Questions, Comments, or Corrections? Let us know!

German Week at UNL: Activities Open to the Public

The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington, in cooperation with the University of Nebraska Lincoln, is sponsoring German Week October 22nd – October 26th. Activities throughout the week are free and open to the public. On Monday, October 22nd, a poster session and talk will discuss “The Changing Faces of Germany: Migration/Immigration Scenes That Tell a Story”. Tuesday’s movie screening of “Die Fremde” will be introduced by German Consul from the Consulate in Chicago. More activities continue Wednesday through Friday. UNL’s contact for more information is Jim Benes at

Critical Language Scholarships Offer Study-Abroad Grants

The Critical Language Scholarship Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.

The application is now live and available online at: Applications are due Tuesday, November 27, 2018 by 8:00pm EST.

CLS, a program of the U.S. Department of State, is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. CLS plays an important role in preparing students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce and increasing national competitiveness.

This year, the CLS Program is pleased to announce the addition of Brazilian Portuguese to our list of language programs for 2019. The full list of the 15 languages offered through the CLS Program includes: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. Most languages offered by the CLS Program do not require applicants to have any experience studying critical languages.

Language pre-requisites can be found on our website at The CLS Program seeks participants with diverse interests, and from a wide range of fields of study and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the United States. Participants are selected based on their commitment to language learning and plans to apply their language skills to their future academic or professional pursuits. Students from all academic disciplines, including business, engineering, law, medicine, science, social sciences, arts and humanities are encouraged to apply.

Prior to preparing their application, interested students should review the full eligibility and application information on the CLS Program website. For news, updates and more information about the CLS Program, check out the CLS website or our Facebook page for updates!

CLS Website:
CLS Facebook page:
CLS Twitter page:
For other questions, please contact

Meet the NILA Board of Directors

Some of the NILA Board members pose after the NILA Fall Conference. Top row (L-R): Shanna Hellerich, Alicia Dallman Shoemaker, Second row (L-R): Terri Wright, Will West, Front row (L-R): Katy Cattlett, Janet Eckerson, Cara Heminger


At the Fall Conference, NILA confirms and/or appoints its officers for the Board of Directors. NILA President Shanna Hellerich passed her gavel to Alicia Dallman Shoemaker. As president, Ms. Hellerich organized and led meetings of NILA’s governing board, led workshops, and participated in the revision process of the World Language Standards. Ms. Hellerich is a teacher at Shelton Public Schools where she has taught Spanish I-IV since 2007. Ms. Shoemaker, often called Senora Zapato, is a Spanish teacher and Curriculum Specialist at Elkhorn Public Schools. Ms. Shoemaker has expanded her classroom practice to include international education and STEM approaches. She is also an adjunct professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University. The two will continue to work together on the NILA Governing Board as Ms. Hellerich takes the role of Past President. Other members of the NILA Governing Board are:

President Elect Janet Eckerson. Dr. Eckerson is the World Language Department Chair and a Spanish teacher at Lincoln High School in Lincoln and a Practice Fellow at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Vice President Katy Cattlett. Ms. Cattlett is the Supervisor of Dual Language and World Language for Omaha Public Schools.

Secretary Brett Avila. Mr. Avila is a Spanish teacher at Sidney Public Schools.

Treasurer Terri Wright. Ms. Wright is a French teacher at Millard Public Schools.

Communications Director Will West. Mr. West is a French teacher at Lincoln Public Schools Lincoln High School.

Nebraska Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese President Angela Wagoner. Ms. Wagoner is a Spanish teacher at Crete Public Schools.

Nebraska Association of Teachers of French President Cara Heminger. Ms. Heminger is a French teacher at Lincoln Public Schools North Star High School. Ms. Heminger also serves as the Conference Organizer.

Nebraska Association of Teachers of German President Wendy Brennan. Ms. Brennan teaches German at Millard North High School in Millard.

ESL Conference at OPS Open to Nebraska Educators

The 20th Annual ESL Fall Conference sponsored by Omaha Public Schools will be Saturday, October 20 from 8:30-2:00 pm at 3215 Cuming Street in Omaha. The featured session is “Survival Brain vs. Learning Brain: Trauma Informed Practices for Immigrant and Refugee Students”. There will be over 40 other sessions available on topics such as technology integration, dual language, supporting newcomers, migrant education, and working with refugee students. Registration for non-OPS participants is $59 and includes breakfast and lunch. Register at

Language & Friendship, Inc. Seeking Host Families

Language & Friendship, Inc, a Minnesota based organization, is seeking families to host students from France, Spain, or Argentina in the United States in 2019. Host families provide room, board, and hospitality. The upcoming French group will be in the US from February 2-February 23, 2019. Groups arrive in spring, winter, and summer from various countries. More information can be found on their website at

Malaika Grants Help Nebraska to Reach the World

Reach the World‘s curriculum-aligned virtual exchange journeys connect you and your students with volunteer travelers to explore the world without ever leaving the classroom. In matching your classroom of students with your own volunteer traveler abroad, you can harness authentic experiences in real time to enhance your lessons while inspiring your students to become curious, confident global citizens. Travelers are researchers or students with an interest in sharing their experiences with U.S. students.

Thanks to the generous support of the Malaika Foundation, you can take your students on one of these journeys this spring for free! Our programs are highly customizable, both in length and in curricular alignment. Whatever you want to teach and wherever you want to go, Reach the World wants to create that journey for you.

Spaces are limited, so e-mail Christopher Ahearn ( to connect with your volunteer traveler today!

NILA Announces Award Winning Teachers

NILA recognized several teachers during the Fall Conference. Nominations were received from around the state and reviewed by the NILA Board. The selected recipients were recognized in a formal presentation during the lunch on Saturday.

Melissa Hernandez pictured with Shanna Hellerich
World Language Teacher of the Year
Melissa Hernandez
Lincoln Northeast High School


Shanna Hellerich and Mariah Wailes
World Language New Teacher of the Year
Mariah Wailes
Lincoln High School
Lincoln Public Schools

Toben Cohen-Dunning and Katy Cattlett
Pro Lingua Award
Toben Cohen-Dunning
Omaha Public Schools Foundation
Omaha Public Schools

Jamie Honke and Angie Wagoner
Nebraska Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Teacher of the Year
Jamie Honke
Ralston High School
Ralston Public Schools

Not Pictured:
Nebraska Association of Teachers of French
Kristen Tangen
Lincoln Southeast High School
Lincoln Public Schools

Nebraska Association of Teachers of German
Kristen Hetrick
Doane University

NILA #Collaborate18 Is A Success

Presenter and former ACTFL President Toni Theisen talks with current ACTFL President, Nebraska’s Dr. Ali Moeller at NILA’s Annual Fall Conference in Lincoln. Dr. Moeller and Ms. Theisen are long-time friends and associates.

NILA’s celebrated another successful fall conference.  #Collabor18, Collaboration for Student Success, was held October 6-7 in Lincoln. Approximately 130 World Language educators from around the state gathered to attend sessions, collaboration discussions, an exhibitor hall, and a keynote address.

Toni Theisen presented both the Friday workshop and the Saturday keynote address. Ms. Theisen is a National Board Certified Teacher and Dual Language Teacher on Special Assignment in Loveland, Colorado. Her use of comprehensible input strategies in her French classroom gained widespread recognition and propelled her to leadership positions. Friday’s workshop, “Moving Students Along the Path of Language Proficiency”, addressed how to use focusing lenses and topics to increase learner interaction and motivation. Sample exercises provided ‘take-home’ lessons using authentic texts and leveled activities designed to produce learner-led reading, writing, and dialogue.

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?