STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Saunders 3rd grader Kenner Zelaya Gutierrez

Student leader in Dual Language Immersion program

Posted: March 28, 2024

When Kenner Zelaya Gutierrez started school, he spoke mostly Spanish. He started learning English in pre-Kindergarten and now is a help to classmates who along with himself are learning daily in both English and Spanish.

Zelaya Gutierrez, a third grader at Saunders Elementary School, studies in the Newport News Public Schools Dual Language Immersion Program. He is part of two classes of students shared by Roseann Debrango and Sonnelys Vera Lamboy, who trade off teaching subjects using both English and Spanish.

NNPS uses 50-50 two-way model of DLI, which means students spend at least 50 percent of the school day learning in Spanish and come from two language backgrounds.

Students help each other and in turn one another's families to learn both languages, according to Vera Lamboy. Zelaya Gutierrez likes studying both, with students speaking as well as writing in Spanish and English.

"English speakers learn Spanish with them as well," Vera Lamboy said. "We get to encourage the people who came to the program and it's nice for us."

Zelaya Gutierrez is among their student leaders. He is described as an all-round classroom helper and is an Honor Roll student, serves as a safety patrol and participates on the Great Computer Challenge team.

Favorite subjects include science, social studies and math.

"I like school because I can learn different stuff," Zelaya Gutierrez said. "For example, ancient civilizations and different things like the seven continents and the five oceans, and learn different languages. When you're an adult and you would like to go to a different country, you have to learn the language because if you don't know the language nobody will understand."

Safety patrol duties involve watching kindergartners when they're in hallway lines.

"I make sure they're safe," Zelaya Gutierrez said.

His teachers describe him as smart, respectful, friendly and kind. It's important to make extra efforts because you get respect if you do kind things for people and help them, he said.

Outside of school, Zelaya Gutierrez plays on a Newport News soccer teams, likes to draw and play with his little sister, and during the summers to spend more time with his family and friends.

"My Mom tells me to be good at school so I get to be respectful and other stuff -- so they'll respect you more," he said.

Visit Student Spotlights on the Newport News Public Schools website.

Visit <a href=>Student Spotlights</a> on the Newport News Public Schools website.
Visit Student Spotlights on the Newport News Public Schools website.