KITTY HAWK, N.C. (WAVY) — Señora Raquel Aguilar is not just teaching her students another language, she’s making sure that they understand why being bilingual is so important and how it connects us all at the end of the day.

Aguilar is a Third Grade Spanish Immersion Teacher at Kitty Hawk Elementary School. The native of Costa Rica has been at the school for a few years now and helped start the district’s Spanish Immersion Program with the help of some other teachers.

She grew up in Costa Rica, moved to the United States with her family, and returned back to her birthplace to finish high school and college.

“Being bilingual has opened so many doors for me and that’s what I hope for my kids too,” she said.

The children in the program have learned Spanish since kindergarten and at the third-grade level, they can speak and understand conversational Spanish.

Still, Aguilar says teaching native English-speaking kindergarteners another language is no easy task.

“We have to be very active and big, do big motions and act things out because that’s the way they’re understanding us. In kindergarten, most of them have no idea what we’re saying,” she said.

Parents choose to enroll their students in the program in kindergarten, but Aguilar says the program is much more than just teaching students another language.

“It’s about recognizing differences and that differences are okay. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. It doesn’t matter how you look,” she said.

From kindergarten to first grade, 90% of their instruction is in Spanish while 10% is in English. In second grade, it drops to an 80/20 Spanish/English model. From third to fifth grade, it’s a 50/50 model.

There are many challenges along the way. Many parents who want to help can’t because they’re monolingual and only speak English.

Still, it’s not stopping the kids from succeeding.

“We had a student travel to a Central American country with her family. And her mom said that she was able to communicate very well with the locals. So she was translating for her parents,” said Aguilar.

Her hope is to inspire a new generation of global citizens through language and cultural exchange.

“For them to have that vision, of like, ‘OK, this is what I know, but I know there’s something bigger and that I can relate to something bigger,’ and making them like global citizens, I think that’s the most important thing,” she said.

Señora Aguilar has been teaching students how to master another language for many years. She even taught students back in Costa Rica, but she says she learns something new from her students here every single day. 

That’s what makes her una maestra magnífica.