I’m Tim Herrera with the Sacramento County Office of Education, here with another Teacher of the Year profile. We’re speaking now with Nicole Naditz, who is one of the two Teachers of the Year for the San Juan Unified School District. Thanks for joining us. Thank you. Tell us a little bit about yourself first. Tell us where you teach, tell us what you teach. I teach French at Bella Vista High School, and so as a French teacher, I sometimes teach all levels: 1, 2, 3, 4 and AP/ This coming year will be 2 through AP. So how many classes do you have going at once? Mostly there’s one level in a class except for 4 and AP, which are combined. And how long have you been teaching French? I started teaching back in 1993. I’ve taught every year since with a one year gap, actually, when my son was born and then a three year gap when I was a full-time BTSA support provider for my district. So, we talk about teaching languages is that a subject area that you feel that could use a little bit more support? It can. For a long time, I’ve been the Advocacy Chair of the California Language Teachers Association, specifically working to garner more support for world language education. World languages are actually listed as one of the core academic subject areas, not only under No Child Left Behind, but also under the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Curriculum Framework. They’re just second behind English/Language Arts in terms of the skills that our students will need to be successful post-high school in their jobs and careers. Is it because it’s not one of those subject areas where there’s a lot of standardized testing that you feel that it doesn’t get the spotlight that it deserves? I’m sure that that’s one reason, and there’s a lot of reasons why we don’t have testing in this subject. It would actually be incredibly expensive to design an appropriate test for language and you’d have to have readers who come in, and people who listen to the interviews and possibly even conduct them. So the lack of standardized testing does help take away a little bit from some people’s perceived importance of world languages Another is just, our country is very large, and it’s easy to forget how in the rest of the world it’s common to be bilingual. Our county is actually unique in its insistence, for the most part, on not becoming bilingual. And we can get away with that, so to speak, just because of the fact that it can take a very long time to travel to a place where someone speaks something other than English when you live in the United States. And is that how when you’re having a conversation with that one student who says, I don’t know why I have to do this. You kind of have to eplain… I do, and to parents to sometimes to other people, other stakeholders in education actually about how much international business we do in trade, how many jobs per year, over 200,000 Americans lose jobs because of a lack of language skill. Or they are ineligible to apply for a job because of a lack of language skills. How costly it is for companies when they need those language-skilled individuals and can’t find American citizens, and then not only do they pay that salary to a foregin national, but they also pay all of their relocation costs, their paperwork costs, their housing while they’re in the US, transportation back home for vacation, so it’s costing our country a lot of money to not develop these skills, plus it has in recent years it’s become evident it’s also a national security risk. So, how is it when you study a foreign language, how does that help you improve your own, you indigenous, native language? Almost everyone who studies another language, and I don’t know if you ever had the chance to, finds that they understand their native language better. We don’t study our native language. We speak it. And as a result, we don’t realize how the grammar works. And why certain things are said the way they are, until we learn another language and start to compare those language structures and it suddenly draws a, sort of an interesting comparison to our own language, and we begin to understand a little bit more about how our language is put together And language classes, you know, a generation ago, at least, were common in middle school and elementary school, but now it’s really exclusively in the high school and college level. Almost. Yeah, we’re seeing a push, actually. It’s not very big yet. And it hasn’t gotten a lot of momentum, but we’re starting to see signs of a swing in the opposite direction. We’re starting to see, for example, San Juan Unified just opened its first dual immersion program. Kindergarten Spanish-English at Edison Elementary. And, we’re starting to see more and more of those opening, and that’s really exciting. The challenge will be to really do this for a wide variety languages. A language might be perceived as a needed language at one time, but that changes. Back in the late 60s, Russian was suddenly THE needed language. But that changes all the time. So we want to make sure that we set up systems to where we’re prepared to teach a variety of languages, not just because they’re needed on the national scaled, but because they also have intrinsic cultural value. Literary value. Artistic value. And they help us understand other peoples and their perspectives. Regardless of whether or not it’s perceived as needed. So, what drew you to be a French teacher? Is that what you had in mind when you started out? Probably not when I first started taking French, but very early in high school, I decided I wanted to be a French teacher. I was really fascinated with the language, of course, and then with that exact idea of being able to really other peoples have different perspectives and values, and that through language, language classes were one of the only classes in the curriculum that actually explicitly teaches students to examine other cultures’ values to have an opportunity to look at their literature, their art, their media their news broadcasts, and really look without judgement. Which is going to help them work collaboratively in very diverse teams, no matter what field they go into. And as I said, languages are the only subject area that does that routinely. And explicitly. Now, did you have a language teacher in high school that kind of inspired you? I did. She was Madame Penzer, and she was I think probably looking back now, a bit ahead of her time. She approached language teaching much more closely to the way it is seen to be of best practices today Focus on communication, it’s not all grammar translation, which is how many people, probably a little bit older than me and prior to that learned languages She focused on communication. She brought in film and music and newspaper articles and literature and we really the focus was our ability to understand spoken French and to communicate with each other. And that was, now that I look back, now really how language education was being done most of the time. So, she, through her teaching, I became inspired and as a teacher, and wanted to teach myself. I’ve tried to track her down, but I haven’t been able to find her. Now, how long have you been teaching language? Since 1993. So, in that span of time, how have you seen things change for what you do and the different practices or techniques? Continued focus on communication we’re still, to a certain extent, working on helping all teachers understand that worksheets don’t teach language. There is a place for them, and there is a way to provide practice, but the language instruction in general needs to be much more focused on real communication skills that people actually do when they’re talking to each other. So an object for language teaching is not students will conjugate the verb to be. And the reason that’s not an objective for a language class is because I would never walk up to you on the street, and before having a conversation with you, say, excuse me, can you conjugate the verb to be first, then I’ll talk to you. Right? So, we’re still working on moving teachers away from a very grammar-oriented focus to a more communicative focus. The biggest thing, I would say, is technology. When I started teaching, this makes me sound very old. When I started teaching, the Internet was not available, I think beyond the military, perhaps, and as a result, and it was not available in my school, students couldn’t see the culture. They couldn’t hear the culture, other than what I gave them, unless we travelled. Now, even if students can’t afford to travel, I can bring them on virtual tours of places in the French-speaking world. We can engage with pen pals all over the world. We have Skype conversations, we webcast all over the world. We watch media events from around the world, so the available availability of the cultures has just grown incredibly since I started teaching and has made it much, much easier to provide authentic voices, a range of voices with different accents, different ages all representing the French-speaking world, which encompasses over 30 countries so they have very diverse accents, and so on, and it’s just really made it. And that interactivity, with the Skype and webcasting, that makes it real for those students, doesn’t it? Yeah. It’s incredibly important in all subject areas, not just language, that we make sure that education is meaningful and applicable beyond the classroom. That the students aren’t just completing assignments for me and my grade but for a real purpose, and ideally for a real audience, of in my case native speakers, in other subject areas, you know, in science you would want to try to create opportunities for their students to present their work to actual scientists. Right? In history, you would want opportunity to interact with actual historians, and read documents with the historian, and see how they actually look at the document differently because they’re experts in the field. And so on. So that’s a very important aspect of education that I think we’re just starting to understand now. And it’s the practical application of the languages. Um-hm. Absolutely. They can’t learn language if they don’t significant opportunities to practice it. Similarly, they it’s almost impossible to learn language if the teacher refuses to speak the language. So, as a result, there’s another push, which is to really help teachers develop the ability to design lessons where they can teach in the language. Even in the first year class. And it makes sense. Our first language, our parents didn’t refused to speak to us in our first language just because we weren’t understanding. Right? And they didn’t lock us up in a closet and say, come out when you finally can say this right. So, we need — we have to approach second language similarly. And some teachers say, it’s so hard though to teach it in French If they’re in French 1 or Spanish 1, they don’t understand. And in Chinese and Japanese there’s a whole other alphabet. How am I going to do this? So we really try to support teachers to understand how to bring everything to bear. Visuals, gestures, facial expressions cognates with English when they exist, to really maximize what the students can understand, because if we speak in English and talk about the language, they will never learn the language. Well, we appreciate your time and want to say congratulations to you again. We’ve been speaking with Nicole Naditz who is one of two Teachers of the Year for the San Juan Unified School District. Congratulations. Thank you.