Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Festivities!

Three of the high school language clubs met yesterday to celebrate the holidays! The French Club ate bûches de noël, madeleines, and played "Devine-Tête." The Spanish Club ate buñuelos and watched videos about Christmas in Spanish speaking countries. And the Mandarin Club had Chinese tea and snacks, and learned about traditional tea making. The Latin Club plans to hold its annual Saturnalia festivities after the holiday break.

Bonnes Vacances! ¡Buenas Vacaciones! Felix Feriarum! 新年好

French Club festivities!

French Club members played "Devine-Tête"

Spanish Club festivities!

Learning about Chinese Tea

Chinese snacks

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Italian Grant Awarded to the WL Department

In 2004, the Italian program was cut from Arlington High School. Since then, many parents and students have requested its reinstatement, particularly considering the large Italian population residing in Arlington. This year, a grant application was submitted to the Centro Attività Scolastiche Italiane (C.A.S.IT., Inc.), a  non-profit educational and professional organization that promotes the Italian language and culture in the public and private schools of New England. We were recently informed that the grant application was successful! The grant will fund the teaching of one section of Italian 1 at the high school in the 2013-2014 school year. This grant is renewable and can be expanded to offer an additional section of Italian.

Dr. Antonio Di Sanzo, a current part-time Spanish teacher at AHS, former World Language Department Chair in Reading, and professor of Italian at Harvard Extension School -- and a native speaker of Italian -- will teach the class next year.

We encourage all students to enroll in this course as an additional elective, but will give priority to freshman and sophomores.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Club Day @ AHS

Before students left for Thanksgiving break, they were able to participate in the popular Club Day at AHS. This is a chance for students to learn about the wide variety of interesting clubs they are able to join to enrich their education.

Of particular excitement this year were the new Language Clubs available to students! We now have a club for each of the four languages offered here at AHS: French, Latin, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Clubs are open to all students, whether they are enrolled in the language or not. Students engage in cultural activities, such as restaurant outings, holiday celebrations, and craft-making. These clubs are great ways to learn more about the cultures where these important languages are spoken in fun and relaxed ways. If you didn't sign up on Club Day, you are still welcome to join a language club at any time!

 Here are some photos of the booths language club leaders made to help promote their clubs:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chinese Club Members Learn About Sichuan Opera Masks

The new Mandarin Club at Arlington High School -- run by Mandarin teachers Xiaqing Rotstein and Oliver Xu -- had their first meeting last week. Club members learned about how masks were made for the traditional Sichuan Opera. Students then watched a movie about masks, set in Oliver Xu's hometown back in China.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bienvenue aux français et au Consul Général de Boston!

A group of 23 French students and two teachers arrived from France on November 6th for a two-week stay  here in Arlington as part of our bi-annual France Exchange program. The students were welcomed at Arlington High School by parents, teachers, administrators, and even the head of the French Consulate of Boston. Mr. Fabien Fieschi stopped by for our welcome breakfast and spoke to students about French in the region and his role as Consul General. The students then spent the day at AHS, getting their first taste of life in the United States.

AHS students will be traveling to France during April vacation, and will stay with the students they are currently hosting.

Thank you to all the parents who helped bring in food for this lovely welcome breakfast!

French exchange students and their hosts, along with teachers and the Consul General, Febien Fieschi (center).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MaFLA Fall Conference

Many of the World Language Department teachers attended the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association's Fall conference this past weekend, the most important professional development opportunity in our state. The highlights were many for the APS World Language team:

  • AHS Latin teacher, Rachel Kirtley, was awarded a New Teacher Commendation, one of only four teachers in the state.
  • AHS French teacher, Véronique Lahey, presented her first ever session at MaFLA, discussing the amazing Café Parisien that she developed for her French 4 classes.
  • New AHS Spanish teacher, Christina Toro, worked hard collecting signatures for a letter to DESE Commissioner Chester to support foreign language education in her role as MaFLA Advocacy Intern. She also presented two sessions, one on advocacy and another on her experiences during her summer exchange in Uruguay, funded through a state department grant.
  • World Language Director, Catherine Ritz, was nominated to the role of 2nd Vice President of MaFLA, after being a member of the Board of Directors for the past year. She also presented two sessions on technology, one of which focused on the use of iPods in the classroom, which were purchased through an Arlington Education Foundation grant last year.
  • All teachers had a chance to meet the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, French teacher Kathy Turner from Sharon High School!
Of course, professional development can only be considered valuable if it is directly connected to student learning. That's why we will be using our next department meeting time to discuss how to apply what we learned in a broad and collaborative way. For example, AHS Spanish teachers Emmy Robinson and Sami Eladhari attended a workshop by the nationally known Zachary Jones on authentic resources. Using a team-based approach, we plan to work in groups to cultivate authentic resources--such as music, news articles, commercials, art, and more--and develop communicative activities to be used in all levels.

I'm proud that the World Language department here at AHS is home not only to teachers who are serious about professional development, but who are also leaders and at the forefront of foreign language teaching. Bravo!

Latin Teacher, Rachel Kirtley, receiving the New Teacher Commendation from MaFLA Past President, Nancy Mangari.
Spanish teachers, Emmy Robinson and Sami Eladhari, spoke with Zachary Zones during a session on authentic resources.

Spanish teacher, Tara Kfoury, and French/Spanish teacher, Anne Zachary, looked for new resources in the exhibits hall.

French teacher, Véronique Lahey, presenting on the Café Parisien.

Spanish teacher, Christina Toro, and World Language Director, Catherine Ritz, spoke with Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, French teacher Kathy Turner of Sharon High School.

Spanish teacher, Christina Toro, and World Language Director, Catherine Ritz, with MaFLA Advocacy Liaison and Past President, Dr. Nicole Sherf of Salem State University.

Monday, October 29, 2012

French Club Crêpe Party!

The French Club of Arlington High School held what will surely become an annual celebration... a crêpe party! Club members met in a cooking room at the high school and learned how to make authentic French crêpes. Nutella, strawberries, jam, and more were on hand as filling. As we say in French... miam, miam!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Elementary Language Survey

Arlington Public Schools recently formed a task force to explore an elementary foreign language program. We are exploring different options and different languages, and would appreciate your input as parents as we develop a proposal. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey.

If you have any questions, please contact me at

Thank you for your participation!

Catherine Ritz
Director of World Languages

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Language Lab @ AHS!

Language students at AHS were surprised to see some new technology when they got back to school this year! Over the summer, 31 new laptops were purchased and set up in what is now the Language Resource & Technology Center in the World Language wing. New headsets were also purchased making the sound quality on the machines top notch. The old language lab was near the main entrance of the school--a bit of a hike for teachers and students--and the computers were run down and difficult to use.

Teachers have begun bringing their classes into the lab to do listening and speaking activities, internet research, and individualized practice activities. With the purchase of the new lab, the district also funded a subscription to an online language lab software,, which allows teachers to create interactive speaking and listening exercises and have one-to-one conversations with students who may need additional practice.

There are still some technical kinks being worked out, but overall, everyone is very happy to have a new technology space housed in our department!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Announcing New Language Clubs @ AHS

We are proud to announce that three new language clubs are being launched this year! Ed Foley has been faculty adviser to the Latin Club for the past three years, but this year we will finally have a language club for each of the languages we offer!

Christina Toro will lead the Spanish Club at AHS, and is busy planning club activities, which will include restaurant outings, film nights, fiestas, and more!

Catherine Ritz will lead the French Club at AHS, which recently had its first planning meeting. The year will kick off with a crêpe party where students will make their own crêpes in the cooking room. Student leaders are planning events for National French Week, outings to theaters and French restaurants, and a bake sale for the holidays. The club FaceBook page is available at

Oliver Xu and Xiaqing Rotstein will lead the Mandarin Club at AHS, which already held a celebration for the Moon Festival.

Since we finally have language clubs for all four languages, the faculty advisers are brainstorming some inter-club competitions! Hopefully this spring we'll have some good competitions planned to see which language will reign victorious!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Elementary Immersion Rally, 9/30 @ SpyPond

Led my Melissa Tintocalis and Amy Gear, a group of parent advocates will be meeting this Sunday 9/30 at SpyPond from 4:00-5:00 p.m. to rally support for a possible elementary language immersion class. If you would like to support this initiative, please attend!

Click here to see the evite.

Click here to see the FaceBook page. Please like!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

¡Bienvenidos a Christina Toro!

Arlington High School welcomes a new Spanish teacher this year: Chrisina Toro!

Christina Toro is a graduate of Walpole High School, Massachusetts. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University in International Affairs and Spanish and minors in Linguistics and Latin American Studies. While an undergraduate, she spent a semester in Seville, Spain and Dublin, Ireland. After graduating, she moved to Washington, DC to study International Relations at American University. In addition to pursuing her Master’s degree, she also had the opportunity to work at the Organization of American States and the Embassy of Mexico’s Cultural Institute.

In 2006, Christina returned to Massachusetts to become a Spanish teacher. She went to Salem State University and received her second Master’s in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language in 2010. In addition to teaching, she has presented workshops at the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association and attended the 2011 American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese national conference with the help of a scholarship. Most recently, she won a scholarship to participate in the 2012 US-Uruguay Teacher Exchange Program sponsored by the US State Department, American Council for International Education, and the Fulbright Commission in Uruguay. She hopes to maintain contact with Uruguay through pen-pal exchanges. In her free time, Christina cooks Colombian food for her husband, dances salsa when no one is looking, and dreams about her next vacation to the Spanish speaking world. 

¡Bienvenidos, Christina!  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Extended Day Spanish Program Offered at Brackett & Dallin

Extended Day Spanish Language Classes for Grades K-1 begin Sept. 24!
Arlington Community Education introduces after-school Spanish language immersion classes open to all kindergarten and 1st-grade students in Arlington. These fee-based programs meet two days per week, and run from the end of the school day through 6pm. For more information, please view the attached flier by clicking HERE. Registration ends September 19, and space is limited. 

Arlington Community Education is a self-supporting program of the Arlington Public Schools.

Friday, August 3, 2012

New Mandarin Teacher Arrives from China!

I am writing from Washington D.C., where I have come to greet our new Mandarin Chinese teacher and escort him to Arlington! As you know, Arlington Public Schools was the recipient for the second year in a row of the Teachers of Critical Languages Program (TCLP) grant, which funds teachers from China and Egypt to come the United States to expand the teaching of Chinese and Arabic in our country.

This year, over 140 schools from across the country applied for this competitive grant, and only 24 were selected. And -- even more amazingly -- over 700 teachers from China and Egypt applied to participate in the program, with only 24 making the cut! Needless to say, our new exchange teacher is sure to make a strong impact on our school and the lives of the students he teaches, just as Mr. Bo Yu did last year!

Our new teacher comes from the Szechuan province, where he has been teaching English at the high school level for over 10 years. Mr. Xu Qiang goes by the American name his first English teacher assigned him when he was 12 years old: Oliver. His wife and two-year-old son remain in China this year on his first-ever trip to the United States. In fact, he has only been out of China to visit Thailand and Vietnam.

We are extremely fortunate to have him in our community, and I am delighted to count such an excellent teacher among our faculty! Welcome, Oliver!

Friday, July 6, 2012

AP Scores Are In!

The College Board has just released the AP scores for this year, and we're very proud to share our students' excellent results!

Fifteen students took the exam, with a score breakdown as follows:
* nine students received a 5
* five students received a 4
* one student received a 3
The average score was a 4.533.

Five students took the exam, with a score breakdown as follows:
* four students received a 4
* one student received a 2
The average score was a 3.600.

Fourteen students took the exam, with a score breakdown as follows:
* one student received a 5
* two students received a 4
* six students received a 3
* four students received a 2
* one student received a 1
The average score was a 2.857.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Teacher Commendation Awarded to Rachel Kirtley

Ottoson Latin teacher, Rachel Kirtley, was recently awarded a New Teacher Commendation by the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association! Rachel is one of only four teachers to receive this award throughout the state. 

This commendation and accompanying award recognize new teachers for demonstrated excellence. MaFLA wishes to welcome new teachers to the state organization and to offer multiple opportunities for professional development, support, networking, and collegiality through membership. Awardees receive a complimentary three-year membership to the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) and all accompanying benefits. 

Congratulations to Rachel for her commitment to excellence in teaching!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Good-Bye to Bo!

It has been such a great pleasure and an honor to have Bo Yu serve as our Mandarin exchange teacher this year! He has made a great impact in our department and on the lives of the students he taught.

We will miss you Bo!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Speak Mandarin Arlington! Project Launch

Our excellent Mandarin exchange teacher, Bo Yu, will shortly be returning to China! While we are sad to see him go, we will be keeping a strong connection with him when he returns to his home school. We received a project grant from TCLP to launch a videoblogging project between our American students who are learning Mandarin, and Bo's Chinese students who are learning English.

As a first step, Bo filmed his current students presenting themselves in Mandarin. When school begins in the fall, and he is back at his home school, his students will respond, and we will begin a true dialogue with them. We're planning to post at least one video blog per month on a variety of topics, both in Mandarin and English. We hope this project will help students develop better cultural understanding of their Chinese friends, while also improving listening and speaking skills.

All the students who are participating have signed release forms.

Thank you, Bo, for your hard work this year and for the enthusiasm you instilled in your students!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Arlington Bilingual Education K-5

A local group of parents, led by Melisa Tintocalis Gauthier, have been advocating to launch an immersion program in our elementary schools. If you would like to support them or join their movement, please follow them on Facebook:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Congratulations to the National French Contest Winners!

This past March, all 8th graders enrolled in French participated in Le Grand Concours - The National French Contest. This exam is sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF). Students in every state in the country, as well as many abroad, participate in the contest.

We are extremely proud of the success of the students! We even had one student who scored a perfect score! Félicitations!

Lauréat National: Gold Medal
Alice Tracey

Lauréat National: Silver Medal
Julia Boucher

Lauréat National: Bronze Medal
Kiran Gite
Rachel Harrison
Liam O'Toole
Alice Liu
Andrew Peterson
Grace Hoglund
Annie Kellar
Kerry Liu
Vignesh Chockalingam
Allison Candell
Susannah Benn
Madeleine Goldstein

Casey Henehan
Risa Komatsu
Louisa Kuper
James Marafiote
Glen Akonjang
Connor Wells
Esme Auster
Julia Leone
Rami Saleh
Andrew Ward
Chloe Kaplan

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

AHS to Launch National World Language Honor Societies

Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, juniors meeting academic standards will be invited to apply for membership the National World Language Honor Societies of Arlington High School. Honor society chapters will be opened for all four languages:
Our mission in launching these Honor Societies is to reward and recognize high achievement in language studies, promote high standards of scholarship in language studies, support and encourage language studies, stimulate interest in and enthusiasm for language studies, and promote and perpetuate international friendships and cultural understanding.

Please view the NWLHS (National World Language Honor Societies) page for more information.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Boston Globe Article: "Biting into foreign tongues"

An article on elementary language programs was just published in the Boston Globe, and our program here in Arlington was referred to:

We are proud to have expanded our language program in the high school, now offering students four language choices (French, Latin, Mandarin and Spanish), and are confident we will continue to expand and grow our programs in the district.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Congratulations to the National Latin Exam Winners!

In March, 57 eighth grade students participated in the National Latin Exam, a multi-national test given to Latin students in middle and high school. This year's exam was given to over 136,000 students in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan,New Zealand, Poland, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, and Taiwan. The test is a forty-question multiple choice exam that covers general knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary, mythology, ancient Roman customs, English/Latin derivatives, and translation abilities. Eleven Ottoson students earned awards on this year's Latin 1 exam. We are so proud of their hard work and outstanding achievements in Latin this year!

Congratulations (or Gratulationes in Latin) to all the winners!

Gold Medal/Summa Cum Laude:
Linnea Berryman

Silver Medal/Maxima Cum Laude:
Vielle Roby
Tess LaValley
Allison Stillerman
Daytawn Campbell
Ian Bernardin

Cum Laude Certificate:
Michaela Farmer
Megan McKenna
Gabriela Rivera
Ramsey Talameh
Katya Donovan

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Study of Spanish Artists Brings Culture & Language Into the Classroom

In Emmy Robinson’s Spanish class, students have been presenting a cultural project that allowed them to delve into the lives of a Spanish artist of their choice. Ms. Robinson asked students to choose any artist they were interested in as the focus of their project: from painters to sculptors to musicians to architects. Students researched the artist, prepared a presentation to share with the class, and created an original piece of art in the style of the artist. The presentations were, of course, done entirely in Spanish! And the artwork these students created was truly amazing. Students made architectural models, painted, made sculptures, and one boy even wrote and played a song on his guitar, which he then embedded on Glogster for his presentation. This is the perfect example of what we in the world language department strive for: marrying cultural understanding with linguistic ability. Bravo to the students for their excellent work!

Student painting in the style of Oswaldo Guyasamín, by Ashley Smith

Student Architectural Model in the style of Santiago Calatrava, by Julia Erskine and Anahis Kechejian

Student Rendering of Painting by José Manuel Merello, by Lisa Lucero and Jessie Page  

Student Architectural Model in the style of Santiago Calatrava, by Will White