The Gorvetzian Global Language Initiative combines the generosity of EE Ford and an Albuquerque Academy family to significantly broaden the global awareness of Academy students.
In the first funding cycle, the Academy added five global languages (Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, and Hindi) to the curriculum using a unique model that, instead of opening departments of these languages, takes a cohort of eighth graders each year, offers one of the new languages, and then moves on to the next language in the following year. The first cycle was completed in spring 2009 as seniors completing AP Mandarin V led students in Arabic IV, Japanese III, Russian II, and Hindi I through the cycle. Now, as the 2009-2010 academic year begins, returning students move up a level and a new adventurous group of eighth graders (no surprise – two sections instead of one this time) begin again in Mandarin I. The success of this model comes from its flexibility (if Swedish becomes a strategic language, we could offer it the next year . . .), the way in which it brings so many cultures and viewpoints to campus (our faculty members in these languages provide a very important presence on campus), and, most importantly, the amazingly fluent, globally-oriented, students who graduate ready to make a difference in some of the most challenging and interesting places in the world.
We are very pleased with the outcome of this program and, frankly, we think the new structure of how our languages are offered (alongside our traditional programs in Spanish, French, and German) creates a new, flexible, paradigm for globalizing language programs in independent schools. .”
The second funding cycle was a logical outgrowth of the first. As we set up sister school relationships for each of our new languages and began exchange visits, we faced a typical Albuquerque Academy challenge. Our student body is selected in a need-blind fashion, resulting in large numbers of students with families throughout the socioeconomic spectrum (close to 100 of our 1100 students each year are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program). With so much travel taking place, we wanted to ensure 1) that the quality of the home stay and school experiences for our students when abroad and visiting students here in Albuquerque were of the finest quality and 2) that none of our financial aid students would be prevented from traveling with the program due to financial constraints. These goals have now been accomplished, again through the generosity of EE Ford, and we are in the midst of establishing groundbreaking relationships with students and schools in Syria (a US first, to our knowledge), China, Russia, Japan, and India.
We are very pleased with the outcome of this program and, frankly, we think the new structure of how our languages are offered (alongside our traditional programs in Spanish, French, and German) creates a new, flexible, paradigm for globalizing language programs in independent schools. It is also very cost-efficient and politically palatable since, by the time the program was fully operating after five years it was predictable that a Spanish teacher would retire or move on to another school. Thus: 1) a full-time teacher with benefits is replaced through attrition, for less cost, by five quarter-time teachers without benefits and 2) teachers in Spanish, French, and German didn’t need to feel threatened about the new languages leading to lay-offs in these departments.
The Academy, of course, is very grateful for EE Ford’s support of this initiative. More powerfully, though, close to one hundred students have already had their lives changed forever through the unexpected opportunity that they encountered when choosing their language for 8th grade.
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