PAA Students Excel in Spanish

Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) students excel in the Spanish language.

Five PAA students were recently recognized for achievement in the Spanish language and inducted into the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, a national honor society for Spanish students. They are the first members of PAA’s newly formed Chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica (SHH), which is sponsored by The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP). Several more Spanish II students are expected to be inducted into the SHH early in 2015.

To PAA Spanish teacher Rita Barrett, the required two years of Spanish class is an opportunity to inspire and motivate students to be lifelong language learners. “I realized that if students enroll in Spanish as freshmen, I could have them for four full years,” says Barrett. “They could potentially be fluent when they graduate.”

To reach that goal, several years ago, Barrett began offering a Spanish III course.

This year she was able to achieve her next goal to not only offer a Spanish IV course but to also charter a new chapter of the SHH. While students in Spanish IV and the SHH aren’t earning credit, they are acquiring proficiency that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Senior Blashishin, PAA’s SHH president, was not originally interested in Spanish as a freshman. “I was intimidated,” says Blashishin, “but I was also still curious. Then after a couple of weeks, I realized I was making progress. I just hadn’t anticipated it would be so learnable.” 

Blashishin, as well as other students and young alumni, credit Barrett’s teaching style. “There are no textbooks in her class,” says Blashishin. “It’s a storytelling way of teaching, and it’s an organic way of learning a language.”

“It’s effective because she incorporates music, stories and culture while teaching Spanish,” says young PAA alumna Carmella Rosu. “She helped me to form a solid foundation for learning Spanish.”

“My goal for our students is language proficiency,” says Barrett. “That means we don’t get caught up in letter grades and tests. We speak to each other in Spanish.”

The proof is in. PAA young alumni are succeeding in Spanish and are demonstrating what it means to be lifelong language learners.

Rosu, a former student of Barrett’s who is fluent in two languages and working on a third, was able to pass the Spanish College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and skip two semesters of college-level Spanish. This year, she is studying Spanish at Sagunto Adventist College in Spain. Three other recent graduates have also passed CLEP tests.

“I am going to try to generate more interest in the CLEP,” says Barrett, “and boost student confidence that they can do this. Because I know all of the SHH students could pass it.”

Barrett continues to set goals for her department. “We are going to apply to become a CLEP testing center,” she says. “That will help me push students to take the test before they are away from PAA and my classes.”

But her ultimate goal is inspiring students to broaden their world. That can’t be measured by a grade but through the lives of her current and former students.

“I want to keep learning languages the rest of my life,” says Rosu. “Learning other languages is a way to learn more about different cultures and ways of life. How cool is it when you have three languages to express yourself in? I like that it opens up so many opportunities. You're able to communicate with people that you wouldn't have been able to. It shows people that you care when you try to communicate in their native language.”

December 29, 2014 / Oregon Conference