World Language department celebrates language education

Nathan Hawkins, Managing & Sports Editor

It’s common at Bellevue West for clubs and organizations in the school to promote themselves. Often times, that is done through a celebration week. For the past six years, the World Language department hasn’t had a week. Until this year.

It was months in the making to put together a week, and years in discussion. This year, new department chairs, German teacher Amanda Messerschmitt and Latin teacher Leslie Hooper, decided to finally press go on the week.

“We started talking about doing it a couple of years ago,” Hooper said. “Just a ‘oh we should do it, maybe not this year’. And then this year Messerschmitt and I are the new department chairs, and we really made a push for it this year.”

They had their week from April 8 to 12, and in February the planning got more cohesive. That’s when they began delegating the tasks to the different teachers, deciding what activities they were going to have, and getting everything together behind the scenes.

When the week approached, they wanted a way to promote it. They decided there was no better way to do that than a fun, interactive way that dealt with all of the respective world languages as well. They did this through signs on teachers’ doors that displayed their names in all of the languages taught at West.

“We thought it would be a cool way to highlight the languages that we have and to get awareness,” Hooper said. “It was just kind of fun because I know a lot of teachers don’t get to talk to world language very much. We wanted to kind of open and remind them, because some of them took language in high school and just haven’t seen it in a while.”

When the week came, festivities were of no shortage. The department had something special planned on each day, such as a poster contest on Monday, a visit from linguists from Offutt Air Force Base on Wednesday, and a cultural food day on Thursday.

A student who helped with the food day on Thursday was French III student junior Izzy Beckner. She got involved because of the persistence around the World Language department.

“In my French class my teacher was really promoting it,” Beckner said. “She really wanted us to all be a part of it.”

Beckner helped make crepes, one of multiple cultural foods that was served on Thursday. The crepes represented France, while they also had quesadillas from the Latino culture, spaghetti ice from the German culture, and fried cheese balls from the Ancient Romans.

“My favorite part would definitely be the food part,” Beckner said. “Getting to try all the different things that the other students made and also getting to make the crepe.”

The week has been a hectic one for the teachers, with Hooper calling it “organized chaos.” But above all, they believe the foremost goal is being accomplished for the students who have been partaking in the festivities: they’re having fun.

“The important part is that we think the kids are enjoying themselves,” Hooper said. “So we’ve stepped back from that and have looked at how the kids perceive it. We’re hoping that the kids at least think it’s fun, to us it’s seemed chaotic but we tried to make it work.”

Besides fun, the week was a chance to boost the positive aspects of the World Language department. With an increase in science, technology, engineering, and math classes, known as STEM classes, Hooper says it’s a sign “that a lot of our enrollment could potentially be threatened.” Hooper thinks that the importance of a World Language is overlooked by many Americans in general.

“In most other countries, even people who work at McDonald’s or Starbucks usually know at least two or three other languages in addition to English; English, French, Italian, Spanish. You go abroad and everyone else knows at least two languages. Here in the U.S., it’s more ‘I remember how to ask ¿Dónde está el baño? and that’s all the Spanish I know,” and that’s seen as a point of pride and that’s embarrassing. I think by bringing awareness of World Language and showing that mastery of a language is actually a cool thing to do and more people should do it.”