Children wheeling small suitcases, parents with tempting arrays of holiday sweets and bustling school staff are coming in and out of the administration office at the Sunset Elementary School. This early morning routine, heightened by the winter holiday, is played out in schools across the country. But this is no ordinary school. Sunset Elementary is an International Studies Magnet School, a member of Miami-Dade County’s Public School system.
“The Miami-Dade School system remains proactive. They absolutely support the implementation of foreign language programs that foster cultural studies and prepare students for global, real-world experiences,” said Dr. Marlene Leyte-Vidal, Principal of the school.
The mission of Sunset Elementary is to provide students with a “comprehensive international education through language acquisition and innovative programs, facilitated by a highly qualified staff that will enable them to become world leaders.” Here, students in grades 1 through 5 are offered the ability to study in both English and an elective language simultaneously. Spanish, French or German language proficiency skills are mastered and other topics, such as mathematics, history, etc., are taught in the elective language as well as English. Students work with the same curricula as that of their counterparts in the country of their elective language and the programs are fully certified by the respective foreign governments.
The International Studies program is available to students in grades 1 through 12 in the County’s system and many of Florida’s students have earned the opportunity to attend college in France, Germany and Spain. Students from all over Miami-Dade County are eligible to attend Sunset Elementary via an application process that tests an applicant’s readiness for the IS program. Parents should note that the application period is from October to the 15th of January.
Opened in 1986, Sunset Elementary has earned plenty of bragging rights for the quality of the education they provide: a 2012 National Winner of the MSA’s (Magnet Schools of America) Elementary School of Excellence Award; one of four finalists for this year’s Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award (the highest ranking award given to only one magnet school nationwide) from MSA; Five Star School Award from the Florida Department of Education, the Goldman Sachs Foundation Prizes for Excellence in International Education; and the 2012 top award winner of the Fairchild Challenge (Fairchild Tropical Gardens), among others.
Parent participation is one key to the school’s continued success with its students. Five groups are involved in helping to create an ideal educational environment: the Sunset Elementary PTA, the PTA, the French International Parent Association, the German International Parent Association, and the Spanish International Parent Association.
Said Dr. Leyte-Vidal, “All the pieces are here to establish success: great teachers with advanced degrees, our international certification, the County’s commitment to the program, participation from the parents and enthusiastic students.”
There is one more accomplishment worth mentioning. Sunset’s lead teacher, Tere Pujol-Burns was recently selected from a pool of magnet school teachers from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama as the Region IV MSA 2013 Teacher-of-the-Year. She is a candidate for the national honor to be announced in May 2013.
The Sunset Elementary school is located at 5120 SW 72nd Street, Miami, 33143. For more information, go to sunset.dadeschools.net or call 305-661-8527.