Hispanic Heritage Month gives us the opportunity to celebrate the stories, contributions, accomplishments, and experiences of those leaders who feel close to Latino culture and who educate young people about the Latino movement.
Richard Heffernan is the current Executive Director of the Bilingual and English as a Second Language ( ESL ) Department . Heffernan supports the development of dual language speaking, reading and writing for students participating in the dual language program, in addition to their knowledge of two cultures. Dallas ISD currently has the largest dual language program in the country, implemented in 158 schools.
“The dual language program is an effective method that we can use to serve students whose communities were marginalized in the past,” Heffernan said. “For Spanish-speaking students, the program not only validates their culture and identity, it is the key to mastering English and being successful academically. For those who do not speak Spanish, the program opens the way to all the benefits of being able to speak, write and read in two languages “.
Heffernan’s passion for Hispanic culture led him to travel to Spain and the Canary Islands where he lived for a year and learned Spanish.
“There weren’t many people who spoke English where I lived, so I had to learn Spanish,” Heffernan recalled. “That experience allowed me to understand how complex it is to learn another language.”
Heffernan began his career as a first grade teacher at Walnut Hill Elementary School where he taught the first group of students to complete the two-way dual language program. He served as a school principal for 11 years before joining the ESL Bilingual Department. Heffernan is serving 20 years in public education, all of them in Dallas ISD.
Heffernan recognizes that having learned Spanish helped him better relate to the students and families he has served as an educator.
“If I spoke only English, there would be so many families that I would not know and with whom I would have no relationship. It is thanks to my relationship with the families that I have developed a great appreciation and respect for the multifaceted Hispanic culture.
This press release was produced by the Dallas Independent School District . The views expressed here are the author’s own.