The Taos International School recently announced its charter was extended for another five years by the New Mexico Public Education Department, and it has been authorized as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School.
"We can now offer the Primary Years Programme, from kindergarten through fifth grade, and the Middle Years Programme, from sixth through eighth grade," said Nadine Vigil, founder and director of the Taos International School. "It's pretty exciting."
IB World Schools prepare students to be world citizens, with a focus on critical thinking, problem solving, curiosity, collaboration and caring. International Baccalaureate, a nonprofit organization founded in 1968, serves nearly two million students in 159 countries.
Vigil taught in the Taos Municipal Schools District for 35 years, and founded the district's dual-language program. "I believe strongly that it's important to be bilingual," she said.
Vigil retired from the TMS District, and wrote the Taos International School's charter in 2012. It welcomed its first students in the fall of 2014. The school, located at 118 Este Es Road in Taos, serves close to 200 K-8 students and employs 24 teachers.
"As an IB school, we have to have a second language," said Vigil, explaining that K-3 students learn in both Spanish and English, and 4-8 students learn through the heritage model. "That's making sure that they're bilingual -- we want them to be able to read, write and speak in Spanish."
"My whole day will be total Spanish -- all day," said Mary Lou Chavez, a first grade teacher at Taos International School. "And the other first grade teacher will teach the English portion."
"We will trade in the afternoon, and I'll have her class, she'll have my class. It's not the same lesson -- they kind of correlate," said Chavez.
Mariachi and meditation
The school takes a unique approach to physical education, too. "I emphasize a lot of outdoor activities, indoor activities and life skills that will keep them moving," said physical and health education teacher Cecilia Trujillo.
She teaches balance, yoga, and meditation to her students, as well as how to move efficiently. "And we're in the process of designing an exercise course on our campus," said Trujillo.
"We have an art and music program, mariachi program, and a physical education program," said Vigil. "Our students are allowed to join the public schools -- so we have cheerleaders, dance, basketball and football."
After school programs include tutoring, enrichment, science, cooking, art, computer and book clubs.
Students that thrive
Fourth-grader Jasmine Sandoval, and her little sister, first-grader Jaelyn Sandoval, have both thrived at Taos International School, according to their mother, Christina Gonzales.
"One thing that I love about the school is they treat each other like they're family. Everybody kind of looks out for each other," said Gonzales, who works as a medical assistant with Taos Medical Group.
Both girls studied in English and Spanish through the school's dual-language program, and both have learned to sign language as well.
"It's pushed them to be risk-takers in their learning. They don't just stick to the curriculum that's given," said Nathaniel Sandoval, the girls' father, who works as a detention officer at the Taos County jail. "Jasmine, for instance, is learning piano, violin and guitar -- Jaelyn's learning guitar and piano."
"I just love the school," said Gonzales. "It is a perfect school, and I would not want my daughters anywhere else."
For more information, visit taosinternationalschool.weebly.com.