Students earn recognition for language growth


Last updated 4/19/2022 at Noon

Avanza awardees celebrated with administrators and Avanza team members. The students have a different language from English as their first language, and have demonstrated high levels of proficiency in English language skills. photo provided

Sisters School District honored eight students with the first annual Avanza Award for acquisition of English language at a ceremony held Wednesday, April 6, at Sisters Elementary School.

Marleen and Bruce Rognlien wanted to partner with the school district and the Latinx community outreach group to establish the award to honor students who complete a state program in English speaking and writing.

Bruce Rognlien said, “I was motivated to help set up and fund the award because of my Czech grandma. She immigrated to America from Czechoslovakia in 1910 and never learned to speak English very well, and I always felt it held her back.

“I see the same challenge in the Latino community here in Sisters, and my wife and I were delighted that Joan Warburg, who is a fluent Spanish speaker herself, already had a program in place within the school district.”

So the Rognliens became part of the Avanza team.

At the celebration, Warburg said, “Over two years ago this group began meeting with the desire to honor second-language students who had worked hard and attained a level of proficiency in English literacy comparable to native English speakers. We created the Avanza award to honor students who have demonstrated high levels of proficiency in English listening, speaking, reading, and writing and are successful in their core content classes. Avanza means to move forward, progress, or to advance. These students have demonstrated that they are moving forward and making great progress.”

The Avanza award is designed to honor students with any non-English first language who acquire English language skills at a level that allows them to “graduate” from the English language learners program.

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Warburg explained, “When someone is learning a new language it typically takes five to seven years of study to achieve proficiency. These students that we honored have demonstrated English proficiency in all four domains and have officially met the Oregon state criteria to exit the English Learners program.

“Many of these students can be considered fluent, making them truly bilingual,” she added.

Honorees included high school students Addiegrace Schutte, Taylor Wang, and Lena Kountchev; middle school students Bryan Osegueda, Ammy Mendez Mendoza, and Jesus Luna; and elementary students Victoria Furuya and Xitlali Robles.

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Each student received a framed certificate and, as a special surprise, a $100 bill from a generous donor.

Other members of the Avanza program “team” according to Joan Warburg include Oscar Pena, Marilyn Barnett, Wendy Birnbaum, and Gabriel Cobos, along with the Rognliens.

Following the ceremony, the students and the Avanza team were introduced at the school board meeting to conclude the celebration.


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