Pan American International High School

45-10 94TH STREET
QUEENS NY 11373 Map
Phone: (718) 271-3602
Website: Click here
Admissions: New immigrants; citywide
unzoned
new immigrants
Noteworthy
Principal: Minerva Zanca
Neighborhood: Astoria/ LI City
District: 24
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: JUANA ADAMES

What's special:

Spanish speakers learn English and prepare for college.

The downside:

No team sports.

The InsideStats

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Our review

Students at Pan American International High School all speak Spanish and have been in the United States for less than four years. They come from Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Columbia and other countries. The principal, the secretaries and the counselors speak Spanish, but most of the teachers speak only English. The goal is to help students learn English, finish high school and prepare for college. Pan American is part of a successful network of high schools designed for new immigrants.

New arrivals take classes with students who have been in the United States a while. Ninth and 10th graders take class together, as so do 11th and 12th graders, so students can help each other. In an art class we visited, an older boy helped a younger boy talk about a painting by Pablo Picasso. The first boy said a word in English and the other boy repeated the word. Students were focused and attentive in the classes we visited. Older students do not usually bully new students because so many of them know what it is like to come to a new country. Teachers give all instruction in English and students must present samples of their work in English twice a year.

By the time they are seniors, students can speak and write in English. Expert students can take difficult classes like physics. Angie, an 11th grader from Ecuador, says she was “afraid to speak English” until 10th grade. Now she is on the student government, and can do her schoolwork in English. She likes that the school helps her read and write better in Spanish, too. She wants to be a nurse.

Is the school too Spanish? "This is the question we are examining," says Principal Marcella Barros openly. Some parents wish their children could take history or science classes in Spanish so they don't fall behind. Other parents wish students would speak English all the time, even with their friends. The day of our visit, one couple took their son out of school because they felt his progress in English was too slow. But the principal says the mix of English in the classroom and Spanish with friends is a good one. She says it’s important for children to learn English in classes right away. At the same time, she thinks it helps to be able to work out problems with friends in Spanish.

Special education: A reading and writing teacher provides extra help for children who need it in small groups or by going into classrooms. The school has money for special education but did not have services in place at the time of our visit.

There is a green asphalt play area but no field. The school does not have official sports teams. (Lydie O. Raschka, October 2010)

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