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Seattle Preschool Program Educators Celebrate Dual-Language Classroom Accreditation

Early learning teachers representing the Seattle Preschool Program Dual-Language Initiative pose for a photo with DEEL staff and Mak Fai lion dancers.

Lion dancers pranced over the clash and bang of cymbals and drums in an end-of-year celebration of Seattle Preschool Program’s (SPP) Dual-Language Initiative. The event showcased student progress toward bilingualism and recognized six teachers for completing the Soy Bilingüe Early Childhood Education Classroom Accreditation. Twenty-two SPP classrooms provide families access to affordable, high-quality preschool in American Sign Language, Amharic, Cantonese, French, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Somali, serving 471 students in the 2022-23 school year. The event was hosted by the Center for Linguistic and Cultural Democracy (CLCD) in partnership with DEEL and Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA), at ReWA’s Rainer Valley Early Learning Center.

Dual-language classrooms reflect the diversity of students they serve in each aspect of the learning environment and curriculum. While instruction alternates between English and the dual language, students’ home languages are also incorporated to ensure every child is represented in their learning. Through song, dance, and games, children strengthen their multilingual vocabulary while being encouraged to embrace their unique identities, skin colors, languages, and cultural backgrounds. Children are surrounded by photos of their families and supported in their emerging abilities to think critically, understand fairness and bias, and relate to peers.

Studies have shown high-quality dual-language preschool positively impacts children’s educational trajectory by building their cultural understanding, language proficiency, and cognitive skills. Early bilingualism is also tied to better language skills in English as a second language, improved academic outcomes, and higher lifetime earnings. Multilingual education is especially important in preserving immigrant childrens’ home languages and culture, serving as a bridge between generations, and navigating life in American schools.

Caption: From L-to-R: The celebration included activities reflective of the cultural diversity of families served by Seattle Preschool Program, including: Mak Fai lion dancers; East African coffee socialization hosted by ReWA Teacher, Ms. Mulu Nigusse; Traditional Native American Storytelling by Roger Fernandes.
Teachers created poster boards for the celebration showcasing their students’ work.

“Most families we serve are newly arrived Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants, and our services support entire families,” said Mabel Kwong, Site Director of Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) Bilingual Preschool. “The best thing our teachers can do for our school is to speak our students’ and families’ languages, so they can express their feelings and needs.”

Program History and Accreditation Process

The SPP Dual-Language Initiative formed in 2019 through a collaborative partnership of a small group of SPP partners, and expanded in 2020 to include CLCD, who led the charge on multilingual preschool education in Seattle since the peaceful occupation of El Centro De La Raza in 1972. DEEL will invest approximately $1.2 million Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy funds in classroom expenses, professional development, teacher incentives, and coaching through 2026 to expand access to high-quality, dual-language programming. To date, six of 22 SPP dual-language classrooms have achieved accreditation through the Soy Bilingüe program. DEEL’s goal is to support all 22 classrooms to become accredited by 2027.

Through the accreditation process, SPP teachers gain a teaching framework designed to cultivate skills in two languages, regardless whether students are learning English or another second language. Educators are equipped with new knowledge on how to plan, organize, and implement bilingual instruction responsive to the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of the children and families they serve. They also learn how to engage families in their child’s learning, and incorporate words and phrases used at home into class curriculum.

Caption: Dr. Daniel Perez, Program Manager of DEEL’s Quality Practice and Professional Development (QPPD) Unit, distributes certificates of accreditation alongside Isolina Campbell-Cronin, Education Director of CLDC.

Upon accreditation, SPP educators receive a ten percent salary increase equivalent to $4,600 per year to support teacher retention. Providers also receive up to $8,500 annually to enrich classroom environments and fund ongoing professional development. Twenty-four SPP teachers are currently working toward their certificates for the 2024-25 school year.  DEEL’s goal is to support all SPP dual-language classrooms to become accredited by 2027.

Soy Bilingue Accredited SPP Educators by Year. Data represents the cumulative total of educators achieving and retaining accreditation over time.

“Soy Bilingüe represents the diverse community and culture of Seattle. It’s not only a link between kids and education, but also to their family, community, city, and nation,” said I-Mei Tai, Site Director of ReWA Lake City Early Learning Center. “Families tell us they appreciate the program because they were initially shy and embarrassed for not speaking English well. There are many barriers for families when everything is in English.”

Providers and Languages Offered

The following list includes participating SPP dual-language provider sites in the upcoming 2023-24 school year, where in-language instruction is delivered alongside English:

SPP Provider: Number of Dual-Language Classrooms: Languages:
Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)1Mandarin
Hearing, Speech, & Deaf Center (HSDC)1American Sign Language (ASL)
Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA)10 Amharic, Cantonese, French, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Spanish
Refugee and Immigrant Family Childcare (RIFC)2Spanish
SouthWest Early Learning (SWEL)3Spanish
Seattle Public Schools1Spanish
West African Community Council (WACC)2French
Voices of Tomorrow (VOT)2Somali

“We are known in West Seattle for our high-quality dual-language practices, and for catering to each child and their family. Families often tell us that helping them reclaim their language is super powerful,” said Karina Rojas Rodriguez, Center Director for SouthWest Early Learning Bilingual Preschool. Three SWEL teachers earned their accreditation at the event. “I’m proud of the hard work of many of our SPP teachers, and to be able to offer them more incentives and continuous training through the City of Seattle to continue this work.”

From L-to-R: Daniel Perez, Program Manager, DEEL QPPD; Susan Lee, Early Learning Center Director of Operations, ReWA; Karina Rojas Rodriguez, Center Director, SouthWest Early Learning Bilingual Preschool; Dr. Luz Casio, Director of Refugee and Immigrant Family Center Bilingual Preschool; Isolina Campbell-Cronin, Education Director, Center for Linguistic and Cultural Democracy; Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Director of DEEL.
From L-to-R: Dr. Daniel Perez, Program Manager, DEEL QPPD; Susan Lee, Early Learning Center Director of Operations, ReWA; Karina Rojas Rodriguez, Center Director, SWEL Bilingual Preschool; Dr. Luz Casio, Director of RIFC Bilingual Preschool; Isolina Campbell-Cronin, Education Director, CLCD; Dr. Dwane Chappelle, Director of DEEL.

Applications Now Open for the Seattle Preschool Program 2023-24 School Year

SPP provides affordable preschool to Seattle families with the goal that all Seattle children are ready for kindergarten. Most Seattle families qualify for free, or highly subsidized, tuition. SPP is open to 3- and 4-year-olds living in Seattle. Parents can learn more about the SPP program and apply for the 2023-24 school year at