Behind the Scenes of Spanish 4: The Making of a Spanish 5

The students of Marilyn LeBlanc’s Spanish 4 class are using their voices to fight for a Spanish 5 class.

For many years, Lake Shore has only provided students with the option of taking a foreign language for up to four years. However, for the past few years, Kennedy Middle School has offered a Spanish 1 class. This addition greatly affected students who wanted to take Spanish for all four years of high school, because if they have taken Spanish 1 in eighth grade, they’re only able to take the last three Spanish classes at Lake Shore, causing them to end their Spanish career as a junior.

The class of 2018’s Spanish 4 students have decided that a Spanish 5 class is too good of an opportunity to not be an option. It is common knowledge that one cannot possibly learn an entire language in just four classes, and the Spanish 4 students are so passionate on the subject that they are willing to do whatever it takes to progress as far as possible in their understanding of the language.   The Spanish-loving students plan on speaking up and petitioning for the class sometime during the 2016-2017 school year.

Makenzie Coe, junior, is one of LeBlanc’s Spanish 4 students attempting to persuade school officials to add a Spanish 5 course. A major concern for Coe and the other juniors in LeBlanc’s class is that since Spanish 4 is the highest level Spanish class offered at the moment, they would not be able to take Spanish their senior year. This will result in a gap year, and all share the fear that they will forget some critical Spanish information, and therefore be less prepared/sufficient in a college level Spanish course. Coe explained that “there’s such a big gap between junior year and college, that [during that] year in the gap, we’re not going to be able to keep learning and we’re going to forget.” Coe then gave another reasoning for wanting the course- “Mrs. LeBlanc is a very good teacher and she is very thorough, so I learn a lot from her.”  Coe shares the same views as fellow classmate and petitioner, Grace Gottman, in that the class will surely help her in her understanding of the language/culture and that she “hope[s] we get a Spanish 5!”

Every other year, Lake Shore offers its Spanish students the opportunity to travel across the Atlantic to Spain for two weeks. There, they are expected to speak some level of Spanish and live with a Spanish speaking family. Some students from the class of 2018 went as freshman and have since become more advanced in the language. One of those students is Grace Gottman. When discussing her level of fluency at the time she went to Spain, Gottman admitted that she was not fluent enough to hold conversations with other Spaniards around her. She confessed that it was most likely “because I only had Spanish 2 then, but now that I have Spanish 4 I think I would be able to.” Gottman is also in favor of a Spanish 5 class and hopes to take it her senior year (2017-2018). Referencing back to her lack of fluency and confidence when speaking the language, she concluded that “I would say that a Spanish 5 class definitely would help [a student] be fluent.” Gottman also believes that taking a Spanish 5 class would “definitely” help her progress more in her understanding  of the language and culture “because it’s a whole other year [of learning it]- so yeah, I would [say that it helps].”

Marilyn LeBlanc- the passionate Spanish teacher who inspired her students to long for another year of Spanish- is also in favor of a Spanish 5 class and hopes to teach it. When giving her reasoning behind her desire to teach the class, she said that, “For foreign language teachers, it’s always fun to teach the upper-level classes because you know the students are excited about the course.” LeBlanc followed with, “[Teaching a Spanish 5 class] is something I’ve thought about more recently because I don’t think I’ve ever had a group of students want to take the class so badly that they’re willing to initiate a process of trying to get a course added.” While discussing the necessities required to make to course a possibility, she stated “I know we have books that we can use. We can simply continue on in the book wherever we leave off at the end of Spanish 4.” She continued by showing  support behind her ambitious students, “I think that the group of Spanish 4 kids is a highly motivated group-they want to succeed, they want to excel, they want to learn more about the language and the culture- and I think that’s awesome. As a teacher that’s what we like to see in our students so I think it’s neat that they’re going through the effort.” LeBlanc then stated her hopes for the outcome of it all, “I hope that we could add a Spanish 5 class since the kids are going out of their way to try and make this happen. I think it would be really awesome to have another upper-level class here.”

In order to gather as much information on the topic and desired outcome as possible, an interview was conducted with Todd Stevens, the Vice Principal. Stevens said that “There are a few stipulations. The two main things would be student interest and the availability of the teacher to teach it.” He further discussed the necessary requirements by stating that “I already know that there is a curriculum for it, we would have to have it approved by the school board, obviously, before we could run it, and I don’t see the school board denying a course that would be expanding on our Spanish program.” Speaking on behalf of some school officials, Stevens said that “We don’t want to take an opportunity away from you guys. I mean if we can offer it, we will do our best- myself, Mrs. Bross, the counseling department, Mrs. Leblanc, and the Spanish department- we would do our best to get you guys that course.” He continued by stating his opinion on the Spanish 4 students attempting this, “I think it’s great. I mean the more classes we can offer, the better for the students. It’s awesome that you guys want to do this and we’ll do what we can to help you guys get it.”

Not only do other Spanish 4 students share similar views with Coe, Gottman, LeBlanc, and Stevens, but so do most lower-level Spanish students- as discovered during an anonymous survey. According to the survey, approximately 74% of the Spanish 2 and 3 students eligible for Spanish 5 their senior year would be interested in taking the course. 86% believe that the course would be beneficial to their understanding of the language and culture. If all students interested in the course were able to fit it into their schedule, then 15 students would be in the Spanish 5 class of 2018-2019, and 17 in the Spanish 5 class of 2019-2020. This data is evidence that the wanting of a Spanish 5 class is not a fluke. Evidence that more students than ever imaginable share the same desire for it. Evidence that the chance of a Spanish 5 class continuing for years to come is an ample one. Evidence that of students in years past who have longed for the course would only have utilized their voice and spoken out about it- the class may have already been an option for students.