Storyteller Delivers Language Lesson

Storyteller Delivers Language Lesson

Students at Silverbrooke Elementary started their Monday morning to the "La Yurona," a Latin-American story about a lady that killed her children.

Storyteller Antonio Sacre spoke in Spanish and English, emphasizing points using his own body movements, to stress the importance of being bilingual as well as storytelling, writing and doing homework.

"In Mexico, they don't have a bogeyman," Sacre said.

The students hung on every word, frequently breaking into laughter.

Ivonne Ortega, 11, is from Mexico and Heidy Garcia, 12, is from Honduras. Both already knew the story before Sacre’s visit: Ivonne learned it when she was 8.

Sacre is a storyteller from California who tells stories in elementary schools nationwide. He incorporates certain Spanish words throughout his one-hour presentation, which may be familiar to some children and not to others. The hope is that they will learn the words.

Spanish words he used included "papito," Spanish for oldest son; "Flan," a Spanish dessert; "leche," for milk; "mantequila," butter; and "gato," which means cat.

"I'm doing another 12 schools in the area," he said, including Flint Hill Elementary School in Oakton and Springfield Estates Elementary School on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Other presentations he's done include the "Festival of the Book," at the Library of Congress, as well as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

"I've been in three other countries and 35 states. Alaska is one I'm adding," he said.

Sacre has a master’s degree in theater at Northwestern University as well as a bachelor's degree from Boston University.

"You don't need a degree to be a storyteller although it helps in the schools," he said.

Sacre’s visit comes as part of a program called "Class Acts," a booking agency in Maryland which incorporates various presentation formats for students.

Joan Burns, associate director at Class Acts, noted that the performances of all 31 of their artists benefit the classroom in some way.

"All of our artists included on our roster serve some educational value. We work with schools throughout the entire metro area," Burns said.

Beth Ide, a parent from Fairfax Station with two children at Silverbrooke and one at Springfield Estates, said that Sacre’s lesson was sponsored entirely by the PTA.

Ide has also been on the PTA committee involved booking Mark Jaster, a mime who performed at Springfield Estates Elementary School, and a native American presentation through parent company Class Acts.

KINDERGARTEN TEACHER Irene Schwartz brought her class in for the first session, which Sacre told on another level, catering to the younger children.

"He did it a number of times in the same story so the children were picking it up. It held their attention," she said.

Valerie Finney, librarian, sees students’ motivation to learn another language. "We have a section of books in Spanish, there are quite a few kids that will check out those books because they're interested in a second language. There's a level of acceptance that we as a culture are making," she said.

Silverbrooke principal Bob Holderbaum noticed the acceptance of a second language not present in years past. This lesson was timed with Spanish-American History month he said, but that wasn't a deciding factor for having Sacre visit Silverbrooke.

"We try to promote that type of diversity all year long. For this generation of kids, it's natural," he said.

OTHER STORIES Sacre told included "Barking Mouse," a story passed down from his grandmother which dealt with Gato, a cat, and "Water Torture," which dealt with sibling relationships. In April 2003, that story is due to come out in book form, according to Sacre.

"That's an example of me taking a story my grandmother told me and turning it into a published story. I have a new best friend and that's my little brother," he said.

Katherine Wrona, 12, and Kelly Miles, 12, introduced Sacre. Katherine is the SCA president and Kelly is the vice president.

Katherine learned one lesson from Sacre's stories. "Even though you speak two languages, you're not dumber," she said.

Kelly liked to hear Sacre's publishing accomplishments. "It's just his ideas. It's cool that he got them published," she said.