Children experience early multicultural learning at Zelienople’s Mi Jardin Spanish Immersion

Children experience early multicultural learning at Zelienople’s Mi Jardin Spanish Immersion

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By Caelin Grambau, University of Pittsburgh English Writing & Spanish double major

Jacneth Labarca was born and raised in Maracaibo,Venezuela, where she began her career in education and developed a “deep passion for teaching, as well as for learning.” During her time in Venezuela, Labarca worked for the Secretary of Education and she now has over 25 years of combined experience in the field of education.

Labarca came to Pittsburgh with her family seven years ago, where she began working as a teacher and mentor in a Spanish-immersion school. Inspired not only by her time at the school but also by her own two children, Labarca decided to open her own business. 

“I found that I could create and inspire a place for children with my education and background. It was then [that] I decided to start my own business. Working in the field of education gives me immense joy and satisfaction. The trust parents give me to care for and educate their children is a responsibility I do not take lightly,” Labarca said.

Labarca’s own business, Mi Jardín Spanish Immersion, opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2020.

“Mi Jardín is a Spanish language immersion program for children of all ages. We are a learning center, where young minds merge to excel academically, emotionally, and socially in a free and exciting environment with opportunities and meaningful experiences, open to different languages and cultures so that precious young minds flourish in their interests and passions,” Labarca said when discussing Mi Jardín. 

While there are many Spanish language programs both in and outside of school, Labarca’s international background and non-traditional approach help to set Mi Jardín apart from more traditional styles of language learning. 

“I firmly believe that there are no limits to learning, especially for young children. With an enormous desire to continue to help children and their families in all aspects (psychological, emotional, biological, and social) as well as the desire to create new opportunities for bilingual and cultural formation, I have designed a unique program of immersion in Spanish through play, where traditional education is left in the past and learning is built through meaningful experiences,” she said.

Labarca prioritizes “developing multicultural students” through play and helping children feel comfortable speaking a second language, especially with the help of a highly qualified staff. When speaking of her staff, Labarca noted the shared belief in “a learning environment [that] fosters respect for cultural diversity and uses a diverse approach to education, allowing for optimal growth and development of young children.”

Mi Jardín’s school year programs take place between August and June, and they also offer after-school and summer programs, but Labarca and the Mi Jardín staff invite families to start throughout the year. Currently, Mi Jardín welcomes students from ages two to six, and they are working on expanding to include programs for infants from 18 to 24 months of age, and for children from six to ten years of age.

“[At] Mi Jardín, Spanish-speaking children are supported in maintaining their native language and cultural traditions, while English-speaking children develop a solid foundation for a second language and are exposed to a variety of cultural traditions,” Labarca notes.

“Mi Jardín is thrilled to be a part of the process of building the beginning years of children’s lives. Our doors are open to children in our community from every language and culture.”

Facebook: Mi Jardin Spanish Immersion

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