District 16’s Spanish Immersion coordinator to lead state organization

Richie Kucinski, Spanish Immersion Program coordinator in Spring Lake Park District 16, has been nominated to serve as the senior chair-elect of the Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Network.

Richie Kucinski, Spanish Immersion program coordinator in Spring Lake Park District 16, will lead the Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Network.Photo submitted

Richie Kucinski, Spanish Immersion program coordinator in Spring Lake Park District 16, will lead the Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Network.Photo submitted

“I was honored, shocked when they first told me,” Kucinski said about presiding over the organization.

Minnesota Advocates for Immersion Network (MAIN), an advocacy group including educators from 64 language immersion programs throughout the state, provides ongoing structure and collaboration among language immersion representatives statewide.

The organization also provides experts from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA). CARLA is one of 15 language resources centers nationwide.

Kucinski, a resident of Blaine, assumes office July 1, and will serve for two years. He is currently a board member of MAIN and has served since 2010. The volunteer board meets six times a year.

As senior chairman of MAIN, he plans to bring more visibility to state immersion programs.

Among his plans are to invite legislators into classrooms to experience the successes of the programs, to forge partnerships with businesses that might need bilingual employees in the future and to seek the support of Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius.

Kucinski, who joined Spring Lake Park District 16 in 2010, was raised in Esko, outside of Duluth. He graduated from Esko High School and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a K-8 Spanish speciality from Bethel University in St. Paul. He holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota in curriculum and instruction with a focus on second languages and cultures.

Also, he holds a certificate of immersion education from the University of Minnesota and an educational specialist certificate in administration and K-12 administrative license from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul.

Currently, he is working on a doctoral degree in education administration leadership and policy at Bethel University.

Kucinski hails from a family of educators. His mother was a high school Spanish teacher, his wife, Erin, teaches kindergarten in the Anoka-Hennepin School District and his sister is a fourth-grade bilingual teacher.

Kucinski’s first job took him to Duluth where he taught Spanish to K-8 students as a long-term substitute at a private school. He later worked at Lakes International Language Academy in Forest Lake, where he taught kindergarten and fourth grade in the school’s Spanish Immersion program for seven years. He also served on the board of directors there.

In 2010, he took a position as a first-grade teacher in Spring Lake Park’s Spanish Immersion program. Last year, he taught kindergarten for a half-day in the morning and served as curriculum lead in the afternoon.

This school year, Kucinski was named District 16’s Spanish Immersion program coordinator. He also serves as dean of students at the K-5 Westwood Intermediate School complex, where the immersion program is housed.

Kucinski also serves as an adjunct instructor at Bethel University.

Away from school, Kucinski enjoys biking, Roller Blading, running and spending time at the family cabin in Melrose, with Erin, and their two daughters, ages three and 10 months.

For Kucinski, the best part of working in Spring Lake Park’s Spanish Immersion program is the “phenomenal” teachers, students and families.

“Everyone has their own unique flavor they bring,” he said.

“I’m excited to be a part of Spring Lake Park’s Spanish Immersion program. They have a lot of good things going on.”

Nationally, Minnesota is a leader in immersion education, according to Kucinski. The 64 programs, offering seven languages, touch the lives of 13,000 immersion students statewide.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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