Updates on Malden High’s World Language Department

“We are part of a community that has so many different languages,” Marta Cabral, Holland House principal, stated. At Malden High, many teachers in this department teach a language because they think it is important to learn about different cultures and that being able to communicate with other people is important. 

Learning other languages can really benefit you because you can find new ways to express what you want to say and interacting with different social groups can help you understand why they do what they do. It can also help you feel more comfortable with these differences we all have. 

Most teachers in the World Language department were drawn to this school because of its diversity. Robert Grinnell, who teaches the Spanish language, shared that “I came to Malden High School for a few reasons. When I finished my teacher educator program, I looked at different schools to work at, and I knew I wanted to work in a school close to Boston and particularly a school that was as diverse as Malden.” This was because “the school I grew up in wasn’t as diverse, so I wanted to teach in a place where there were a lot of different cultures being represented and students from a lot of different backgrounds.”

He added that “as a language teacher, I find that really exciting when students already come into the classroom with their own understandings, traditions, languages, and practices. I think it creates a more dynamic, fun, and engaging environment. And I felt like Malden was the perfect place for that.” 

Spanish teacher Robert Grinnell teaching his class.

“I think we have a lot of strengths, I think that we get to really talk about culture, language, and the importance of understanding another culture like in all of the language classes. And we get kids to share their culture as well. So it’s kind of a breeding ground for mutual understanding. So that’s one of the things that I like. I also think it’s fun to try to speak another language and communicate with people. I think many students see their language class as something they get to use in the real world,” Sharon Kalagher, teacher leader of the World Language Department stated.

The World Language department here at Malden High has many future plans for their offerings. The teachers are hoping to expand the classes and make higher level classes for students who want to learn more. “We want to move to more proficiency-based, so that means that students can feel a sense of confidence in being able to speak, listen, read, and write. Those are the four components of a foreign language and hopefully they’re able to use that in a meaningful way,” Grinnell explained. 

This year Malden High welcomed new teachers into the World language department. “Our new hires this year are absolutely wonderful,” admired Cabral. “We have [Alessia] Guglielmi, who is a brand new teacher, that is teaching Italian this year. She just brings a ton of energy to the classroom.”

She also mentioned Grinnell, “who’s coming back from a year away. He was teaching English abroad down in Latin America, which is new to us because it’s only his second year here, which also brings a lot of energy as well as his language ability in the classroom.”

Then, “[Joumana] Salameh-Cafferty, an experienced teacher who comes from Cambridge, knows a variety of languages,” said Cabral. “I can’t even remember how many she knows, but I want to say it’s like five or six languages that she knows.”

Cabral and many teachers in the World Language department agree that the staff all have a strong relationship across the department and they really support and learn from each other. 

Students in Italian teacher Alessia Guglielmi’s class playing Blooket.

This World Language Department also has many plans for the future to expand and improve the department. “We obviously want to expand, we are part of a community that has so many different languages. I know that there were surveys put out there last year, there was also a student survey that was put out where students were inquiring about what languages they would like to see here, being offered at Malden High School. So we’re definitely exploring those, we’re exploring what we currently have, and decisions will be made based on that,” Cabral stated. 

The department’s main goal in the future is to provide more offerings in the future for students. They also hope to have higher levels of education for the languages offered. “Right now we only offer Spanish Four, but it would be great to offer Spanish Five, and to offer AP again. And that way students can continue to progress in the language, as well as expand the offerings to allow for students to learn Arabic, or Chinese, or other languages as well,” Grinnell said. He, along with the other teachers, hope that in the future, higher levels of more languages could be offered here at Malden High to allow students to learn more.

Malden High School introduced a new requirement for the Class of 2026, which entails that students must take at least two years of another language to graduate. Considering this new requirement, Grinnell thought that “this is a good change because many students in Malden, when they graduate high school, continue their education in college, and many colleges and universities require at least two years of a foreign language. I think it sets students up for success if they want to continue their education.” 

He added that “I also think that it’s a helpful skill to take a few years of a language so that you can interact with people from different cultures. Especially with Spanish, there’s a lot of Latinos living in not only Malden but surrounding communities, so to be able to speak Spanish and communicate in that language is a huge skill.”

The American Sign Language (ASL) class is also something new that Malden High introduced at the start of last school year. The teachers and staff of the department are exploring what ASL is going to look like in the future. They were able to offer ASL One last year, and this year they have begun to offer ASL Two. There is strong interest from students for the course, but with Daniela Ioannides being the only ASL teacher, they are looking into their plans for what the class is going to look like next year.

Teacher Daniela Ioannides teaching her ASL class.

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