The dual immersion program at Munger Mountain Elementary School in Jackson, Wyoming, is growing—in large part due to second-grade teacher Chris Bessonette. When the district board of education was deliberating the expansion of the program, they turned to Bessonette as an expert to help guide their decisions. Bessonette, an English-language teacher paired with a Spanish-language partner, serves on the school’s ELA committee, dual immersion leadership committee and building leadership team, and he has participated in research studies to enhance the district’s dual immersion programming. Bessonette provided the board with data and input to show that the dual immersion program has been a positive option for all learners. In the fall of 2018, the district opened the first dual immersion elementary school in the state.
Bessonette’s passion for supporting English language learners (ELLs) shines at Munger Mountain Elementary, in both second grade and his former role teaching kindergarten. He focuses on vocabulary development, a skill critical to his dual immersion students’ academic success. During a “maker’s market,” Bessonette’s second-graders created a service, then explain why they chose it and who would be interested in it. The business unit introduced concepts like marketing, advertising, and supply and demand, in addition to helping them develop the language needed to describe their work. Bessonette led a collaborative effort with the University of Wyoming to pilot a new vocabulary initiative across the district’s second-grade dual-immersion classes, bringing together a cohort of educators across two buildings. His students are thriving: On state assessments, they showed 20% growth from winter to spring. When he taught kindergarten, 85% of his students were reading on grade level by the end of the year.
Known for his contagious positive attitude, Bessonette mentors teaching partners, leads professional development, participates in a professional learning community with other second-grade dual immersion educators, and helps build units for language and math at the district level. He and another teacher participated in a panel discussion on improving students’ vocabulary with a professor from a local university. He has presented at a state ELL conference in Jackson Hole and led sessions for 400 teachers at a district conference. Bessonette understands the challenges of his immigrant students’ families and advocates for them relentlessly, tutoring, attending soccer games and concerts, learning Spanish to improve his ability to communicate, and connecting families with community resources. In dual immersion, students learn leadership skills, grit, perseverance and the importance of supporting each other alongside academics. Bessonette works hard to embed sociocultural competence in every lesson.
Bessonette earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from Graceland University in 1998 and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wyoming in 2011.
"Find what makes you the happiest in your life, and go and do that. I love teaching, because I love working with you all. If you can..." (read more)
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