Portuguese, a language common among many Mineola residents, will be taught as an elective course for eight graders in Mineola High School this fall.
The addition of Portuguese to the Spanish, French, Italian and Latin languages already available as options to eighth graders is the result of a collaborative effort between state Sen, Jack Martins (R-Mineola), Mineola Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira, a history teacher in the high school, and Mineola High School Principal Ed Escobar.
“The Portuguese language has been part of the Mineola community for over 30 years. It is a staple of Mineola. It’s one of the most spoken languages in the world. The Mineola School District made a commitment to introduce it. I want to thank Superintendent of Schools Michael Nagler, Principal Escobar, Paul Pereira and the school board,” Martins said at a recent press conference announcing the introduction of Portuguese to the curriculum. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the language to the community as a whole. Mineola, by taking this action, will be the only public school district in the state to offer Portuguese. It is a reflection of Mineola High School’s and the Mineola School District’s commitment to its mission statement.”
Martins played a key role by securing a waiver from the Board of Regents to allow the school to offer the language to eighth grade students, who are required to take a language elective. Portuguese is not among the foreign languages approved by the state for school curricula.
Students entering eighth grade in the high school will receive e-mail messages that the language will be available to a class of 25 students this fall.
Elsa Coelho, a foreign language teacher at the high school and a Mineola graduate herself, will be teaching the section.
The goal is to roll out a section per grade each year so that students who take the class in the eighth grade will be able to continue learning it in the later grades, according to Escobar. If the program succeeds, it could be expanded to be a full-time program.
“What makes Mineola special really is the students. There’s a large Portuguese population here and it makes Mineola a special place,” Escobar said.
Considering the large Portuguese population in the school and the community, Pereira said he has been trying to get the language introduced to Mineola High School for the past 10 years.
“I’m proud that we are finally here,” Pereira said.
Noting that approximately 18 percent of Mineola graduates are of Portuguese descent, Pereira said the opportunity to learn Portuguese is intended for students of all ethnic backgrounds.
“This is not just for the Portuguese-American community. This is a tool that will help all of our students. Our mission statement encourages students to be lifelong learners and I think we do a great job doing that,” Pereira said.