by Leigh Ann Lampley, Principal
The decision to move to Wilmington N.C. to be the principal of an Immersion School that was in transition was one that I did not take lightly. I knew this would be a challenging experience; merging two school cultures together, rebuilding trust among staff and families, hiring new staff, and increasing attendance from around 325 students to 500 students wouldn’t be an easy task. However, without hesitation, I knew this was the place I needed to be.
Instead of this being a daunting task, I looked at this as an opportunity. Not only an opportunity for myself to grow as an educator but also in creating a rigorous academic program that challenged students to reach their highest potential. One that I would be able to hire a high quality staff that would provide bilingual experiences to children that they would not be able to access otherwise in any other public school in Wilmington. The opportunity for students to become, not only, bilingual, but bi-literate makes them naturally competitive in the future job market. Providing students the skills they need to read, write, and speak Spanish from Kindergarten is a gift. Students benefit from language acquisition and increased cultural sensitivity.
Expansion from, not only an elementary school model, but to also a middle school model was another avenue to embrace. Students in grades 6-7 are enrolled in a longer school day (8:00 – 3:30) in order to acquire additional language courses such as Conexiones and Mandarin. (Conexiones is the middle school curriculum for students that have been in immersion since Kindergarten.) Mandarin has proven to be a well-loved and popular course as well. We partner with Williston Middle School in order to expand our elective offerings.
The 50/50 model we provide in grades K-5 allows access to the curriculum on an A day / B day schedule. Students receive instruction in English one day and Spanish the next. All students benefit from this model as students who are native Spanish speakers continue to build their native language while still learning English. Students that are native English speakers continue to build their native language while learning Spanish. A natural win-win situation!
Now, two years later, the dust is finally settling. Next year, we will expand to a K-8 model. Staff members have bonded with one another and are often social outside of school. The sense of family is evident and everyone puts their best foot forward. Our students walk hand in hand and are developing a love of other cultures. Many of our middle school students are learning Mandarin, some as a third language. And finally, we now have 11 international teachers from countries all over the world, Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, China, and Honduras.
As I walk in and out of these classrooms, my heart fills with joy knowing that our school is changing the future of our students. We are preparing students for a global society where they can appreciate the differences of others. The International School at Gregory is focused on connecting our children to the world around us and building bridges across cultures and traditions. I am committed to a strong instructional program that will provide a world of opportunities for the students that come though our building. This is a place any parent would want their child to attend. The International School at Gregory would love for your family to join us in this amazing journey.