Heritage Language Programs - Spanish

Heritage Speaker of Spanish/Gateway Charter High School/San Francisco Unified School District

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Address: 1430 Scott Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

Languages/Dialects taught: Standard Spanish

Grades: 9-12

Contact: Mary J. Maya, Spanish Teacher

Email: mmaya@gatewayhigh.org

Telephone: 415-749-3600

Web address: www.gatewayhigh.org

Purposes and goals of the program

Students who speak Spanish will improve their formal knowledge of the Spanish language:

Type of program - Foreign language program

Mary Maya began to teach the course in 1996 in East Oakland. In 2000, Ms. Maya came to Gateway Charter High School in San Francisco. A program had been implemented, but it was not U.C. accredited. She implemented the curriculum that she had developed in East Oakland, and it was accredited and has become very successful. Mary Maya began to teach the course because of her own experiences as a heritage Spanish speaker in California.

The program is funded as part of the school district and state.

Parents' expectations for the program

Many parents have heard of the program and some have not. The parents who have had students go through the program and now have other children or family members in the program are enthusiastic and participate in parent/teacher night to explain the importance of the course and their personal reflections on their children’s' positive attitudes towards the Spanish language, and cultural identity and literature in Spanish. Parents who have not read the course description and are not familiar with the materials taught in the class seem to have negative attitudes about their children's advancement in the Spanish language.

Staff's expectations for the program


Countries of origin : Chile, Peru, Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Honduras and others.

Total student enrollment:

The program identifies who is a heritage speaker as soon as they apply. When students apply to the school, they check off if they speak any other languages in addition to English. They are then given a placement test after being accepted. The Spanish 1 teachers then observe to see if any student has been placed in incorrectly.

The course is for students of Hispanic or non-Hispanic background that speak Spanish. All levels of Spanish are welcomed in the course.

Home language survey: At the beginning of the academic year, the students are given a placement test that is similar to the AP Spanish Language exam.

It focuses on reading and writing skills, lexical variations, and orthography. All exams are looked over carefully, and the exams are used as a guide as well as a beginning point for each individual student's learning process and mastery of the course content. Because of the different levels of Spanish that can be found in one class, each student is graded on their progress.


Oral interview: When students take the first placement in May prior to the beginning of the academic year, a quick interview is held between Ms. Maya and the student to get a sense of the student's level of Spanish.

Percentage of students completing the program: 100%

Percentage of students who continue to study the heritage language after completing the program: 60% - depends

At Gateway Charter High School, we have a 3-year graduation requirement. Students who pass the AP Spanish language exam are exempt from their 3rd year but may choose to continue and take AP Spanish Literature. Students who have IEP's may be waived from their 3rd year of Spanish if they are unable to pass the AP Spanish language test because of language-based learning disabilities or others.

Students' attitudes toward the language varieties they speak

Many of the students become very proud and motivated and see the importance of the course for their own personal needs and their future. There is a great respect for one another, and peer help has been an exceptional trait in my classroom.


Number of staff in program: 2

Languages in which staff members are proficient: Spanish and English

Level of staff members’ proficiency: Native / Near- Native


Teacher certification from California

Single Subject Teaching Credential in Spanish

BA in Spanish

MA in Spanish and Secondary Education

Teachers have opportunities for professional development when they ask for it; for example, College Board/AP, All Kinds of Minds, charter school conferences, etc.

Teachers need more professional development opportunities to improve their understanding of the heritage speaker.

Hours of instruction per week: 3 days a week (one 55 -minute class and two 1 hour and 45-minute classes)

Students are grouped in two levels:

Heritage Spanish Speaker 1 - 1st year

Heritage Spanish Speaker 2 - 2nd year

English skills

Because the course is structured like a Humanities course, many of the students use what is taught in class in their Humanities class.

Heritage Skills

At the end of the program students are likely to reach AP level of proficiency. Some students pass the AP Spanish Language exam. About 50% of those students pass the AP Spanish Literature exam in their third year.

Culture taught

Methodologies and instructional strategies

Because of our mission, many different strategies are used to teach each student. The course content is taught in a more progressive way. Students adapt what is being taught to their own lives. Reading, writing, grammar, culture, and history are taught, cooperative and collaborative learning, oral presentations from the students, and technology. The students discuss information and write about their observations and opinions and later develop those skills into analytical debates and essays.

Textbook series used

Technology used in the program

Kinds of assessment

Connections with local schools, colleges, and universities

Gateway Charter High School is a diverse school that represents the population of San

Francisco. Students come from all over San Francisco and from the greater Bay Area.

It is also a college prep school, and the majority of our students continue their education at the university level.

The program develops home-school connections and promotes parent involvement through the Gateway Parent Association (GPA).

Students have opportunities for using the language and their cultural knowledge outside the program due to the diversity of the area. The Bay Area continuously provides cultural activities throughout the year, and Spanish is one of the main languages spoken throughout California after English.

Financial support is obtained from the local and state government.

The program needs more collaboration with other professors and teachers throughout California and the United States.

System for graduating students and granting credit

It is UC accredited.


Mary Maya did her field study on "How to motivate the heritage Spanish speaker" many years ago and recently conducted research trying to put together standards and a scope and sequence that may be compatible with other programs in the U.S.


Other insights about the program

It is very important that the student understand who s/he is so we always start the year with an autobiography. Additionally, students should understand the history of the Spanish language and why there are so many dialects found in the Hispanic world.

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