New Blount County course helps transition students to high level Spanish

A new course may be added to the Blount County School’s curriculum next year that will help students transition into higher level Spanish courses.

Two Spanish teachers from Heritage High School, three from William Blount High School and Jane Morton, supervisor of grades six through 12, created a “Special Course” specifically designed to assist students with the shift from Spanish One into Spanish Two.

“Special Courses” are designed with one function, and they have to receive approval before being implemented into the classrooms. There are three steps: getting approval by the local school board then approval by the Tennessee Department of Education, and finally receiving a course code. Once it passes these steps, the course begins the next school year, and it has to be renewed every year.

“The reason for requesting this special course … is the Spanish teachers had determined that … kids in Spanish Two were not quite prepared enough for the rigors of that course,” Morton said. “It would be a course in the middle (that) not all students will need.”

Tennessee Board of Education requires students to have two years of a single foreign language and Morton said this new course would not satisfy that obligation. “It will further their success in Spanish Two (but won’t be) a foreign language requirement,” she said.

The higher level foreign language courses are taught in an immersion style, where the teacher speaks solely in that language. Board Member Mike Treadway supports the idea of the new course but said the immersion process should be reviewed more. “If a child does not understand Spanish, they will not understand the instructions,” he said. “I’ve taken a look at grade distribution at Spanish Two classes across the county. The grades … were Cs Ds and Fs. When a student is struggling with something … immersion only adds to the frustration”

The board passed the request for the new course and Don McNelly, board chairman, said he wants a report on how well students improve. Morton said if the state approves the course, she could offer a nine weeks report in the fall semester.

Blount County Schools and a university in Knox County are creating a partnership that will help bring in student teachers to Blount County. Kathy Coley, director of field experiences and clinical practices at South College in Knoxville, said this partnership is an easy way to get student teachers into the schools.

South College is part of the South Family universities. They are for-profit schools and Coley said their accreditation is “Solid.”

Sandy Bell, principal at Mary Blount, has been working with South College’s School of Education for three years and has not had a problem yet. She said she has been “very pleased” with the student teachers.

Bell said there would be only one problem with the partnership and it falls on how the Tennessee General Assembly votes on House Bill17.14. The bill will require students entering into any university’s school of education program to have a background check. The student will have to pay for this check and if that student plans to student teach - then he or she will have to have another background check with Blount County Schools.

Alis Teffeteller, supervisor with Blount County Schools, said the costs would not fall onto the board, and it will be a burden for the student to pay twice. But two of board members Chris Cantrell and John Davis said that if the student wants to teach at Blount County they would just have to get checked again.

“A lot can happen within a year or within a month between background checks,” Cantrell said. Davis added, “If they are going to be around children they need to pass our tests.”

The motion passed and the agreement will be looked into by the board’s attorney before further action is taken.

Three students were honored with the Director of Schools Citizenship Awards. The 5th annual award started by Director of Schools Alvin Hord recognizes distinguished students. Leah Thomas from Walden Elementary, Gracie Author from Heritage Middle School and Amy Eastridge from William Blount High School are this year’s recipients.

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