Carson students learn history of 'el mundo'

Students at Carson High School are overcoming language and social barriers to learn the history of their mundo.

Adam Williams is teaching a pilot bilingual world history course in both English and Spanish.

As part of a class project to create a historical time line Wednesday, Williams gave instructions in Spanish for students to transcribe the directions, written in English, from the board.

"Escriban todo lo que vean aqui," he told them.

Megan Quigley, 16, said she doesn't always understand perfectly, but manages to get the general meaning.

"You can pick out most of the words," she explained. "I didn't have room for a Spanish class in my schedule, and I didn't want to stop taking Spanish. This class is the best of both worlds."

As a social studies major, Williams emphasizes a high standard of history knowledge in his class. In fact, nine of his students placed first or second at the state world history competition and will compete at the national level May 13-17 in Maryland.

Students are required to identify the countries of each continent. If they don't pass with at least a 95 percent, their score is recorded as a "0" until they can pass it with 100 percent.

"It ensures excellence," Williams explained. "By the time they leave this class, they should know at least 80 percent of all the countries in the world."

In addition to the emphasis on learning world history, Williams said the class also fulfills a higher purpose.

"The main objective is to expose both cultures to the other and improve tolerance," he said. "Generally, after this year, all of these guys are going to be more comfortable in any setting in the community."

"Es divertido estar en un clase con norteamericanos (It's fun to be in a class with North Americans)," said Mario Gallegos, 17, who has been in the United States a little more than one year. "Nostros queremos aprender ingles, y ellos, tambien, quieren aprender espanol (We want to learn to speak English and, at the same time, they want to learn Spanish)."

And the class dynamic has changed as the year has progressed.

"In the beginning, we kind of stuck to our own groups," said Mary Lesiuk, 16. "The Caucasian kids stayed together, and the Hispanics stayed in a group. But about a quarter of the way into the year, we started getting to know each other. It just took us a while to get comfortable."

She and Ana Morgan, a 15-year old who moved to Carson City eight months ago from Sinaloa, Mexico, have even had slumber parties together.

"My English teacher says I will learn English better if I have English-speaking friends," Morgan explained. "I don't have that many. But I have Mary."

The students learn empathy for one another.

"It made me understand the Hispanic culture better," said Harris Heller, 15. "It made me realize how hard it can be for them."

And they are inspired by one another.

"Cuando ellos ponen su parte de aprender espanol, nosotros tratamos igual de aprender ingles (When they do their part to learn Spanish, we try equally hard to learn English)," said Araceli Ramirez, 16.

As a pilot program, Williams said the class has had some flaws this year, such as the fact that about one-third of the students are native English speakers.

Next year, he plans to make it an even split and work out other kinks.

"These are the student leaders," he said. "They will break down stereotypes in the community."

Contact Teri Vance at or at 881-1272.


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