Editorial | Virtual Spanish not an ideal solution for WHS students

At the April board of education meeting a potential plan was presented for the vacant high school Spanish teacher position. 

The current Spanish teacher, David Amer, submitted his resignation in February of this year. Amer has also been working as the mental health liaison in the district. The school district posted the open Spanish teacher position as part time and so far there have been no applicants, causing the board to look at alternative plans. 

At the board meeting, superintendent Brad Starnes proposed offering the Spanish classes as a virtual Greenbush option. 

“It’s relatively impossible to find someone for that part time position, so the plan moving forward is through virtual Greenbush which we have done before,” Starnes said. 

Various members of our newspaper staff and other seniors in the school experienced a virtual Spanish format in freshman year after the foreign language teacher, Rachel Cox, resigned during the summer. 

That situation was different, as the school district was in a pinch and didn’t have much time to fill the position. The virtual format only lasted a couple of weeks before Kathy Hendricks, a retired foreign language teacher, was hired to fill the vacancy. Hendricks only taught for the first semester before the current Spanish teacher, David Amer, was hired. 

Some of us had experienced virtual learning even before COVID-19 shut the world down. The format can work for some classes that are small in size, but Spanish is a popular class. When class sizes are big, having a person actually present in the room is key in keeping everyone focused. It’s often hard to control an environment over zoom to ensure work is being done. Pronunciation and conversation is also key for Spanish and that is hard to work on through a screen. 

“The best way to learn something is with a person right in front of you who you can interact with and build a relationship with,” Amer said. 

This time around, Amer informed the district of his plans with plenty of time in advance to search for another teacher. It doesn’t seem like we’ve exhausted all of our options, yet we’re already settling for the virtual format. 

The position is currently posted as part time, with a listed salary of $11,000-20,000, which definitely doesn’t make it seem desirable. But does it really have to be part time? Wabaunsee has previously had the foreign language teacher in charge of other classes as well.

Both Kathy Hendricks and Rachel Cox taught Spanish for a few class hours and English IV a couple hours, creating a full time position and allowing for more flexibility in the schedule for another section of college English (Hendricks also taught French). 

If not English, then maybe a different class such as history. Wabaunsee is severely lacking in history options, as it is down half a history teacher since Jess Rutledge’s arrival. Options such as current events or economics would be great for students and add more flexibility to student’s schedules.

Another option could be to advertise the foreign language position with some of the other vacant part time positions in the district such as the state testing coordinator or as a floating substitute teacher. Substitute teachers have been very difficult to find since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and it seems that they are needed daily. In the hours that the part-time foreign language teacher doesn’t have class they could be the go-to person to cover any and all classes when teachers are absent. 

We realize that hiring someone isn’t always easy. Teacher shortages are a nationwide problem, and several other districts in the area are also currently looking for Spanish teachers. We’re not saying the district doesn’t care, or that providing foreign language classes isn’t a priority.

In the end, we would just like the district to really exhaust all other options before settling for a virtual Spanish option, and if virtual Spanish ends up happening, then we hope they will still look for ways to turn it into an in-person class. We all remember virtual learning from when COVID-19 shut everything down in 2020. 

While it is a good solution in a bind, and in some cases can work okay, students learn best when they have a teacher present in the class with them to assist them with their learning. 

The editorial is the opinion of the Charger staff. Students discuss editorial topics as a group and write an opinion that represents a majority of the staff.

Send letters to the editor to whscharger@gmail.com.

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