Chapel Hill High School gets award for Spanish program

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Chapel Hill High School says its Spanish program is muy importante — and that’s paying off.

The school was named school of the year Saturday by the North Carolina chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese for its Spanish program.

The school gained recognition through its involvement in association activities, which include the National Spanish Examinations and Spanish honor societies.

The school has worked with the group for more than 30 years.
Ken Stewart, head of the World Language Department, said the award highlighted the value of the program.

“It recognizes the school’s long term achievement and contribution to the AATSP,” he said.

Stewart is one of the school’s four Spanish teachers actively involved in the state’s chapter of the association.

Sue Stites, also a member of the AATSP and a Spanish teacher at Chapel Hill High, said the award reflects countywide support for foreign languages.

“I am really impressed with the world language programs throughout Orange County,” said Stites, who taught in Wake County before coming to Chapel Hill.

But Stewart said the push for a better language program comes down to the Spanish department’s staff.

“This department goes beyond the call of duty,” he said. “Languages are at the forefront of preparing kids for the global market.”

Stites said students who have had a foreign language education during high school are better prepared for endeavors after graduation.

“Students get to learn a language as well as the cultural aspects,” Stites said.

Emily Spinelli, executive director of the AATSP, said there are other important aspects to learning a second language, making it extremely important in today’s American society.

“The number of Hispanics are increasing and in order to participate in this society at home and abroad, students need to learn a second language,” she said.

Anne Tomalin, who teaches English as a second language courses at the school, said she doubted that Hispanic students would communicate with native English speakers in Spanish.

But Stewart said Spanish does add to students’ competitiveness.

Charles Moore, president of the North Carolina chapter of AATSP, said Chapel Hill High won the award because of the extra effort they put into helping students.

Stewart said these efforts are seen in the workmanship of the department’s teachers and their commitment to raising awareness for the importance of languages.

“Language teachers are usually here at the school late in the evening,” he said.

The award also affirms world languages are a core education component, Stewart said.

“It shows that we connect with other disciplines,” he said.

Contact City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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