Oak Creek international students bring world's cultures to the classroom
by: VERN UYETAKE Fourth-grader Antonio Miguel-Vivanco, left, and his sixth-grade sister, Isabella, are from Mexico.

Students at Oak Creek Elementary School are learning about several world cultures without even opening a textbook this year.

That's because they have several families in the school community with international roots.

'We have students from all over the world attending Oak Creek,' Principal Karen Lachman said. 'They are adding such a richness to our school.'

The students include sixth-grader Isabella Miguel-Vivanco and her fourth-grade brother, Antonio, of Mexico; sixth-grader Jo and second-grader Rei Nishimura from Japan; fourth-grader Niamh Nolan of the Netherlands; sixth-grader Amanda Lopez of Honduras; third-grader Nicole Choi of South Korea; and the Ross family, which includes kindergarten student Cohen, third-graders Eli and Adelane, and fifth-grader Gavin, who were born in the United States but spent several years in Spain where they learned to speak Spanish fluently.

With the exception of the Ross children, all are enrolled in English language classes and none has been in the United State for more than a few months.

'The students' service time for instruction is based upon assessment results that determine their English language proficiency,' said Lachman. 'Mrs. Beelers is the English-language learner (ELL) teacher serving the Oak Creek students. She sees each of her students between 40 minutes and 1 ½ hours per week. In addition, many of the ELL students receive reading and math instruction from Ali Grimshaw, our reading and math teacher, for 30 minutes daily. Volunteers, cadet teachers from Lake Oswego High School, and educational assistants provide additional support.

'Our Oak Creek students also help our newest students from other countries learn English each and every day.'

The Miguel-Vivanco children said they moved to the United States to learn to speak English. Isabella, who speaks both Spanish and German, has learned much of the English language quickly. She helps many of the younger children by interpreting for them.

In addition, Nicole Choi and Rei Nishimura have classmates, Macy Douglas and Carson Bush, respectively, helping them to understand the language and the American school culture.

The children recently shared some of their discoveries about life in Lake Oswego and about attending Oak Creek.

Amanda Lopez has enjoyed eating a new food: lasagna.

Isabella Miguel-Vivanco enjoys shopping and is finding math hard, while her brother, Antonio, loves the view of the lake and has enjoyed trying fondue.

The Nishimura boys were born in Japan and moved here from Chicago this summer.

When asked if his parents speak English, Jo Nishimura said, 'My mom is so-so; my dad is good.'

He loves the green landscape of Oregon and enjoys reading.

Younger brother Rei likes being at Oak Creek and enjoys eating lunch and playing at recess with his new friends.

Choi is shyer. Even with the help of her classmate Douglas, she said it is hard to listen when everyone speaks at the same time. She loves doing art projects and was looking forward to her class's field trip to tour the city's Gallery Without Walls.

Though having to translate the lessons from English to their native language makes the school day that much harder, all of the children are enthusiastic about attending Oak Creek and enjoy living in Lake Oswego. They may not speak English fluently yet, but they share a camaraderie that transcends language.

'We are looking forward to teaching the children about our school traditions,' Lachman said. 'We have our carnival coming up, which is always fun.'

Oak Creek is celebrating its 20th year of operation this year. A number of events are planned, including a major event after the first of the year. For more information on the anniversary festivities, contact the school office.

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