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Seal The Deal

Students in foreign language classes get the chance to achieve the biliteracy seal.

Photo by Charlene Nguyen

Photo by Charlene Nguyen

Photo by Charlene Nguyen

Paige Twenter

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  Revolutionist and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” When asked why being speaking more than one language is significant, Spanish teacher Astrid Ruiz recited this quote.  

  “If you understand somebody else and walk in their shoes, you will be more willing to accept and comprehend or understand and respect the other culture,” Ruiz said.

  This focus is what prompted Ruiz to seek recognition for students at LHS who are literate in more than one language. This lengthy two-year long process finally saw light at the end of the tunnel in December of 2017, when the seal of biliteracy was approved by the Liberty School District.

  “The Foreign Language Association of Missouri represents all the foreign language teachers in Missouri,” Ruiz said. “As an association, we are advocating for languages. Other states had already approved them and it was validating the effort of a student to finish and be tested to see if that person would be able to speak the language.”

  Both Ruiz, who is the president the Foreign Language Association of Missouri (FLAM), and Christa Peck, who is the English Language Learners (ELL) program coordinator, worked alongside to gain a seal of biliteracy to highlight students’ achievements in the foreign language field.

  “After receiving a score of intermediate or advanced on the AAPPL language assessment and meeting some other program requirements,” Peck said. “Students will receive official documentation on their high school transcripts that they have earned the seal. They will also be rewarded with a medal and wear a cord at their high school graduation ceremony to recognize that they have earned the Missouri Seal of Biliteracy.”

  After being tested in both English and another language through a writing, reading, listening and speaking assessment, there are two different seals students can achieve. The first is the standard seal, which is for English speakers who are in foreign language honors classes.

  For senior Reagan Krueger, the opportunity to achieve this seal means not only going above outside the classroom, it also means implementing her skills in the future.

  “Being fluent in a foreign language opens up lots of doors. Being able to speak a foreign language sets you apart from others,” Krueger said. “I want to get the seal in both German and Spanish because I think it can create many opportunities. By getting it in both languages it gives me a headstart in college and it shows that my work in high school has paid off.”

  For others planning on taking the test for the seal, this achievement and recognition is seen as critical to succeed in the current day and age.

  “Being bilingual is an invaluable asset. It allows you to connect with more people in person and online, which opens up countless doors and opportunities for the future,” sophomore Caroline Wright said. “The seal is tangible proof that somebody is able to communicate with people outside of their native language, which is very important in a diverse country and world where people of different backgrounds come together to reach a common goal.”

   The other type of seal students can achieve is the distinguished seal, which anybody can achieve. For them, gaining this seal means much more than just another mark of achievement on their diploma.

   “I want to get the biliteracy seal to have more opportunities for college,” junior Lorena Barron said. “Mrs. Ruiz said that we might get some scholarships for college, since we’re bilingual. We’ll have more benefits to getting a job.”

  Barron plans on going into the medical field and will use her language skills in both English and Spanish by helping patients who need a translator.

  Despite the small differences such as sentence structure, pronunciation and different tenses, all languages have one thing in common: they bring people together.

  “A benefit of learning another language is that it helps build acceptance and awareness towards other cultures,” Peck said. “I am hopeful that this new program will be an incentive for students to take more language courses past levels one and two as well as be an incentive for English language learners to continue to strengthen their literacy skills in their native language while they acquire the English language.”

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Seal The Deal