Baltimore County Public Schools Success Story

See how Baltimore County Public Schools is using Middlebury Interactive's digital courses to introduce world language learning to elementary students.

As the world gets smaller in our growing global economy, knowledge of foreign languages and cultures has become imperative. Lori Pinson went to Baltimore County, Maryland, where some schools are part of a pilot program with Middlebury Interactive Languages, introducing a foreign language to students at an early age.

This is not your average Spanish class. Look closely. What's different is the setting and the age range. Typically, Spanish will be taught in high school or middle school. This is Reisterstown Elementary School. And because of this class, 10-year-old Rilee Chichester is thinking of her future. “When I go to college and want to get a job, I think I'll have better chances to get the job since you know I can speak two or more languages.”

This outlook was brought about by a partnership between Middlebury Interactive Languages and Baltimore County Public Schools. It's only been a few months since Reisterstown Elementary signed on as a pilot school for the program.

Dallas Dance, Ph.D., Superintendent, Baltimore County Public Schools, says, “We knew early on that we wanted to make sure that our students were globally competitive and prepared. All the research talks to us about the earlier students can learn a second language, the better they'll be in acquiring their native language, but also the better they'll do in their other core content areas as well. Kids need to learn a second language in elementary school. Waiting until middle or high school is just too late.”

Middlebury Interactive offers programs in German, Spanish, Mandarin and French. Middlebury Interactive Languages CEO, Jane Swift, says, “If you ever sat in a high school French class like I did, those who weren't as confident sat in the back of the room and didn't produce much language. But if your requirement in the online program is to record yourself saying a passage and everybody has to submit that, it's hard to get around the requirement to actually speak the language.”

One of the teaching tools that makes Middlebury Interactive unique is the use of digital technology.

“Any form of technology is motivating and engaging,” says Lynn Palmer, Principal of Reisterstown Elementary School. “And there are so many modalities that it hits. So they have music and they have games and it's interactive where they speak into it. Also, they get feedback from the teacher online as to how they were doing or when they've completed one of the units. So it's been wonderful. The kids love it.”

“I think learning Spanish is fun because we do different activities and play games with the people sitting next to us. So we'll learn things from them and they can learn different things from us that we don't know,” says Naomi, 10, student.

Reisterstown Elementary School Spanish Teacher, Concetta Gollardo, says, “The good thing about Middlebury is that it's something that they can always have access to versus they only have access to me when I'm in the classroom.”

“I like that you get to learn another language and that you get to actually say it and do it,” says Xavier, 10, student.

Palmer says, “Students are going home and they're practicing it at home on their own. It's not required. And they're teaching their parents.”

This partnership has proven to be more than linguistics. A bonus from the Middlebury program comes in the form of tolerance and an understanding of others and acceptance of differences, embracing diversity.

“Really what we've seen a huge, huge improvement with is the community relations with our Hispanic population,” says Palmer. “Because when the families come in, everything is labeled in Spanish. And when you walk in the door, you see the big banner Todos Adelante, moving forward together.”

“We are giving them an understanding of the cultural diversity, not just of the United States but of our world,” explains Swift. “The world is getting smaller and the requirements for students and college students to understand other cultures, integrate with other cultures, is greater than it's ever been.”

“The future looks bright,” says Dance. “When you think about, again, our students being able to become bilingual or trilingual by the time they graduate.”

Though Reisterstown Elementary is one of the first schools in Baltimore County to adopt the Middlebury Interactive program, it won't be the last. There are future plans to include all of the schools in Baltimore County, joining the more than 200,000 students nationwide using the Middlebury Interactive program. From Reisterstown, Maryland—or as we studied today—Reportando de Reisterstown, Maryland, yo soy Lori Pinson.