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Teacher Plans To Immerse Students In Spanish

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By JANET HEIM
The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — For most of the South Hagerstown High School students traveling to Spain and Morocco with Spanish teacher Amber Sheffler this spring, it will be their first time out of the state, let alone the country.

“Most have never flown or been out of Washington County,” Sheffler said.

Sheffler, who grew up in Waynesboro, Pa., majored in Spanish while a student at Shippensburg (Pa.) University. She lived in Salamanca, Spain, during the summer of 2002 while in college and this is her first time taking students there.

When she visited Spain this summer, Sheffler said she started “scoping things out,” including putting together a scavenger hunt for her students when they visit The Prado Museum in Madrid.

They will have a list of things they have to do, such as having a waiter confirm they ordered food in Spanish.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. I love my job and my kids. I want to do the best for my kids,” said Sheffler, who is in her fourth year of teaching at South High.

She is also the World Language Department chair and Spanish Club adviser at the high school.

So far, about a dozen students have signed up for the trip, accompanied by Sheffler and English teacher Nathan Schwartz.

The nine-day trip over spring break in April will start in Madrid, then head south to Toledo, Granada, Sevilla, Malaga and Costa del Sol, and Morocco.

The trip will include experiencing the metropolitan Spanish lifestyle in Madrid, which Sheffler compares to New York City. They’ll visit Gypsy caves, see Moorish culture and architecture, and eat Moroccan food, among other things.

Students in Sheffler’s Spanish 3, Spanish 4 or Advanced Placement Spanish classes are eligible to go.

She said her students speak a lot of Spanish in class, including at Friday Chat Circles, where nothing but Spanish is spoken for 10 minutes.

Sheffler tells her students to “throw away your inhibitions and just speak it. The key to mastery of language is getting your point across.”

She is eager to expose her students to other countries.

“My biggest passion is culture. They’ll be completely and totally immersed in culture. Culture is such a huge part of language,” Sheffler said.

“I’m looking so forward to opening their eyes to new things.”

The biggest roadblock is cost. The trip costs $2,400 per person, which includes airfare and all else except lunches.

Sheffler’s students have come up with fundraising ideas.

“The kids have a mile-long list,” Sheffler said, including car washes, scratch-off cards for donations, pizza and candy sales, and seeking financial help from local businesses and the South High alumni association.

“I just get so proud of my kids. I get so excited for them,” Sheffler said.

Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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