Well, I’m feeling good about myself tonight. Not a very well attended back to school night but four kids came, the ones tucked away in a sea of heritage speakers, and each told me they love my class, it’s their favorite one and that they feel like they’re learning whereas in previous other traditional Spanish classes they haven’t been able to.
I got a response from Jack and would like to share it here:
I have to say I feel honoured to be talking to you again. Before I started my short but meaningful journey at AES, I considered myself quite shy and would never have been seen as somebody that stands out! You really brought out my creativity and ability to shine and for that I thank you.
As you mentioned, school isn’t really the place for ‘people like me’ and I completely agree with you. Since I left New Delhi and came back to England I’ve had the thirst to perform in front of people, and again, I don’t think I’d feel that way if it weren’t for how brilliantly you got us going in front of that class!
This is my response to Jack:
Well Jack you inspired me as well. During my whole career I noticed how (mostly) boys with a sense of humor, super bright kids like you who had spirit, suffered in schools. For example, that science teacher who shamed you that day in early spring by sending you to the office. How did that help? When I think of you down there waiting to go into that AP’s office, it still pisses me off.
So imagine how proud I was of you when you were the force behind one of the great stories I remember, which as I remember happened after the science class incident. Your leadership in that class of sixth graders played a part in finally providing me with the breakthrough I had been looking for for almost four decades to understand the craft of language teaching in the best way possible.
Today I got an email from one of my students in that sixth grade class in New Delhi whose energy helped lead to the Invisibles concept discussed here so frequently over recent years:
Hello Mr. Slavic!
It’s in my best hopes that you do remember me and this isn’t too much of a surprise, and if my email doesn’t show who I am…it’s Jack from 6th grade at the American Embassy School in New Delhi from 2015!
I’ve been meaning to contact you for a while just to see how things are going, and today I was asked who my favorite teacher of all time was, and I couldn’t help but think of the insane stories of Vampspooder we used to come up with as a class.
One of my Spanish 1 students from last year decided to take French 2 this year (he took French in middle school and now he’s in 10th grade)….The lesson today went pretty well.
I asked my former and now current student on the way out if he felt like he was OK in this class. I’m nervous for him because everyone else at least had French 1 last year and he didn’t. He told me, “I feel better in this class. I understand what’s going on in this class.”
Made my day.
This is actually profound. It speaks to the level of NON comprehension that the other teachers are putting on their students in that school. What that kid says might be overlooked by a lot of people. It reveals so much about not just Jennifer’s instruction but the method we are touting. When kids say things like that, who needs to test. I have always thought that testing is so unnecessary when with this approach we can just look them in the eye or ask them as Jennifer did how things feel to them in class. The research nerds would disagree, but my response to them would be to go take a long walk on a short plank.
Recent State Teachers of the Year:
Sarah Breckley – Wisconsin Teacher of the Year 2017
Paul Kirschling – Colorado WL Teacher of the Year 2017
Sabrina Janczak – Colorado WL Teacher of the Year 2016
Grant Boulanger – Minnesota WL Teacher of the Year 2015
Annick Chen – Colorado WL Teacher of the Year 2015
Skip Crosby – Maine WL Teacher of the Year 2015
Darcy Pippins – Oklahoma WL Teacher of the Year 2015
Carrie Toth – Illinois WL Teacher of the Year 2015
Michele Whaley – Alaska WL Teacher of the Year 2014
Leslie Davison – Colorado WL Teacher of the Year 2014
Barb Cartford – Minnesota WL Teacher of the Year 2009
Jeremy Jordan – Missouri WL Teacher of the Year 2016
Kimberly Smith-Huegerich – Iowa WL Teacher of the Year 2017 (Secondary)
Meg Fandel – Iowa WL Teacher of the Year 2017 (ELEM-MS)
Christine M McCormick – Iowa WL Teacher of the Year 2016 (Secondary)
ACTFL Regional Awards (one of five regional finalists for ACTFL National Teacher of the Year):
Darcy Pippins – ACTFL Southwest Conference Teacher of the Year 2016
Grant Boulanger – ACTFL Central States Conference Teacher of the Year 2016
Dale Crum – ACTFL Southwest Conference Teacher of the Year 2009
Robert Patrick – ACTFL Southern Conference Teacher of the Year 2014
Carrie Toth – ACTFL Central States Conference Teacher of the Year 2015
Michele Whaley – ACTFL Pacific Northwest Conference Teacher of the Year 2015
Jenny KD – New York Leadership Initiative for Language Learning (LILL-ACTFL) 2017
Meredith White – Georgia Leadership Initiative for Language Learning (LILL-ACTFL) 2017
Christine M McCormick Iowa Secondary WLTOY 2016John Bracey – Classical Association of Massachusetts Excellence in Teaching Award (Massachusetts Latin Teacher of the Year) 2016
Skip Crosby – Northeast Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Teacher of the Year Finalist 2015; District Teacher of the Year Androscoggin (ME) 2014
Joseph Dziedzic – Jared Polis (U.S. Congressman – CO) Foundation Teacher Recognition Award 2011
Cathy Elliot – Gotong Royong Award by the Indonesian Teachers Association of South Australia 2015
Carol Gaab – Language Teacher of the San Francisco Giants (three World Series rings)
Tina Hargadan – President, Oregon Conference on Foreign Language Teaching 2016
Steven Johnson – Northwestern High School Teacher of the Year 2012
Diana Noonan – President, Colorado Conference on Foreign Language Teaching 2015; Leadership Lamp, Denver Public Schools
Mary Overton – Colorado (CCFLT) Lynn Sandstedt Scholarship for study in Spain 2016
Ian Perry – Confucius Institute of Queensland (Australia) Excellence in Teaching Award 2015
Don Read – District Teacher of the Year Moraga (CA) 2015
Jennifer Wetzig – Colorado (CCFLT) Excellence in Teaching Award 2016
Mark Webster – Teacher of the Year, 2004-Spring Lake (MI) High School.
Good morning Ben! See attached. One example of several…
What makes world language education in Ga so great? Our teachers and students of course! We caught up with one of Ga.’s World Language Educators of the Month in Savannah this Friday. Check out the Webinar:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8064824720083649026?assets=true … @SCCPSS @georgiadeptofed @JNCLInfo
So,… I went to work today even though I have been sick since the 23rd and feel and look awful because today I get to teach all day. As my day unfolded, half way through my vice principal comes in to do an observation. Just my luck feeling really bad and dragging a** then I get observed.
Ten minutes later my administrator comes in and says we have some important visitors. It turns out an amazing colleague who has started CI thanks to y’all’s workshop where I reconnected with her in Atlanta nominated me for the State of GA Foreign Language Teacher of the Month.
I am super honored and surprised, but I wouldn’t be anything without the great support of this amazing PLC, Ben all your help these past 6 years and Tina’s super hands on and amazing tips and videos.
Thank you thank you thank you,
P.S.- Yes we were absolutely doing a OWI/Invisible about a nude marshmallow who is dressed when he is a s’mores who is looking for a girlfriend who is a chocolate square and is Jessica because she is like Jessica Rabbit.
During the summer, I was emailed by a supportive parent. They attached a picture I took with my superstar student in the email and I realized “Wouldn’t it be cool if I ask for a testimonial?” I asked and below is the reply from my student.
Mr. Ordiano –
This is what K wrote to support your teaching:Mr. Ordiano –
Last year, I would ask my friends what they had for homework and they would always say Spanish: grammar work, vocabulary words, tenses, etc. . Mr. Ordiano never gave us work like that; he only required our attention and effort in class, and our grades were based upon that. I asked some of my classmates last year what they thought about French, and they said they didn’t learn a lot. Some of the students that I asked had not always paid attention in French the past year, and ironically complained that they did not learn French. On the other hand, some students in my class had learned quite a lot of French like I did, and I realized these were the kids that were almost always putting in the effort and time needed to acquire French. I noticed these kinds of results in all of my classmates, and it leads me to believe that Mr. Ordiano’s teaching is not at fault, it is the student’s attentiveness and effort that produces results. I have learned an incredible amount of French in the past two years, and have surprised many fluent French speakers that are friends of ours with my ability to hold a conversation. Mr. Ordiano has also had us look at the research behind his teaching methods, and it all makes sense. Mr. Ordiano’s teaching methods work very well.
J (K’s Mother)
Dear Mr. Slavic,
This year we did not do much of TPRS style learning, which I thought was a bit sad. I hope that your current classes are cooperating with your teaching style; I have found that it is the most helpful way of learning that I have encountered.
Greetings from New Delhi,
I did one of those class evaluations and I got some pretty good data. It basically says that 90% of students love storytelling and like 5% would rather do book work. I think that’s about what you guys teach. I also learned that I can learn to speak a little slower and make myself more comprehensible. I love how some kids comment to get rid of the textbook altogether.
Remember, I have to teach 8 chapters in that textbook, so there are activities to learn vocabulary lists and garbage like that. Not sure if you find this interesting, but nobody in my dept will read it or respond so I wanted someone else to see it.
Thanks for all you do. Looking forward to seeing you in Chicago.
Not sure if you saw my recent post on the Latin facebook group, but you have a lot to do with this. Thanks again.
I just want to share some data, in order to encourage those of you out there who are teetering on the edge. Perhaps you have gone CI to some degree or other, and you have had a crisis of confidence. Perhaps you are getting pushback from those in your school community who want Latin to be a certain way–the way it’s always been. Perhaps you are thinking that you have made a big mistake, or are uncertain whether you will have a Latin program, or even a job next year. Perhaps you are internally conflicted, and are frightened that CI, TPRS, Krashen, etc, is really all just a fad, and that kids really aren’t learning anything after all.
I want to let you know that I have been there too, and I still feel all that doubt on some days. But I feel it far less often. Two years ago, I was the new Latin teacher, doing something new, and a lot of people were “concerned.” That was the hardest year of my teaching career, and I had 10 years under my belt before that. Students dropped, parents complained, my confidence was undermined daily, by others and by my own self-doubt.
For those of you who are where I was, I want you to know that you are making radical and positive changes, even when you feel like you are not. If you are prioritizing communication with your students, and working to support all your students’ success, you are making a huge difference.
Next year will by my 4th year at my new job. Of the 63 students I began with, 42 have signed up for Latin 4. That’s almost a 70% retention rate over 4 years. Unheard of in almost any modern language. For 2 years, my enrollment in Latin 1 hovered around 40-50, not big enough to justify 2 sections of Latin 1. For 2 years, as traditional Latin students and their families opted out, I had to turn away 10-15 students every year, and faced a shrinking program.
Next year, however, I will have 2 sections, as 55 students signed up. This is thanks to word of mouth, students and parents spreading the word that all kinds of kids can do well and enjoy Latin. I have also got to know admins and counselors, who now know that Latin is a class they can recommend. Now I see growth in my program’s future.
One last piece of data: Today my principal shared with me an anonymous message meant for the Friday positive shout outs. It did not make the announcements, by my principal wanted me to see the message. Here it is:
“Mr. Piazza is not only passionate about teaching Latin, he is also one of the most caring individuals I have ever met. He makes every single one of his students feel welcome and appreciated. And his classroom is always a safe-haven admidst all the chaos of high school. When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I might say a writer or engineer but what I’m actually thinking in my head is “I want to be the type of person that inspires others, the type of person Mr.Piazza has been to me.”
I could not have written a fake student message more to the point than this. I was speechless. Not only am I full of joy at having had this effect, but it is powerful to realize that a student can articulate so clearly something that I never have put into words for them, but has been my intention every day.
This data, the numbers and the message, and countless other effects that I observe in my daily routine–all this shows me that I am making a difference.
Know that you are having a positive influence on kids’ lives. This work is transformative, for us as well as for students. Don’t give up. There will be a dip in the numbers, you will feel like maybe you made a mistake. People will question you. But if you step back and think about it, you will also realize that there is no going back.
It kind of says it all.
I was thrilled to find out that two intermediate school Spanish teachers, Lindsey Casper-El Cerrito and Joanne Meza-Ramirez, were selected, this year, as their schools’ teachers of the year.
Besides being amazing teachers, they both just happen to be CI teachers too.
It was taken about four years ago at Lincoln HS on Denver’s west side where there are a lot of Latino schools. My right hand had just touched his heart, in a kidding kind of way. That student, being fluent in Spanish as they all were, could process French faster than just about any student I remember in my career.
I remember that Dr. Krashen was actually in the room that day, how nervous I was, but when the kids saw a visitor there, they turned up their good will and looked like a bunch of super stars! Where to find better people than these in the world? I weep at their current suffering.
Yup, that was the highlight of my career, multiplied by ten thousand more, on the low side. It wasn’t the time my students in a private school in South Carolina took the top ten scores in the state on the National French Exam that year. It wasn’t any of the Fulbrights. It wasn’t going to conferences. It was the time spent with those kids. Thank you, God, for making me be a teacher. Sorry about all the bitching.
Here’s Paul’s report from Utah and it will drop a few jaws:
I’ve been trolling the PLC with more rigor for the last few weeks since we have been back in school and I am so indebted to you and the PLC for all the ideas that I am taking and have taken from the group. This year I have 7 sections of high school Spanish 1, each class has an average of 38 students and the energy that it takes to work with CI is starting to take it toll. Yup, that’s about 300 students after I include my home room. I didn’t think that having the same course taught every hour without a break (I had to give up one of my prep periods) would be more difficult than having more courses to teach, but… I was just wondering if the PLC has any ideas on how to handle the lack of energy that I am feeling. I can’t seem to get the buy-in during class (mainly from myself) after doing the same brain breaks and structures for seven classes (each 75 minutes).
This is [Jeff], parent of seventh grader [Emily] who is in your Spanish class.
I am writing to tell you how much I appreciate your teaching methods.
Emily has learned what I consider an incredible amount of Spanish in the short time she has been in your class. She and I jabber in Spanish back-and-forth in the mornings when she’s getting ready for school. She is eager and excited about language learning, and I can only imagine where she’s going to be at the end of the year.
In an educational system where there seems to be more and more emphasis on testing and performance at a younger and younger age, it is incredibly refreshing to see your approach of no tests and no homework, just having fun and channeling the natural curiosity of young minds in the right direction. This is certainly a night and day difference from how I (tried to learn) learn Spanish in high school!
Thank you for your dedication to teaching and engaging young minds in a creative and inspiring way.
Wind at your back,
Thank you so very much for the kind words. I cannot tell you how much they mean to me. I am truly blown away (to continue the wind metaphor!) by the students’ progress so far!
Emily is a treasure in class and has an amazing attitude and is just a great asset to the class.
Thank you so much and Happy Holidays,
We just spent the last two days holding conferences with students. I prepare students to lead their conferences and I wanted to share with you one student’s reflection. His reflection and comments very much mirrored what I saw in all of my classes.
Preston is a Pacific Islander and a 17-year-old junior in my Spanish 1-2 class. He is failing every class (except Spanish), has multiple learning disabilities and is not on track to graduate. We ride the same bus to school in the morning so I would see him early in the morning, yet he was showing up 45 min. late to our first period class. Then, one day in class he volunteered to be an actor. His whole face lit up when he was in front of the class and he could not stop smiling. He was SO HAPPY! After that day in class, he was bought in and started coming earlier and earlier to class. When I would see him in the hallway he would ask me things like–Ms. Overvold what is the homework again? (There is no homework, he just wanted to connect and let me know that he cared about class).
On the conference reflection, I ask students to describe what we do in class, what is easy/fun and what is difficult or challenging. He said, “One day I got to be an actor that was super, duper fun. I like acting in Spanish class.”
“Spanish class is really fun we do cool activities an learn another language.”
Goals for quarter 2: “I want to come to class on time every day so I don’t miss anything.”
I took a picture of his comments and writing that I’ll pass along as well. When I read this I thought to myself, this is a 17 year old boy saying all of this. People think high schoolers can be so tough but it’s moments like these where I can see how much they are still like children. They want to play and feel loved and smart. Using non-targeted CI has completely leveled the playing field in my class. Students like Preston who have been made to feel dumb and excluded from school, see that they belong in our community. I am so so grateful to have found your work and this way of teaching!!
Here is your real end of year conference topic – a real victory:
…yesterday on my last day of school, kids whom I’d taught in the fall and also kids who “signed up for Spanish next year” whom I have not taught yet, were stopping by my room to say thank you / adios / I hope you get to come back next year. One girl (Spanish 1, fall semester) was so excited to share with her newbie friend “how awesome this class is.” Here is what she said: “The best part is that there is no pressure. I feel so much pressure in all my other classes, and then I come here and I can relax. And I learn so much Spanish that way because it’s chill and I’m not stressed and it just seeps in!” BTW…this is one of the top 5 students in the 9th grade class….
…a totally different student (kid with an IEP) clearly understands what I say to him in Spanish, just off the cuff banter about whether he went fishing, what he caught, weekend stuff, baseball questions (real questions bc I don’t know baseball but he does) etc. He does not usually respond in Spanish. He’s a dude and he likes to grunt or just nod, etc. But he’s IN the conversation and so I know he understands. So yes. We can do this without numbers and by honoring what they CAN do!…
Acquiring a language is not exactly easy and I’m guessing teaching a language isn’t either. Over the years of your teachings I have learned many things that can well equip me for the future, from history lessons to old folktales and more.
Your curriculum is one of the most demanding on campus, and not because of long nights studying and hard tests but because it requires every ounce of attention to mentally develop through the lessons. It is found with your teaching techniques, it creates an easy way to learn and makes the perception of learning a language change. It becomes less scary, less intimidating and overall less demanding. I have not yet nor think I will, be disappointed with your teachings or the process of acquiring a foreign language. Foreign Language is not necessarily my passion, and though learning it throughout school is great, I doubt future paths will encourage the pursuit of learning more. About a week ago it was teacher appreciation day and I wanted to pay my tribute towards a teacher that makes an impact on me every day. I chose to write to you because of the effect you have on my brother and how he has such passion and desire to learn this and various other languages. My brother and I have been almost inseparable since I was born, he’s been my best friend, my worst enemy, my everything in between and most of all my biggest role model. He just doesn’t realize it. My brother is sort of a version of a savant, someone who excels immensely in certain subjects. His main passions are music, language and history, in which he is extremely good at, but as for other subjects involving math or science he struggles in. Though through the years of your class his confidence has boosted and completely transformed him into the man he is, and one he is becoming every day. I am forever grateful for all the support you give him and all your guidance. You probably never knew this but if you have ever helped a kid more it is him with every period he shows up to. You see, he struggles throughout school and loses himself from time to time because he believes he is only ever what a report card grade says he is. And he loses that amazing spark he comes when he talks about your class or his dream of learning the language. I remember times that being there for him not only as a sister but as a friend meant handing him tissues late at night while he cries because he doesn’t think he is good enough for college, or having to be strong for the both of us because he doesn’t think he has a future, because a counselor told him he’d never make it and that summer school for math was becoming an annual tradition for him and a 2.0 was rather an IQ than GPA. He may not be the best in school but he is much more than a 4.0 GPA student. I wait for the day he realizes that statistics are just numbers on a paper and they do not restrict him from doing what he loves. Every day he talks about your class and I watch a light go on. A light that forgets about his GPA, his math grade, his summer school information letter, and he just focuses on how good he is at something and all the opportunities coming his way because of it. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for teaching your class and getting students involved, because for kids like my brother the one thing they are good at could be their future and that one teacher that tells them they are capable could change their life more than one could think.
Thank you for always being an inspiration and a glimpse of hope for everyone. Foreign Language may not be my passion but it is because of you that the passion can thrive and conquer the world of learning. My brother is thrilled to have had your class and I as well in order to meet someone my best friend can look up to and admire as a guide.
On our site we have videos of Sabrina teaching at Taft High School back in Chicago before she came to us in Denver and before she really even understood TPRS and was just getting into it. Those early videos showed a quality that is unique to Sabrina and which, along with a lot of hard work, has led to this honor.
On behalf of the entire PLC community, Sabrina, I would like to offer you the very heartiest of congratulations!