2020 Hall of Fame Nominee

Maureen Peltier
Saint Paul Central High School
Saint Paul, MN
2020 Finalist from CSCTFL

As a veteran teacher who dedicated her more than 30 years of professional life to language and culture acquisition, I identify three components that define the values of language and cultural competency: Academic training that prepares students for advanced work in many subject areas; cultural awareness training that goes beyond isolated stories and stereotypes; and the possibility of discovering new interests, even a passion.

Language learning leads to a command of not only the language being studied, but also one’s native language. Traditionally, teachers begin with key functional phrases followed by a grammatical study of how words build sentences and thoughts. Syntax, verb conjugations and agreement, for example, become systems that, when built upon, form thoughts and ideas. When extrapolated, this academic process of building foundational structures to establish more complex notions is also found in mathematics, the sciences, economics and literature. Even at level I, language classrooms offer a crucial fundamental academic preparation to students.

While rigor plays an important role in language acquisition and academic training, cultural competency paves the way towards social capacity. The news suggests that our nation has become culturally divided; hatred and intolerance appear to be overriding acceptance and understanding. Our job, as educators, is to gently guide our students to think critically and to realize what our world could be if knowledge replaced ignorance and harmony replaced hostility.

Language classrooms offer students a safe setting to explore new worlds, and to ask questions about other belief systems. Conversation allows students to compare and contrast their new knowledge with their own personal cultural beliefs. The more we explore customs, traditions, and ways of life in our language studies, the more we prepare tolerant, understanding young adults who are able to function at a more compassionate and empathetic level in a multicultural, global society and who may help bring our nation back together again.