Language is the Key: State High’s World Language Department


Paige Miller, State High freshman, works on a peer review project for her Spanish class. Written projects and essays are often used in world languages to promote comfortability and familiarity with students’ languages. “In Spanish, we get to learn about another culture while having a great time with our teacher, Señor Gallo,” Miller said.

Clarissa Theiss, Staff Writer

One of the most well developed and successful programs at State College Area High School is the engaging language department. With six languages offered, (Spanish, French, German, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, and Arabic), students have no shortage of options as to the culture and language they wish to immerse themselves in. As with any diverse program, there is a wide variety of tactics and techniques used to teach languages.

Take Spanish 2, for instance, a class taught by 4 different teachers at State High. In Señor Gallo’s classroom, who also teaches Spanish 1, the class period tends to be loose and students are free to move about as they wish while completing worksheets to practice vocabulary and new information. “I try to make language communicative and useful while engaging the students,” Gallo said. In Senora Webber’s class, which is currently being taught by the Penn State Teaching Intern, Senorita Young, the period leans more on review of homework and emphasis on verbal review and pronunciation. Class time is extremely structured, and conversation unrelated to the material being taught is almost nonexistent.

Despite the differences in teaching styles, there are many similarities between the two classes as well. Both groups of students are expected to answer and ask questions in Spanish, with pronunciation correction from the teachers. The Spanish 2 classes rely heavily on participation points as motivation for students to get involved, each teacher developing their own system of rewarding and deducting points.

Another interesting quality shared across many world language classrooms? Students choose a new, culturally-appropriate name. This innovative tactic is used to switch students into a new mindset. “When you guys come into class, you’re thinking in a different way. You have a new identity, and it forces you to change your way of thought, and stay in your target language,” Señor Gallo said.

Overall, the differences in teaching styles is a factor that makes learning languages at State High so unique. “When we collaborate, we’re able to create activities that are more meaningful because of all the different inputs we have,” Mme Showers, French teacher and World Language Coordinator said. “We have amazing teachers that are passionate and very well seasoned, and we have some native speakers as well.” However, the passion and knowledge of the teachers isn’t always enough to get reluctant learners into their language. “We’ve had to find other ways to reach students in ways that are meaningful to get them excited and captivated about the language that they’re learning. We’re focused on helping students do more with their language,” Showers said. All of these diverse facts about the department have helped to create an intriguing program for students who are interested in languages to go through.

For those who are interested in furthering their language studies, there are a number of opportunities, including language clubs, an immersive study abroad program, and enrollment in AP and IB world language classes. The expansive and beloved State High World Language Department is “dedicated to helping students learn more about themselves and others through the study of languages and other cultures.”