s going to give them a feather in their cap when they enter the workforce,” Houde said.
Kristina Myers agreed.
The Redmond resident regrets not learning Spanish when she was younger and said she wanted to give her 3-year-old twin daughters the opportunity to learn while they are young. This is her second year with the Spanish Academy — her daughters were previously enrolled in the school’s Woodinville campus, which relocated to Redmond.
Although they have only been enrolled for one whole school year, Myers said she has already witnessed results.
“(My daughters) started talking and counting to me in Spanish,” she said. “I was pretty happy with that.”
With any school, summer means vacation and during that time, Myers said they got CDs with songs from the class, which helped her girls keep up with their pronunciation.
Houde said it is up to parents to keep up with their children’s Spanish during the summer and once they leave the Spanish Academy.
“That door has to be kept open,” she said. “If you don’t keep it up, it’s easy to lose.”
Houde said they encourage parents and families to connect with Spanish speakers and provide educational websites to help students keep up with the language.
Kirkland resident Lynn Livingston’s daughters — at ages 3 and a half and 4 and a half — are in their first year with the Spanish Academy. And like Myers, she wanted her children to be global citizens and said learning a second language is the way to go.
“I wanted them to have the advantages that I didn’t have,” she said. “If you can learn a language before the age of 5…(it) makes it easier to learn a language.”
The Spanish Academy’s Redmond campus meets on Mondays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Houde said they hope to add Tuesday and Thursday classes in January as well. For more information, visit http://spanishacademy.org