• Estimados Estudiantes,

    Hola.  Me llamo Sr. Terry H. Stewart.  I am so pleased to know that you have enrolled in my Spanish class this year.  Pursuing the study of a foreign language is such an integral part of your high school education and as a result of your decision you will receive many future benefits.  Communication is the key to many doors.  Graduates often cite foreign language courses as some of the most valuable courses they took because of the communication skills they developed in the process.  You will discover that learning to speak a foreign language is humbling.  It involves abandoning the safe and familiar, giving up your intelligence, your wit and your personality.  It involves moving outside your comfort zone, letting go and sounding foolish.  Of course, a growing number of Americans experience every day what you will be experiencing.  They are the people who speak English as their second language and you should have a tremendous admiration and respect for their efforts. 

    Many Americans are usually tempted to ask, why bother to learn another language when English, like American music and McDonald's can be found nearly everywhere in the world?  Here is why I think every American should study a foreign language:

    1.  It enables you to enter a world different from the one into which you were born and to explore it on its own terms.  Students learn to appreciate the beauty and traditions of another culture as revealed through its language.  Foreign language courses include a study of that country's culture as well as its language and the students can learn much about the country, the history, the respective artistic and literary contributions, the people and their traditions as revealed in the language.  More importantly, these cultural lessons also help to dismiss any stereotypical stigmas that usually are associated with a particular language.  To know a language is to know the people, thus one can never separate language and culture because they are one and essential.  I would like for you to keep in mind that I sponsor a summer trip to Spain every other school year (even years) for the Spanish students at Decatur High School.  This is a wonderful opportunity to apply your language skills in the "real world" and to visually experience all the cultural aspects that you have studied in class.  It's the ultimate field trip!

    2.  It helps you see your own culture and ways of doing things in a broader context while making you more receptive to other points of
         view.

    3.   It leads you to examine your habitual ways of thinking and expressing yourself.

    4.  It makes you more patient with people who are learning English.

    5.  ACT and SAT scores are higher for foreign language students, particularly on the English/Language Arts section.

    6.  Memory is enhanced through foreign language study as well as higher order thinking skills such as problem solving, dealing with abstract concepts and inferencing.

    7.  It helps you achieve a deeper understanding of your native language by making you aware of the elements that are common to all languages.  As many English words have been borrowed from other languages, the student's English vocabulary will increase when studying a foreign language, not to mention an enhancement of grammatical structure and personal study habits.

    8.  It requires you to take a disciplined, intentional approach to developing an important skill.

    9.  It reminds you of the value of using your own language well.

    10.  Learning a foreign language can launch students into fascinating and exciting careers.  If the study of a foreign language is pursued, the student could perhaps become a translator, a foreign diplomat, an executive in a foreign country or a bilingual professional in the legal and medical fields.  These days the possibilities are endless.  Job mobility and chances for promotion are often attributed to knowledge of a foreign language.  Many companies offer extra salary stipends for bilingual personnel.  Thus by learning a foreign language, a student will not only be better educated, but also more worldly and employable.  Closer to home, most graduating seniors need at least three years of an active/spoken language on their transcripts to satisfy the entrance requirements of many universities.

    When I studied Spanish as a student and traveled abroad, I temporarily relinquished my English speaking Texan American self, and discovered new ways of expressing myself and interacting.  I lost myself not only in the Spanish language, but also in Spanish history politics, literature, art music, cuisine and culture.  And in losing one self, I found another.  As anyone who has had done so can attest, after you have studied a foreign language and traveled abroad, the world never looks quite the same.

    As you can see, you have made a wise decision in taking a foreign language and shown even better judgment in taking Spanish due to its obvious presence here in the southwestern part of the United States.  This year I am going to set out as my personal and professional goal to do the following for my students:  I will present to each student the opportunity to acquire one of the greatest assets that they will receive in their high school education, learning Spanish as a foreign language.  The students will be provided opportunities to utilize Spanish in useful, conversational contexts, as well as in reading, listening and writing mediums and they will cultivate an appreciation for Spanish culture.

    The Decatur Independent School District and Decatur High School have an excellent foreign language program with a proven success rate that maintains a productive and supportive learning environment.  As I have already stated, learning a foreign language is not an easy task, but rather a mature endeavor that requires responsibility, diligence, and a willingness to broaden one's intellectual and cultural horizons.  I sincerely hope that you take advantage of your opportunity and hope that you too will reap the benefits of such a worthy, admirable life-long skill.  I know that with your own personal commitment to your education and the support from your parents that together we can provide a positive learning experience for you.  Enjoy your journey with me!
    ¡Buen viaje y buena suerte!

    Sr. Terry H. Stewart
    Teacher of Spanish/Foreign Language Department Chair
    terry.stewart@decaturisd.us
    Phone:  940-393-7200 (extension 7282)
    Fax:  940-626-4520
     
    Please refer to my Teacher Page on the school's website and visit my BLOG site/Don Fabuloso.  I have read several articles over the summer and I thought they were wonderfully concise and updated reports on not only why the study of Spanish in the 21st century is so beneficial to each of you this year at DHS (studyspanish.com), but why academic integrity should matter to you as well.  
     
    I want my students to read the following two essays from this site:  "Why Academic Integrity Matters" and "The Top Ten Reasons to Learn Spanish."  After reading each of these two articles, I want my students to BLOG with me their thoughts about each post on the BLOG site Don Fabuloso.  Lastly I want my students to write an essay concerning these two articles and be ready to discuss these topics with me on Monday/8-20.  The essay needs to be turned in at the BEGINNING of class on Monday/8-20.  The essay needs to be at least one page minimum typed and saved on your laptops.  Discuss your own personal thoughts about the importance of learning Spanish and how learning this language correlates to your own personal goals as a Spanish student at DHS, but more importantly, how learning this language will benefit you as a citizen in today's world.  Also, discuss your own personal thoughts about the importance of academic integrity and how this integrity will not only be an asset to you as a Spanish student, but a productive member of today's society.  Tengan un buen día y bienvenidos al mundo de don Fabuloso (aka:  Sr. Stewart).