Each year, the Virginia Department of Education, in cooperation with Washington and Lee University in Lexington, hosts the Governor’s World Language Academies. These selective academies offer full- or partial-immersion language learning experiences to the top high school language students across the Commonwealth. The highly competitive application process involves establishing eligibility for the Academy, completing the application, acquiring two recommendations from teachers, requesting nominations from the home school, securing transcripts, and completing rigorous testing. After all that, only a select few students are chosen to attend one of the Academies – French, Spanish, German, Latin, or Japanese. This year, all three students nominated by St. Anne’s-Belfield earned acceptance into their language Academy!
Congratulations to Jack D. ’23, nominated by Spanish teacher Dr. Paloma Visscher-Gingerich; Emma F.G. ’23, nominated by Latin teacher Dr. Brandtly Jones; and Isabel H. ’23, nominated by French teacher Dr. Isabelle Reeves. The students will spend three weeks at Washington and Lee with talented faculty and staff from around the world.
The Governor's World Language Academies began in 1986 as a French Academy. Since then, it has grown to include multiple languages. With a student-staff ratio of 5:1, students receive highly individualized learning attention from experienced instructors, many of whom are native speakers. Because the Academy is residential, college-age resident advisers (RAs) are on hand to assist with the many activities offered during the three weeks. The RAs are generally college students who are native or heritage speakers or are majoring in the language of the given Academy. Many are former Academy students themselves. Academy attendees enjoy communal meals, classes, lectures, field trips, projects, and recreation time in the afternoons, and evening activities that do not end until shortly before lights out. It’s a 24/7 learning experience.
According to Anne Wendling, St. Anne’s Upper School world language department chair and French teacher, the world language department meets and suggests students, typically those in their junior year who are enrolled in the AP level or Honors level 4 of the language. St. Anne’s upper-level language courses are unique in the quality of teacher feedback that students receive. Students have ample opportunity to develop their interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational language skills, so their teachers will have prepared them thoroughly for the language testing and essay portions of the application.
This was true for Emma F. G. ’23, who says, “If it weren’t for the random facts Dr. Jones often shares with us, I doubt I would’ve been accepted. I wrote my essay for the Academy, for which the prompt was ‘write about an event that changed the course of Roman history,’ on the horse named Incitatus that became consul under emperor Caligula, based entirely on the handful of times Dr. Jones mentioned Incitatus in class!”
After the Academy, students will head into their senior year at St. Anne’s with their newly acquired skills. Emma says, “I will certainly be continuing with Latin next year at St. Anne’s, and I hope to spend more time working with primary sources in Latin. In my Independent Study last year, I was able to read and analyze some of Dante Alghieri’s writings on rhetoric in their original Latin form, and I can only imagine the other endeavors and questions which might lead to similar explorations, especially with a continued study of Latin.”
Ms. Wendling emphasized how special this accomplishment is. “An acceptance of all three of our language candidates has not happened in a very long time, if ever – certainly not during my tenure at the school (10 years). There’s a certain deliberateness to that – the World Language Academies want to make sure multiple schools are represented, but I think it just speaks to the skills of these particular students.”