Adding to the “middle years” of El Roble: MYP Languages join the curriculum


Image courtesy of Martin Renteria

Mornings at El Roble would be unrecognizable to many current Claremont High students. One, there is a whiteboard at the front entrance of the school with the letter A on it. Two, approximately thirty students just came out of a classroom in the 400s quad. Since when has El Roble had a “zero period?”
The launch of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB MYP) over a year ago has led to curriculum and schedule changes at both CHS and El Roble, most notably the addition of language and “zero period” courses offered to El Roble students. With the goal of creating globally minded citizens embedded throughout the IB program, language classes are meant to introduce students to languages and cultures from around the world. As Andrea Gosnell, the MYP coordinator at CUSD explained, growing up with a respect for other cultures leads to a greater understanding of society. For the 2022-23 school year, El Roble has begun offering two languages, based on the MYP, to their middle schoolers: German and Spanish.
Unlike high school courses, the El Roble MYP classes will not go into as much depth in each subject, as stated by Jennifer Tsai, the German teacher at both CHS and El Roble. Instead, the language courses at El Roble aim to establish a solid foundation within the language that will aid their students in reaching success at the high school level. At the end of eighth grade, all students taking a language will take a placement exam to assess which level of language class they should go into as a freshman. The language classes taken in El Roble do not count for high school credit, but the placement exam can allow the students to finish the four-year language pathway early.
At the moment, students enrolled in MYP Spanish are using a newly introduced A/B cohort schedule that has them taking Spanish and an art class for the same period, going to each class every other day.
“If you looked outside my door you’d notice that I have an ‘A’ sign,” El Roble Spanish teacher Martin Renteria said. “I usually wear that as a necklace to remind my students that it is either an ‘A’ day or a ‘B’ day, but I still have a couple students who wander in and be like ‘am I supposed to be in here today?’ We’re still working out the kinks but we are getting the hang of it now.”
This schedule results in students getting one semester’s worth of Spanish credit and one art credit each year. Renteria teaches a total of 300 students in his mixed grade classes. Next year, these classes will be broken up between grades, with 8th graders learning the second semester’s worth of Spanish 1 content, while incoming 7th graders will begin their journey with the language.
Currently, German is the only class active on campus for El Roble’s new zero period. Students with this new schedule are taking German class and an art class for a total of seven periods, taking one full year of each subject instead of a semester.
“It’s hard to adjust to the schedule because every third period I’ll leave to go to lunch and then I’ll realize, ‘wait a minute, we still have a period,’ ” eighth grader Jaxu Bohn said.
Despite the consensus that taking seven periods was exhausting and waking up early is a challenge, the fifteen MYP German students who were interviewed agreed that the class was worth it. The German teacher, Jennifer Tsai, had the same thoughts about the class.
“I’m not a morning person, so at first I thought it was going to be a challenge for me to do this, but middle school students have so much energy,” Tsai said. “They really are eager to learn. I have really enjoyed working with them and getting to know them.”
Although some students, such as Isa Garcia, are happy with seven periods because of the ability to take a full year of art and German, the schedule will most likely change next year. Two separate classes of German are being planned for the two grades in an A/B alternating schedule so that each grade can work independently and at varying levels of course depth.

Image courtesy of Frau Tsai

At El Roble, the district is hoping to introduce MYP French in 2023-24. As the MYP is in its second year, only approximately one-third of El Roble students are enrolled in a language course, but the plan is to grow the program according to community interest. Possibilities for additional growth in the language department include more teachers for Spanish as well as an introduction to Mandarin or American Sign Language.
Overall, the MYP language classes are meant to be an easy introduction to the faster-paced courses at the high school, creating a fun class that builds a foundation for students to succeed in high school and beyond. Despite all of the current and planned bell schedule changes at El Roble, one fact remains a constant: the addition of MYP languages will provide an opportunity for all students to learn in a new way, academically and globally.