Lost in translation

LHS world language program forced to limit course options due to challenge of finding certified staff


Samantha Haney

In addition to learning languages on her own outside of school, junior Zubaida Jamali is currently enrolled in Spanish 4. Lafayette also offers courses in French and American Sign Language. In the past, LHS offered both German and Latin world language classes also, but, due to lack of certified staff to teach those classes, they were discontinued.

Maddy Cox and Sonya Sud

While learning another language may seem tedious, Jeff Tamaroff, Rockwood’s World Language & ESOL Coordinator and Sandy Trapani, University of Missouri – St. Louis’ Language and Cultural Studies Department Chair, say learning languages has many benefits.

“There are a lot of things studying languages teaches us. They teach us tolerance and empathy,” Trapani said.

Tamaroff agrees. Knowing another language has allowed him to connect more with his wife, Emmanuelle Tamaroff, a Lafayette French teacher.

“As a lifelong learner of French, it’s opened up new cultural experiences. I’ve gotten to know a lot of different people. I think the way that we (Rockwood) design our programs, we try to have opportunities to travel and to bring in guest speakers. I think it just makes you a part of a larger global community,” he said. “It also gives you human connection access, which in some ways is as important, if not more important.”

Trapani said knowing another language also opens up opportunities.

“We have students going into teaching who use languages [around the world],” Trapani said. “Some go into government-related positions, nonprofits, business or sciences. It combines well with a lot of other disciplines.”

Senior Caleb Bolton is taking American Sign Language 2 and plans to pursue interpreting as a career.

“I’ve always enjoyed learning about languages. As a kid I talked with my hands a lot, so [ASL] came naturally to me,” he said.

Bolton’s interest in ASL also came from being exposed to people with hearing loss.

“In my life I’ve been surrounded by people who are deaf or have significant hearing loss. Being able to communicate with them in an easier way is really nice,” Bolton said.

Being able to take classes in ASL at Lafayette allowed Bolton to take his interests and turn it into a potential career in the future.

“[ASL] can help a large community of people and more than that, I just find that something I really enjoy doing is reaching out and helping people.”

But, Rockwood is experiencing a decline in the types of language classes being offered. Tamaroff said many different issues have contributed to the program cuts, including lack of student interest and an inability to staff certain classes. Rockwood has especially had trouble staffing German, which is now only being taught at Marquette and Rockwood Summit.

Kimberly Hotze, Marquette’s German teacher, said one issue with a lack of German teachers is the lack of new candidates for the positions.

“We’re kind of few and far between because some universities had, for a while, stopped training German teachers,” Hotze said.

This means many high schools are left without German teachers after long-time teachers retire, and those districts with teachers struggle with class sizes, scheduling and curriculum.
“It’s been a struggle for many years, keeping German afloat,” Hotze said.

Another class that has experienced issues staying in the district offerings is Latin. At Lafayette, the course was dropped following the 2020-2021 school year due to a staffing shortage.
Before it ended, senior Avery Uffelmann took Latin.

“[The Latin class] ended with COVID-19, but [the teacher] told us before that the school was getting rid of some programs and she had chosen to leave so she wouldn’t have a part-time job,” Uffelmann said.

Students were given the choice to switch languages or Zoom into Marquette’s Latin classes.

“I didn’t have to worry about switching languages because I was already taking Spanish. I just took Latin in addition,” Uffelmann said. “I continued with Spanish instead, but I was disappointed that [Latin] ended.”

Uffelmann started taking Spanish in middle school, and is now in AP Spanish Language and Culture. She chose to pursue Latin as more of a side language, not only because it interested her, but because she thought it was useful.

“I was interested in going into medicine or law and it’s the base for a lot of jargon for a lot of careers,” Uffelmann said.

Marquette is now the only school in the district to offer Latin. Along with Latin, Tim Abney, a Marquette world language teacher, also teaches Ancient Greek.
Abney said although numbers for both classes are somewhat low, he has yet to lose hope.

“I’m optimistic that maybe the right combination of student interest, parent interest and willing administration will bring Latin [to other schools],” he said.

Abney said he has never missed a Curriculum Night for incoming 9th Graders, in hopes of generating more interest in the class as he believes Latin is useful in various ways.

“I am giving [students] some tools that can enhance their ability to do a job, to think critically, to analyze, to write well, to dig deeper into a text for the meaning,” Abney said. “I may be old-fashioned in that way. Maybe I’m a dinosaur among teachers, but I don’t mind being that dinosaur.”