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Teaching Bilingualism at the Blanton

elementary school students discuss art in the Blanton museum

A team of undergraduates at The University of Texas at Austin combines teaching, language, and the arts into a program that serves K-12 schoolchildren of all backgrounds.

Mariana Quijano, a senior in the College of Education, has improved access to arts education through her involvement with a bilingual co-teaching program for young student visitors to the Blanton Museum of Art. A lack of bilingual education can be a hurdle to students from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and this often extends beyond the classroom, impacting non-English speaking students in venues like museums and art galleries.

Quijano is part of a team of students pursuing degrees in bilingual education that works with faculty in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, museum educator Sabrina Phillips, and other members of the Blanton’s School and Teacher Programs. By providing lessons in the museum conducted in both English and Spanish, Quijano said, “kids are able to learn new vocabulary in both languages, whether it is their dominant language or their second language.”

For Quijano one of the most inspiring moments in the program was a lesson with a group of bilingual students from a local elementary school. “As my co-teacher explained her lesson in English, the boy asked questions in Spanish. He would look directly at me and raise his hand and direct his questions to me,” Quijano said. Following the lesson, she had a conversation with the student about his desire to one day become an art teacher. Her ability to connect with and engage the curious student drove home the importance of bilingualism in education.

Quijano’s experiences have furthered her development as a teacher and provided ideas for future models of practice. “Not only do I want to stay in education, but I also want to branch out and use my knowledge in both languages for after-school programs,” she said. “I have seen how helpful it is to be bilingual in school and in the community. I hope to help children do the same.”

photographs by Trent Lesikar

elementary school students walk up stairs in the Blanton auditorium