I would like to say thank you to so many people and want them all to know that is gives me great pleasure to know that Missoula has a language immersion school, Missoula International School. The many people who have contributed to MIS deserve gratitude, but none more than Julie Lennox, the long-time director of the school.
Twenty years ago this summer, I founded MIS based on the model of Washington International School, of which I was a founding student and my mother a long-time employee. MIS opened in July 1995 with 24 children. I moved into the upstairs apartment of my house on Fifth Street in order to turn the main house into a school. The furnishings and many of the materials came from Shining Mountain School that had existed in Missoula for numerous years but closed in December, 1994.
We started with half a day in Spanish or half a day in French or both. Ceccy Arcia taught Spanish and Patrick Andre taught French with the help of Diane Wyder. Our board was made up of Barbara Bush, Brenda Desmond, Pam Braun, Liz Colantuono, Julie Lennox and myself. Our curriculum gave children the opportunity to learn a second language and be exposed to cultural diversity.
Back then, convincing Montanans of the merits of learning Spanish and French as a young child was challenging and the school did not grow quickly enough to stop my move to Golden, British Columbia, where French immersion education was available in the public schools as I hope it will be one day in the U.S. Leaving was much easier knowing that MIS would thrive thanks to everyone who believed in something that they had not known before and who saw the wonder of bilingualism in their children.