By Gabriella Dominic     1/21/2020

Our Lady of Guadalupe School in La Habra announces the launch of the first Catholic dual immersion program in Orange County, beginning fall 2020. The program serves students of all backgrounds and levels of academic ability. It is a response to the growing needs of diverse, multilingual, multicultural families in La Habra.


Students will learn academic subjects in both English and Spanish. Lessons are neither translated nor repeated. The dual language immersion (DLI) program will begin in the fall of 2020-2021 with grades TK and, increasing annually to Grade 8. Thus the first graduating class will be the Class of 2029. The school will adopt a 50/50 model where students use English for half of the day and Spanish for the other half. Students will learn, pray, and play engaging in both languages.  


“The beauty of our Catholic dual immersion program is that students will be in an environment where they are steeped in Gospel values. We want to better equip them to go forth and transform the world.  Our mission in this program is to empower students through faith so they can build meaningful connection and engage in a culturally diverse world,” shared Dr. Denise Valadez, associate superintendent of Curriculum, Spirituality and Accreditation.


Our Lady of Guadalupe School is a guest member of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Dual Language Immersion (ADLA DLI) Network. They, along with the Center for Catholic Education at Loyola Marymount University have provided a valuable support system on the journey. The school will engage in further professional development to support best practices in the DLI classroom.  TK and K teachers are already registered to attend the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) conference and they have already begun exploring GLAD strategies (Guided Language Acquisition by Design) and will engage in further professional development through our collaboration with ADLA DLI.  Next year, the school hopes to attend La Cosecha Dual Language Conference. 


“Our hope is more than bilingualism and biliteracy… it is encouraging out students to build meaningful connections and engage in a culturally diverse world. Dual Language Immersion within the Catholic school environment is so much more than supporting bilingualism and biliteracy.  It is about celebrating our universal Church and encouraging our students to build meaningful connections in a culturally diverse world,” said Principal Stella Costello.


Dr. James Cummins, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, makes two distinctions in children’s language acquisition: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). BISC consist of conversational language skills, such as the language used in the playground or face-to-face interactions. CALP demonstrates language mastery for academic purposes, and this requires commitment. For example, a learner uses Spanish language in the classroom, evaluating, comparing, contrasting, classifying, synthesizing academic subject materials.


Every child learns differently. The amount of time it takes to be fluent depends on one’s learning patterns, behavior, and environment. Learners go beyond learning a second language. They have the opportunity to cultivate thinking in the partner language due to the higher level of exposure to the partner language.


If a student comes from an English-dominant household and the family does not speak Spanish, parents can still speak and read to their children in English. Research from the National Literacy Panel and the Center for Research, Education, Diversity and Excellence suggests that students learn their second language best when they have strong literacy skills in their native language.


Teachers will send weekly, or bi-weekly newsletters regarding overarching topics students will be learning in class. This includes items that will help parents engage your children in conversations and ask questions. Teachers and parents can monitor student progress in their grade-level academic achievement through Renaissance STAR assessments in early literacy, reading, and math in both languages. STAR assessments are 15-20 minutes computer-adaptive tests that continually adjust the difficulty of each learner’s test by choosing questions based on the child’s previous response. The reports help inform instruction, match students to resources, and promote growth. Parents and teachers can also compare a learner’s progress across time and grades.  


“I’ve been interested in DLI for almost two decades now because of friends who put all of their children through DLI schools in Santa Ana. Through them, I’ve been able to see first-hand the profound benefits of DLI for the neurological and educational development of children. So I’m very excited that we’re finally bringing DLI as a Catholic education option to Orange County,” said Fr. Ed Becker, pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.

Our Lady of Guadalupe School first opened its doors in 1956 with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange teaching catechism to the children of the parish. The school continues to have a strong relationship with the Congregation of St. Joseph through active membership in the CSJ Educational Network. The school serves grades TK-8 and is accredited by WCEA and WASC. Financial aid available. For more information, please go to