Bilingüe / bilingual – Spanish-English preschool opening in Silverton

March 2022 Posted in Business, Community, People, School

By Melissa Wagoner

When Lara Ghio Gaitan and her husband, Matt, traveled with their two children to Panama in 2017, it was their goal to immerse their children in a different culture and to encourage them to become more fluent in Spanish. But what they didn’t expect was that Gaitan would learn something as well – that teaching was her calling.

Lara Ghio Gaitan

“I realized what an impact one person can have on a kid who needs a mentor,” she said, recalling how the time she spent volunteering as an English teacher in Panama’s schools influenced her to consider a new career.

Upon returning to her hometown of Silverton and discovering how limited the Spanish language education options are for preschool and elementary aged students, she knew what she had to do.

“There are no Spanish preschools here for having such a high number of native Spanish speakers,” she said. “And I thought, how is there no Spanish here?”

So, starting in 2018 Gaitan set about solving that problem, first through two Spanish-immersion summer camps, then with an after-school Spanish language program. 

“But in 2020 I had to shut down everything,” Gaitan said, recalling how she took what could have been viewed as a set-back and made it a way forward by going back to school.

“I took the preschool program at Chemeketa,” Gaitan said. “Then I took five months to remodel everything.” 

The space Gaitan is referring to is next door to her parents’ business – Somos Hispanas Unidas, on the corner of B and First streets in Silverton. There she was able to create a cozy, multi-room preschool environment with a fenced-in playground area and a separate entrance.

“It’ll be 80 percent Spanish,” Gaitan said of the curriculum she developed. It will be Spanish immersion integrated with the Reggio Emilia philosophy of teaching through creative thinking and play. 

“I won’t translate everything because then the kids wait for the English,” she added. “Instead, it’ll be a lot of repetition and a lot of music.”

It will rely on parent participation as well.

“Parents will have to be willing to also take the Spanish home and be curious too,” she said. 

Opening in September 2022 the program will run 8:30 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday. Solecitos Bilingual Preschool – as Gaitan has coined the school – will serve a maximum of eight children between the ages of three and five. 

“It’s a small setting, so it’s very homey with one-on-one interactions,” Gaitan said. She listed benefits the preschool will offer including supporting cognitive development through bilingual learning, advanced cultural appreciation and even greater job opportunities in the future. 

“It’s an investment,” Gaitan said. 

Her long-term goal is to one day open an entire Spanish-based academy.

But for now, she’s taking it one day at a time and accepting applications for Solecitos’ first preschool class. She can be reached at 503-910-9765 or laraghi@gmail.com.

“I’m just excited,” she said.

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