Vernon Middle School becomes Harlingen CISD’s third International Baccalaureate facility

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Vernon Middle School World Languages Academy International Baccalaureate (IB) Specialist Jessica Saldivar continues her passion to train teachers IB instruction in the classroom that provides students with high quality professional development to encourage critical thinking, self-reflection and dedication to lifelong learning and continuous improvement. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

HARLINGEN — They’re still going global.

The Harlingen school district has just begun the next leg of its journey along the International Baccalaureate highway, with Vernon Middle School now functioning as an IB school.

“What’s different about Vernon from last year is that we’re just becoming so engrossed in the Middle Year Program,” said Jessica Saldivar, IB specialist at Vernon, which also offers classes in Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language in its World Languages Academy.

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledge and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect, says its website.

The Harlingen district began its IB journey three years ago when Austin and Sam Houston elementary schools became IB campuses. That was during the administration of former superintendent Arturo Cavazos. Alicia Noyola, who was chief academic officer at the time, was also heavily involved in bringing the IB program to the district.

Noyola, who later served as superintendent before retiring in May, said then that the district had actually applied for the IB program about three years earlier.

“It’s not a quick process,” Noyola said then. “It’s one that requires a lot of investment of time and effort and focus by campuses.”

The IB program focuses on a more global theme of instruction, said Myliss Parker, who at that time was director of advanced academic services for the Harlingen district.

“It has a world view, not just community or United States or Texas view,” Parker said. “All the curriculum is global minded.”

Vernon Middle School World Languages Academy Reasoning Through Language Arts (RLA) Teacher Alma Perea utilizes IB instruction with her year two language and literature (7th graders) during an afternoon class. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The program at the elementary level, called the Primary Year Program, has been a fabulous success, and it is doing very well now at the Middle Year Program at Vernon, Saldivar said.

“Students are growing in their learning, using the different approaches to learning which includes communication skills, research skills, organizational skills,” Saldivar said. “What teachers are doing is that they are creating their lessons and instruction so that the student gets a really good conceptual understand of their particular subject group.”

Saldivar started out as a science teacher at Vernon before taking over last year as the school’s IB specialist to start implementing the program. She spoke with great enthusiasm and vitality about the new program.

“It focuses on the child as a whole,” she said. “We wanted to instruct students to be knowledgeable, caring, lifelong learners, and that’s what we are doing. We’re teaching them skills so that they continue learning once they leave Vernon.”

Next step: the IB diploma program at the high school level. Stay tuned.