Zeeland Christian School is striving to teach its students foreign language skills that will give them entry to the global economy of the 21st century.

Zeeland Christian, however, is going above and beyond offering a few foreign language classes to high school students. The school has made a commitment to the future, offering full-immersion Spanish and Mandarin Chinese instruction.

The instruction starts with preschool classes taught entirely in those languages, driving students to read and write in a second language before they gradually get more English-language instruction later in elementary school.

“We want to give children every opportunity to succeed, and being fluent in a foreign language gives them the chance to standout in an ever-changing world.,” says teacher Laura Zondervan, who spends her days helping young students learn their colors, shapes and letters, all in Spanish.

Kristi Vander Maas said she’s seen amazing progress with her third-grade daughter, Isabelle.

“We’ve been blown away how well she’s responded to learning Spanish, and how easy it’s come for her,” Vander Maas says, noting she’s also seen Isabelle excel in English reading and comprehension classes as well as math. ”It’s been amazing.”

Sonja Johnson of the Van Andel Global Trade Center in nearby Grand Rapids calls the immersion program “an opportunity to invest in the future.”

“It’s becoming a global marketplace, and … businesses are really understanding that,” Johnson says. “Whether it’s in sales or marketing or engineering, the students that have the bilingual skill set to offer are going to be right at the front of the line of all those hiring opportunities.”

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