Marquardt School District 15’s newest board member, Silvana McMillan, has served on the Board since 2013. McMillan first got involved with the District when her eldest son, Lucas (now ten), started kindergarten at Winnebago Elementary School.
McMillan, who was born in Mendoza, Argentina and moved to the United States over a decade ago, was raised speaking both her mother’s native language, Italian, and Argentina’s native language, Spanish. When McMillan started to meet other Winnebago parents whose children were learning English as a second language, she decided to talk with her son’s teacher, Elizabeth Pendergast, to see what she could do to support them.
Passionate about forming strong bonds between families and schools regardless of language and culture, McMillan approached Pendergast and Principal Jon Pokora about starting a Bilingual Book Club for families at Winnebago. The purpose of the club was not only to build a bridge between families and the school, but also to promote reading in both students’ second and native language. Research shows that children who are read to at home in their native language have better success learning a second language at school.
Over the course of the Bilingual Book Club’s first year in existence, 30 families read over 40 books, completed an art project, and planted a tree at Winnebago to mark the beginning of their quest to grow literacy at school and at home. Three years later, the roots of this initiative have spread and similar clubs have sprouted up at several other District 15 schools.
When she’s not doing work for the Board, volunteering at Winnebago, or caring for her children---Jade (age nine) and Justin (age six) also attend Winnebago--- McMillan, who went to law school and received a Certificate of Legislative Internship from the National University of Cuyo, writes articles on civic education. On top of her work with the Bilingual Book Club, McMillan has served on the Board’s Finance Committee, helped implement the Latino Literacy Program throughout the District, and volunteers with Parent University.
“The most rewarding part of being a member of the Marquardt District 15 Board of Education is being able to help with the real necessities of our community,” McMillan explains, “and continue to build strong relationships with families.”