AMIS: fostering culture through immersion studies

Cincinnati Public Schools is recognized as Ohio’s highest-rated urban school district. With 56 schools, including magnet programs and new initiatives like its gifted and digital academies, CPS offers a variety of options to approximately 34,000 students. One of its least known magnet schools, a French and Spanish immersion program, provides a solid foundation in foreign languages while fostering cultural acceptance for young children and their families.
 
AMIS (pronounced ah-mee), the Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies, is one of only three schools of its kind in the state of Ohio and the only immersion program within Cincinnati Public Schools. At AMIS, French, Spanish and English speakers in grades K-8 receive instruction in core subjects delivered in the language they are studying. According to the school’s website, kindergarten students spend 80-90 percent of their days working in Spanish or French. A partial immersion program is offered for students in grades 2-8, while the school’s dual immersion program brings together students who speak both Spanish and English. English as a second language (ESL) is also a part of the AMIS program.
 
As a magnet school, AMIS follows state education standards, but teaches subjects like math and science in French, Spanish or English as a second language. All kindergarten students living within the CPS school district are admitted, space permitting. After kindergarten, enrollment becomes more targeted. Because classes are taught in foreign languages, students must have backgrounds in French or Spanish in order to be successful at AMIS and continue beyond kindergarten. “Support at home is a must,” says Sherwin Ealy, principal.
 
Studies reveal several benefits of language immersion studies, including long-term career benefits when fluency is reached, cultural identification and a positive impact on the intellectual growth. “Not only are children able to maintain a connection with their own cultural heritage, they also become part of a global community,” says Ealy. “Most teachers at AMIS are native speakers.”
 
Maria Lang, a native of Argentina, has been teaching for more than 30 years. Having taught for the past 10 at AMIS, she observes that immersion studies make an important impact in Cincinnati by serving immigrants seeking educational opportunities for their children. “[Immersion studies] help ease them into the community,” she says. Currently, students from countries like Senegal, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Mauritania fill the classrooms at AMIS. Principal Ealy says, “The exposure to culture at AMIS is the most important contribution our school makes to children in this community.”
 
AMIS is an International Spanish Academy (ISA), which means that it is part of a program of cooperation with The Ministry of Education and Science of the Kingdom of Spain. It is one of only two ISA’s in the state of Ohio.
 
“AMIS prepares students for a global society,” says Lang. Principal Ealy adds, “At AMIS, teachers not only present the standard school curriculum, they foster a more informed world view.”
 
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