Education News

College students give youngsters a global perspective

A LANGUAGE IN Motion volunteer leads a calligraphy exercise for students at a Youth Citizenship Summit hosted at Middlebury College. The Language in Motion program teaches local K-12 students about world languages and cultures through classroom visits and special events like this one.  Photo courtesy of Kristen Mullins

ADDISON COUNTY — Looking back on her time at Mount Abraham Union High School, there’s a learning experience 2022 graduate Anna Doucet found to be particularly impactful: visits from presenters involved in the Language in Motion program at Middlebury College. 

College students would come to Doucet’s Spanish and French classes to share their firsthand knowledge on world languages, cultures and global issues.  

“The presentations were so interesting and engaging and a nice change of pace from everyday classes,” she recalled. 

The student presenters inspired Doucet to pursue her own adventures abroad and spend a semester in France during her senior year at Mount Abe, as well as encouraged her to join the Language in Motion program when she began studying at Middlebury College in 2022. 

“As soon as I got to Middlebury that was something I was really excited to get involved in,” Doucet said. 

Now a sophomore at the college, Doucet is one of several student leaders who help run Language in Motion, or LiM. Each semester. The program pairs college students and language department teaching assistants who’ve spent time abroad with host teachers at primary and secondary schools in and around Addison County. 

LiM participants work with teachers to develop presentations that align with their classroom objectives and deepen students’ understanding of other languages and cultures. 

Kristen Mullins is the assistant director for global and intercultural programs at the college’s Center for Community Engagement and has led Language in Motion since it was brought to the institution in 2014.  

“The goal is really to support local school children in further developing their interest in the world, their understanding of the world, their curiosity and interest in learning languages,” Mullins said of the program. “Conversely, that will lead to understanding oneself better as well, putting yourself into a global context of what does it mean to be a young person living right now in this very diverse world.” 

In addition to organizing classroom visits, LiM has hosted several language and culture-related events for K-12 students. Past events include a full day of workshops at the Orwell Village School and a Youth Citizenship Summit for fifth- and sixth-graders in the Addison Central School District. 

The program has grown quite a bit over the past decade, amassing a network of around 40 host teachers at area elementary and secondary schools. Several of those educators were key to bringing the program to the college in 2014. 

CLASSROOM VISITS 

Every fall and spring semester, LiM recruits a new group of around 18 students and teaching assistants. Participants do a six-hour training before being paired with a local teacher based on their language knowledge and interests. 

Participating educators teach a range of subjects, including world languages, social studies and music. 

Student volunteers meet with LiM leaders and the teachers they’re matched with to develop the presentations and activities they’ll bring into the classroom. 

“We try to have it be as interactive as possible, so students aren’t just in their seats but are up and about,” Mullins said. 

The student-teacher pairings require one classroom visit, though Mullins said students and teachers sometimes coordinate additional sessions if time allows. 

Mullins said the visits have proven to be fruitful. 

“The benefit for all involved is very clear,” she said. “That’s central to community engagement, a reciprocal approach, where it’s not just about benefiting college students or community members, but there’s obvious benefit all around. That’s obvious in this program, and it’s also just a lot of fun.” 

Teachers agree. 

Tara Martin teaches “Individuals and Societies” at Middlebury Union High School. She’s participated in Language in Motion since 2014 and has welcomed several student presenters into her classroom. 

“We have had a range of lessons and connections over the years,” Martin said. “They range from lessons about human migration and the refugee experience, the origins and impacts of India’s Caste System, to comparing education in China to that over the United States. All of these programs bring a ‘real world’ lens to my units of study, and having someone closer in age with my students is extremely powerful.”

A LANGUAGE IN Motion presenter visits a classroom at Rutland High School. Through presentations like this one, Language in Motion volunteers share with Vermont students their firsthand knowledge of world languages, cultures and global issues. 
Photo courtesy of Kristen Mullins

Jori Jacobeit has also taken part in Language in Motion as a host teacher since 2014. Jacobeit teaches French at Mount Abraham and said the program has given hundreds of her students a chance to learn more about francophone cultures and other topics. 

“We’ve had dozens of LiM students present on topics including Italian food, Russian culture, Yiddish language, study abroad opportunities and gap year travel,” she said. “Language in Motion brings the world to our classrooms in a way that’s so accessible and engaging for our students.”

LEARNING FOR ALL 

Jacobeit pointed to several aspects of the program her students have enjoyed over the years. 

“Students love hearing from college students about their experiences living around the world and studying languages.  It highlights the relevance of language learning and brings real people and real stories to our classrooms,” she said. “LiM visits often give our students a chance to practice their language skills with fellow speakers of the language they’re studying.” 

She noted that this past December Language in Motion organized a French language day at the college for upper level French students from Mount Abe and Middlebury Union high schools, during which participants received a campus tour in French and met with Middlebury College students studying the language.  

“Collaborating with LiM has been one of the most gratifying parts of my work as a language teacher, and I am so grateful for the impact LiM continues to have on our students’ experience,” Jacobeit said. 

Doucet is among thousands of Vermont students who have been visited by LiM presenters since the program started. She said as a student, those presentations allowed her to learn more about life outside of the Green Mountain State.

“Vermont can be kind of a sheltered place to an extent,” Doucet said. “It depends on your background, your family, but I think living in a majority white place, a majority English-speaking place without easy access to other places, the program really gives insight to different ways of living and different places of the world.” 

Providing local students with a global perspective is a key part of the program, as well as helping Vermont students embrace their own culture, Mullins said. 

“Having Vermont school children recognize that they have a fascinating, valuable culture as well, and that others are interested in learning about their lives and their experiences,” she said. “It’s not just about ‘the world out there,’ they’re also the world out there to other people. Engaging in that reciprocal exchange I think is very valuable.” 

Mullins added that developing off-campus relationships has also proven to be a valuable part of the program for participating college students and teaching assistants.

“(Participants) talk about really appreciating establishing a relationship with someone off campus,” she said. “It’s very easy to just get contained on campus, but to get to know their broader community in this place that is home for most of them for at least four years, if not longer.” 

In the coming years, Mullins said she’d like to explore other ways to make the program fruitful for its participants. Those efforts could include resuming LiM programming for educators that stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic and developing established curriculum for student presenters to work with. 

“I would love to approach anti-racism work from an international perspective, and more of an anti-colorism work within Language in Motion,” Mullins said of areas she’d like to further develop. “Each student could come in and bring their own experience and take to it as they prepare for offering those in the classroom.” 

Share this story:

More News
Education Op/Ed

Opinion: School boards have done their jobs, now pass school budgets

Three school districts serving students from Addison County will soon revote budgets. Moun … (read more)

Education Homepage Featured News

Principals picked for three ACSD schools

ACSD board must still OK three educators to lead Bridport, Shoreham and Cornwall elementar … (read more)

Homepage Featured News

Legislators point to action on housing, environment, school funding

Local lawmakers on Monday listed a series of initiatives they believe will define the 2024 … (read more)

Share this story: