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Children’s China: Celebrating Culture, Character and Confucius

Omaha Children’s Museum

May 26-August 19

Color and Contour: Provencal Quilts and Domestic Objects

Lois Gottsch Gallery

International Quilt Study Center & Museum


June 15-October 28



September 21-22

Middle East Forum

CEC OPPD Community Dialogue Room


September 20 and October 18

Hispanic Flamenco Ballet Performance for Students


October 10

Chinese Warriors of Peking

Lied Center


October 21

Ballet Folklórico de México

Lied Center


October 30

Field Trip: Castelar Elementary, Omaha Public Schools

This is the beginning of a special series in which the World Language Specialist will visit, by invitation, schools in Nebraska to explore world language options.

A couple of blocks down the hill from the small, gold-domed Ukrainian Church of the Assumption sits Castelar Elementary. Built in 1899, it was the neighborhood school to Italian immigrants. Nearly 120 years later, this south Omaha school has been reborn many times, always as a haven for a global student body. In 2002, Castelar joined Omaha’s growing Dual Language Immersion program. Yet again, the school is over capacity in enrollment. This time, there is a waiting list to attend.

Maria Perez-Mozaz, the Dual Language Facilitator for Castelar Elementary, led me on a tour of the historic facility. Perez-Mozaz came to Omaha many years ago as a visiting teacher sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Education. Her deep appreciation for her adopted home is as apparent as the fine tailoring of her well cut suit. She is both congenial and consummately professional as so many of her colleagues. As we walked through the historic building, I observed signs and student work in both Spanish and English neatly tacked above the tidy lockers. Perez-Mozaz provided the history of Dual Language Immersion.

Dual Language Immersion was initiated by Omaha Public Schools in 2000 as a way of closing the achievement gap for English language learners. OPS now offers dual language immersion (DLI) in six elementary schools, three middle schools, and one high school. Within those schools are “strands” for students enrolled in the DLI option. For each grade level, there is a Spanish side teacher and an English side teacher. Both teachers teach all content areas. In each elementary strand, students spend 50% of the day in

Spanish and 50% of the day in English. This week, Kindergarten is completing writing course work in Spanish. Next week, they will complete writing course work in English.

Content is never repeated; it continues from the point that the class reached in the other language. Students are held accountable to benchmarks in both languages.

The benefits to students is significant. OPS saw that gaps in reading, math, and science closed quickly for DLI students. On the now defunct state standardized test, DLI high school students out-performed their peers consistently. Attendance, behavior, and academic achievement is significantly higher for DLI students at all levels. DLI students at South have a graduation rate of over 90% and in some years reaching the goal of 100%. South High Magnet School has seen steady gains in achievement and had the highest number of University of Nebraska at Omaha enrollees in the fall of 2017.

Katy Cattlett, Supervisor of Dual Language and World Language Instruction, commented that dual language education changes the mindset of parents and students. Most of all it changes the mindset of teachers. The expectation is now about making plans for post-secondary education.

If these statistics may not seem notable yet, this is an underdog story. Many of these students come from immigrant homes. Their parents do not speak English. At Castelar, 92% of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch. 89.9% of the school population is Hispanic. 61.8% of the students qualify for English Language Learner services. Fifteen percent of the students have tested out of the required EL services but do speak another language at home. Five percent of the students who qualified for EL opted to waive EL placement. In all, 81.8% of the student body are not native English speakers.

They are not, however, all Spanish speakers. Castelar, like many OPS schools, has a growing Central American population. Many students from Guatemala speak Q’anjobal at home. Several of these students have not had formal education. The act of attending school and understanding the social and academic requirements can be a learning curve.

Castelar staff reach out to parents to help with the transition. Monthly chats are held to  review information and resources in both Spanish and English. Castelar Principal Adriana Vargas appreciates the strong partnerships with the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Durham Museum, Lauritzen Gardens and Brookside Church. Brookside continues to offer a care center with reduced cost clothing, coat drives, and a carnival. The Learning Community also helps by reaching out to parents of prekindergarten students to offer three years of English language learning for parents.

The district, surprisingly, does not see an undue cost burden for DLI schools. The dual language programs were placed at schools with a high population of English learners. Due to the needs of the population, each school had several teachers of ELLs. A redesign of staffing replaced an ELL teaching position with a Dual Language Resource Teacher. Some of the existing regular classroom teaching positions were staffed with bilingual teachers who now teach in Spanish. OPS staffs these positions with Spanish-proficient teachers from the Nebraska, out-of-state recruitments, and international visiting teachers.  As the program has aged, OPS is finding new teachers in its alumni groups.

Astoundingly, OPS Dual Language Immersion gets little recognition in Nebraska. Three Nebraska school districts that have sought counsel and resources from OPS in order to start their own programs. However, many outside of Omaha are unfamiliar with the DLI concept. Last year, Castelar was recognized for the second time as a finalist for the Elementary School of the Year award by the International Spanish Academy, sponsored by the Ministry of Education of Spain. South Magnet High School was honored as the high school of the year. While Omaha is the largest city in the state, it is not the only city with ethnic and national diversity in Nebraska.

In 2016, Nebraska was the state receiving the greatest number of refugees per capita. Nebraska has welcomed refugees since the 1960s from places such as Vietnam, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Somalia, Syria, Cuba, and Burma. The cities of Bellevue, Crete, Grand Island, Hastings, Lexington, Lincoln, Schuyler, and Scottsbluff are among those receiving refugees. Certainly, there is a need for supporting ELLs.

Meanwhile, OPS continues to expand DLI instruction. Three years ago, Castelar had an internal waiting list of over 250 students already in the school but wishing to be included in the DLI program. Last year, Castelar began a new strand of DLI for Kindergarten. The second strand is now in first grade and next year second grade will be added by repurposing a traditional English classroom to a Spanish classroom. This year, 320 of the 660 Castelar students are in the DLI program.

Maria Perez-Mozaz certainly hopes the program will continue. In every classroom we enter, she can point to a child and tell me the academic history and recent benchmarks the child has met. Students know her and she stops periodically to accept a hug, give a high five, or ask a student—in Spanish—about the materials that are on the table. While she has copious quantitative data clearly defining the success of this program, her real indicators are here in the high ceiling, sun-lit classrooms of Castelar.

Tips for Teachers Reviews for Upper Level Students


Brett Avila, Spanish Teacher
Sydney Public Schools

Last year was the first time I have had kids in Spanish II-IV. I knew what we had done in Spanish I. Spanish II is beginning with the AVANT STAMP IV test (Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking). Their scores have given me a strong indication of where they are and seeing their writing samples and listening to them talk through their brainstorms for what they intend to write also give me a good indication of where they are.

I generally try to start with Terry Waltz’s Super 7 and Mike Peto’s Sweet 16, and go from there with a lot of PQA.


Do and Review Bingo

Deb Rohrich, Spanish I-IV
Wood River Public Schools

Do and Review BINGO

Give each student a blank 5X5 grid of squares.  Have them count the squares in Spanish (uno, dos, tres….veinticinco).

When they finish tell them to randomly number the squares 1-25.  This will become his or her Bingo Card.

Post or give each student a list of review tasks numbered 1-25.  These could be any concepts you taught in first year, such as, introductions, clothing vocabulary, etc..

Randomly select a student.  Tell him/her to choose a number and do that task.  After the task is completed, all students mark that # on their Bingo grid.  Continue until someone gets a Bingo.  When that student gets a Bingo, they must perform each of the 5 tasks before getting the prize.


“Hot Tamales” Review

Deb Rohrich, Spanish I-IV
Wood River Public Schools

Offer students a handful or a scoop of Hot Tamales, Mike and Ikes, or other candy. (You need to limit this somehow by saying 1 handful or giving a scoop, so they don’t take hundreds. Tell them they cannot eat then until they complete the task.)

The task is to count the tamales in Spanish, with a partner.  They think they are reviewing the numbers. When they finish, each person must report the # of tamales of his or her partner.  I write the number down for accountability purposes.

I then let them enjoy their candy while I share some facts about myself in Spanish. I expect them to casually translate as I read them.  I review the basics, introducing myself, describing, giving my age, birthday, likes, dislikes, family, members, pets, things I did over the summer, future plans, etc.

When I am done, I tell them they have to write one sentences about themselves for each hot tamale they took.

The next class period, they are assigned a name.  As each student reads his/her sentences, we go around the room translating them.  The person who was given that individual’s name must record 5-10 interesting ideas that he/she will summarize and share at the conclusion of all students’ presentations.  In very large classrooms, you could put them in sharing groups to read their statements and only share the summaries with the entire class, using it as a way for one student to introduce his/her “subject” to the others.

To further extend this, I will have each student combine his/her own tamale sentences into longer, more complex statements.  I then have each create a picture collage with a selfie and a 5-10 sentence paragraph about him/herself on the iPad (we are 1 to1 with iPad).  I print them and put them on my wall.

*I do the picture collage project at every level, and adjust the amount they have to write or control the content that they include.


If you would like to contribute a tip, send an email to the following address: Next month’s topic: How do you reach out to students who struggle with behavior issues?

Behind The Standards Development Process

The Impetus

In 2016, Dr. Janine Theiler initiated the first World Language Colloquium to discuss and establish priorities for NDE in meeting the needs of world language teachers across the state. Task force groups were formed to address needs in the areas of programming, proficiency, professional learning, advocacy and collaboration. Around that time, NDE decided to establish a consistent and cohesive plan to creating and revising standards in all content areas. A schedule for revision was created that marked 2018 as the year for World Language revision.

The Research

The NDE World Language Specialist sent a statewide survey to all world language teachers in December 2017. Teachers were asked for input that would help to shape the discussion at the upcoming second World Language Colloquium. Questions included prompts for language demographics, materials used, the role of the current world language frameworks, and professional practices.

World Language Colloquium 2018

Forty participants gathered in Lincoln in February 2018. The majority of participants were those who had participated in the 2016 Colloquium. Representatives from districts throughout the state, technical colleges, universities, educational service units, and international associations discussed the purpose of language learning and the skill sets that it requires.

World Language Standards Advisory Council

Seventeen educators arrived in Lincoln in June and August 2018 to author the revised standards. The group analyze and compared standards from other states, from other content areas, and from national organizations both language and non-language specific. Working through mindful discussions, the Council established the essentials of world language learning.

World Language Standards Writing Team

The writing team will begin to meet in late October. In a series of meetings, the team will be tasked with creating indicators at specific proficiency levels. As decided by the Council, the revised standards will use the proficiency levels established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished. The writing team is still in the process of formation.

World Language Standards Focus Teams

Several areas require focused work groups. These areas include, but may not be limited to dual language immersion, heritage speakers, classical languages, critical languages, and Native American languages. These groups will be convened electronically as needed to provide input into the standards.

The Final Steps

When the indicators are completed and edited, the entire document will be reviewed and open to public commentary before going before the state Board. It is hoped that the standards will be approved in September 2019.



Thank you

While the work and this list are not complete, there are many who have contributed in one way or another to the making of the standards. In a year, this list will be significantly longer. For now, thank you to:



Brett Avila, Sidney Public Schools

Amber Beltrand, Schuyler Public Schools

Theresa Catalano, University of Nebraska Lincoln

Katy Cattlett, Omaha Public Schools

Jan Coone, ESU 16, retired

Alicia Dallman Shoemaker, Elkhorn Public Schools

Brooke  David, NDE

Jonathan Dettman, University of Nebraska Kearney

Steven Duke, University of Nebraska

Chad Dumas, Hastings Public Schools

Janet Eckerson, Lincoln Public Schools

Cory Epler, NDE

Mary Lea Free, Norris Public Schools

Rebecca Gill-Rose, Palmyra Public Schools

Shanna Hellerich, Shelton Public Schools

Chris Heselton, University of Nebraska Confucius Institute

Kristen Hetrick, Doane University

Jami Holbein Swanson, Lincoln Public Schools

Jamie Honke, Ralston Public Schools

Nila Jacobson, Lincoln Public Schools, retired

Jesús Jurado Mendoza, Embassy of Spain, Ministry of Education

Becky Keilig, NDE

Faye Kilday, Northeast Community College

Candida Kraska, Millard Public Schools

Amanda Levos, Grand Island Public Schools

Jared List, Doane University

Amy Mancini-Marshall, Grand Island Public Schools

Naomi Mardock Uman, Metropolitan Community College

Liz Martinez, Elm Creek Public Schools

Ali Moeller, University of Nebraska Lincoln

Rita Ricaurte, Nebraska Wesleyan University

Mytzy Rodriguez-Kufner, Wayne State College

Brenda Romero, University of Nebraska Lincoln

Brenda Schiermeyer, Fremont Public Schools

Cathy Scurlock, Omaha Public Schools

Patty Simpson, University of Nebraska Lincoln

Yasuko Taoka, Wayne State College

Martha Thompson, Norfolk Public Schools

Marie Trayer, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Retired

Janine Theiler, Lincoln Public Schools

Angie Wagoner, Crete Public Schools

Michelle Warren, University of Nebraska Kearney

Nick Ziegler, ESU 5

Thinking Ahead

In a Ted Talk video, Sisters Camila and Cecilia Lopez explained why they chose to become polyglots. 14-year old Cecilia studies and speaks 12 languages.  Her 7-year old sister Camila speaks English and Mandarin. However, Camila says language is not her passion. To her, the power of language is the ability to communicate with others about the topics that are her passions.

Another inspirational video is a commercial for an initiative sponsored by UPS, Zipline, Gavi, and the Rwandan Government. The story began in Rwanda. Medical officials were desperate to stop the deaths of women who died in childbirth because they had no access to blood transfusions. This four-way partnership uses drones to fly needed medical supplies and precious blood through even the most rugged terrain within minutes of an emergency call. Further interviews with the partnership members and the people of Rwanda revealed numerous languages.

These videos reveal a critical way to think about world language learning. World languages do have the power to make us college, career, and civic ready by enabling us greater and more immediate access to resources, materials, and people across the globe. Yet, it is the intangible skill of being able to find unique and unexpected connections among seemingly unrelated concepts that is most often the true power of second language learning. Nebraska’s revised standards reflect this understanding. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on ways to embody enterprising associations and strategic thinking while delivering an exemplary academic standard.

Are You Ready for the New Standards? Standards Revision Process Maintaining Steady Pace

Members of the World Language Advisory Council working through a group exercise to craft a declaration of student interaction with culture in the world language classroom.

How will the 2019 standards differ from the 1997 standards? While the revised standards carry all of the intellectual design, second language acquisition pedagogy, and flexibility of the 1997 standards, the 2019 standards are greater than the sum of their parts. There is a paradigm shift in the functionality of the language and the expectation of proficiency. World Language Advisory Council Member Jamie Honke shares, “The revised standards are going to put more emphasis on the necessity to integrate intercultural competencies into the curriculum…I think also the standards will impact those who focus a tremendous amount of time on grammar and explicit language instruction because our standards [will be] how to function within the language and not solely understanding the language’s function.” How will this impact teachers? Fellow Council Member Michelle Warren commented, “World Language teachers across the state recognize the urgency to push for ability to communicate and to help students use their language across the disciplines.” The standards process is lengthy; the work is not done. There will still be opportunities for involvement from others. Council Member Jami Holbein Swanson shared that the experience so far has been favorable. “There were protocols in place that allowed all voices to be heard, and understood. We had choice in how to proceed, and with the expertise in the room, our choices were well informed.”

Where to Start: Resources for 2018-2019

Classroom Grants

Target Field Trip Grants
Target Foundation offers field trip grants of up to $700 for K-12 schools nationwide. Consider a trip to Joslyn, the Lied, or another performance venue for an artistic exposition of the target culture.

Shopko Foundation Community Grants
Shopko Foundation offers grants of up to $2,500 for K-12 private and public schools within 25 miles of a Shopko location.

Monsanto Fund Education Grants
Monsanto benefits programs in K-12 education. Although the program is primarily for STEM focused programs, Monsanto will consider other content areas. Consider using world language as it applies to agricultural vocabulary, technical training, or biological research.

Teacher Created Materials Classroom Supplies
Win up to $250 in teaching supplies for your classroom from Teacher Created Materials.

Dremel DigiLab 3D Printer Giveaway
WeAreTeachers and Dremel are giving away a 3D printer. Imagine creating your own “authentic resources”.


Free Posters

Vista Higher Learning
Celebrate world language learning with Spanish, French, German, and Italian posters to download.

Language Learning By The Numbers
Middlebury Interactive Languages offers three posters detailing world language studies in the U.S. and abroad.

World Language Societies and Clubs

Alliance Française d’Omaha:
Articles, events, classes, and community activities for French and Francophones.

German-American Society of Nebraska
Activities, clubs, community events, language classes, and student exchange.

Japan America Society of Iowa
Community events, presentations, language school

Asian Community and Cultural Center
Community events, English language support, presentations

WL Events August 2018

Children’s China: Celebrating Culture, Character and Confucius

Omaha Children’s Museum

May 26-August 19

Color and Contour: Provencal Quilts and Domestic Objects

Lois Gottsch Gallery

International Quilt Study Center & Museum


June 15-October 28

Nebraska Asian Festival

Lewis and Clark Landing


July 28

Middle East Forum

CEC OPPD Community Dialogue Room


September 20 and October 18

Chinese Warriors of Peking

Lied Center


October 21

Ballet Folklórico de México

Lied Center


October 30

Cultural Encounter Kits

Humanities Nebraska offers encounter kits that include videos, CDs, books, clothing, cultural items, and curriculum materials to public or private schools in Nebraska. Reserve kits for up to three weeks. Humanities Nebraska pays for UPS ground shipping to and from your school. Cultural Encounter Kits are targeted to youth grades 4-8. Topics include “A Treasured Heritage: Mexican Americans in Nebraska” and “Home in the Heartland: Nebraska Sudanese Cultures” among others. For more information, go to: