DALLASTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s certainly not the biggest school district, nor the one with the highest number of bilingual students or world language teachers.
But Dallastown Area High School was one of only three Commonwealth school districts — Philadelphia being among the other two — to have what’s called a seal of biliteracy, awarded to students who meet literacy standards in English and at least one other world language.
Now all districts have access to the Pennsylvania Seal of Biliteracy. A group of Dallastown Area High School students were the first to be awarded that seal at a ceremony featuring Second Lady Gisele Fetterman (who greeted the crowd in English, Spanish, and her native Portuguese), Pa. Secretary of Education Noe Ortega (who said in addition to English, he speaks Spanish and Japanese) and Dallastown Superintendent Joshua Doll.
Ortega said it’s important to recognize districts like Dallastown that have led in the biliteracy seal realm “while the state plays catch-up.”
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Dallastown launched its seal in 2019. Cherie Garrett, the high school’s world language department chair and a Spanish teacher said she launched the program — an idea she got at a conference — with the support of Doll and Zachary Fletcher, the high school’s superintendent. Garrett said she’s “ecstatic to see this spreading statewide.”
Among the students receiving biliteracy seals Tuesday: João Abreu, who speaks three languages (Portuguese, his only language until he moved with his family from Brazil to the U.S. when he was 7, plus English and now Spanish) and hopes to have certified literacy in all three after he takes AP exams.
He plans to major in college in international business, and he’s aware of the practical benefits of fluency in multiple languages. But that’s not the only reason he’s proud to receive the seal.
“Also it’s gratifying for the person who receives that award because it’s their hard work too,” Abreu said. “It’s a lot of hard work to learn another language, and it takes time.”
“Plus, you can be cool with your friends because you speak multiple languages as well,” Ortega joked.