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Speech therapist Abrego aids students in two languages

Iris Abrego serves a dual purpose of introducing new themes into the classroom and reinforcing what already has been taught.

In her role as speech therapist for pre-kindergarten students, Ms. Abrego's ability to speak English and Spanish comes in handy to a diverse group of students who are taught to respond with words and interaction.

The curriculum used by Varnett is designed to meet the language needs of all students, not just those with speaking disorders.

“The goal is to provide language intervention to the kids,” she said in a recent interview.
She does that by conducting semantics lessons for the students and uses a theme every week to get her point across. She said she also knows when to switch gears and speak Spanish when Hispanic students are having a difficult time understanding the lessons in English.

As a result, the English-speaking students learn a little Spanish and the Spanish-speaking students pick up a little English.

The weekly themes vary. During a recent session, Ms. Abrego focused on a Western theme, in which the students studied a map of Texas and simulated the art of roping horses. Other academically-based lessons include the study of the solar systems, life cycle of a plant, community helpers and themes on the seasons.

Ms. Abrego, an employee of The Speech Emporium that contracts with Varnett, sees about 300 students a week as she teaches at all three campuses. This is her fourth year at Varnett and she enjoys the experience. “There’s so much going on,” she said. “I enjoy working with the kids. It’s very interactive and the greater the energy, the more I connect with them.”

Part of her job is to help those students who have slight language delays. “This encourages them to blossom without having the need to refer them to special education,” she said.

Renelda Long, a Pre-K 4 teacher at the Northeast Campus, said she values what Ms. Abrego is doing. “She follows and expands the weekly lesson plan,” Ms. Long said. “She re-teaches what we teach but she does it in English and Spanish.”

Ms. Abrego graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor of science in the field of communication disorders and a minor in Spanish. She said she is excited to see 1st and 2nd graders who have gone through her class.

“Right now they will remember Ms. Abrego,” she said, "not necessarily because of me but because of the lessons.”

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