Teaching students one culture at a time at Geo International High School

Teaching students one culture at a time. South Central Kentucky has become home to people from all around the globe and Warren County Public Schools have embraced the increase in diversity.

Warren County Public Schools found a way to teach students, while also celebrating their diversity. School officials even call it ‘Warren County’s best kept secret’.

59 languages,170 students, all under one roof…Welcome to the Geo International High School!

“Many of our EL students weren’t having their needs met to the full potential, so this was an idea that they had. We modeled after New York and other states that had high EL populations and we felt that we could do the same thing here in Bowling Green.” says Will Spalding, the head teacher at GIHS.

Three years ago, the Geo International High School opened its doors to a multilingual community of students.

“I would say in the 90’s we had under 15 languages in the district, now we have 59. A lot of languages, a lot of different cultures, a lot of wonderful students and where we are sitting, the Geo International High School is just a great place to be able to experience all these cultures and languages.” says Skip Cleavinger, the Director of English Learner Programs for Warren County Public Schools. 

Hamze Dahir is from Ethiopia and now calls Bowling Green his home. He says attending Geo International High School is a decision he will never regret.

“I wasn’t sure what the school was going to be like, so I was nervous to make the decision to go up there, but then at the end I decided to go and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made in my life because Geo International High School gave me the opportunities. They gave me a lot of opportunity and I love to interact with different cultures and here we have strong international relations.” says Dahir. 

But the students aren’t the only ones learning something new at this school. The head teacher, Will Spalding, says he has learned valuable skills from the students as well.

“I had to learn how to allow them to use their native language as well. That was kind of a light bulb moment where it’s not just ‘you’re going to speak English, you have to use your native language to help each other to understand the content as well’ so that way we can focus on language and on the content to kind of bring the two together to help our students learn best.” says Spalding. 

For many students like Kaw Gay, who is from Thailand, Geo International High School is more than just a place to learn, its place full of hope and love.

“It feels much like home, because when I was in Central I feel like I was left out and then when I came here I feel like I am with everybody kind of like a family.” says Gay. 

“Our kids are great. To see their strong work ethic, but to also see where they have come from and the opportunities that they now have here at GHIS and in the United States. They are really living the American Dream.” adds Spalding.

The Geo International High School is the only school of its kind in Kentucky. 20-percent of Warren County Public School’s 16-thousand students have been or currently are in English Learner classes.