LAYTON -- A unique bilingual curriculum at a local charter school has gained international attention.
The Ministry of Education of Spain announced Thursday that North Davis Preparatory Academy has been chosen as the state's first International Spanish Academy.
NDPA is one of 10 schools in the U.S. and Canada to earn the designation this year, said Principal Deborrah Gomberg.
The designation should translate into more bilingual and cultural experiences for students and faculty, she said.
As an ISA, the school will have the opportunity to develop student exchange programs and educational trips to Spain, Gomberg said.
In addition, she said, teachers will receive annual training to improve strategies in bilingual instruction.
Fernando Martin, an educational adviser for the Spanish embassy in Washington, D.C., presented a diploma to school officials Thursday during a special assembly for the K-9 school.
He said the school's new relationship with Spain as an ISA is like a marriage with the Spanish government, then explained some of its standards for bilingual education.
"I think it's a very big deal," Martin said of the honor.
Spain's Ministry of Education developed the ISA project in conjunction with educators in both Canada and the U.S., with the aim of students graduating with a degree in two languages and a broader understanding of other people and cultures.
Martin said learning another language is a key advantage for students, because it teaches them to think in a different pattern.
He also said research shows learning another language develops other parts of the brain, which reduces the possibility of Alzheimer's disease.
Even before earning the designation, the charter school offered a unique approach to bilingual learning.
The faculty includes 13 teachers from Spain, a number school officials say is more than any other public school in the U.S.
Gomberg said the academy's classes are designed for primary language development and second language acquisition, creating a cross-cultural understanding for each student.
Monte Poll, who is the NDPA board chairman, said the new designation ties into the school's mission to enjoy high biliterate proficiency.
"It really sets us apart from any other dual-language school in the state," he said of the honor.
North Davis Preparatory Academy, which opened in 2004, has more than 1,000 students.
Two of those students are the children of Necia Wiggins, who does not claim to be bilingual but said she can already see the impact of the school's curriculum on her fifth-grade daughter and her son, who is a kindergartner.
"We love it here," Wiggins said of the school.
Wiggins said her son often uses Spanish words to describe or refer to things. She said an added benefit to her son's education is that he has been exposed to another culture, as his teacher is from Spain.
Mayor Steve Curtis attended the ceremony and attempted to address the student body in Spanish. He translated and explained later -- in English -- one of the advantages of gaining a bilingual education is that students will be able to properly speak and understand another language.