Today’s young people are growing up in a world where they are more likely than past generations to either travel to other countries or encounter people from other countries who speak a language other than English. According to the NY State Education Department, students in our state speak over 200 languages! Acknowledging the expansion of cultures and languages, the NYS Legislature, in 2012, established the New York State Seal of Biliteracy (NYSSB), a formal recognition of a student’s proficiency in two or more languages. Twenty schools volunteered to help develop the NYSSB pilot program in the 2015-16 school year. Thanks to the determined efforts of teachers Sharon Rowe and Katherine Engel, Susquehanna Valley was authorized to offer the NYSSB in January 2018.
“Being able to speak more than one language is a way to stand out to colleges and to future places of employment,” explained Mrs. Rowe. “The student demonstrates global awareness and global understanding of different cultures and can communicate with others in multiple languages!”
Earning the NYSSB is no easy task. The student must choose a topic of interest particular to the target culture/language. They research in the target language, reading articles, watching videos, listening to music and podcasts, or experiencing the target culture first-hand. Working with a mentor when needed, the student prepares a scholarly essay or portfolio, and presents it – in the target language – to a panel of teachers and administrators. The presentation includes a question-and-answer session in the target language. In the final step, the student writes a reflection about their Biliteracy Seal experience in the target language.
In earning their Biliteracy Seal, the student has demonstrated proficiency in a World Language at the Intermediate-High level as established by the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), along with a high level of proficiency in English.
Since Susquehanna Valley inaugurated the NYSSB studies program, twenty-six students have earned their Biliteracy Seal:
2019: Kristen Allen, Ryan Ewanow (both Spanish)
2020: Jack Lawrence (French), Dylan Howe, Brooke Ryder, Lyndsie Jicha, Trey Stayton, Leanna Ricci, Dylan Vanderbilt, Sierra Root, Connor Brown, Emily Rudock, Logan Stettinius, Mason McCormick (Spanish)
2021: Karim Al-Khalidi (French), Barbara Hill (French), Haley Wing, Isaac Contreras, Kara Swartwood, Jackie Kane (Spanish)
2022: Trisha Roon (French), Alexis Devendorf, Katelyn Howe, Claire Holler, Graciana Thompson, Owen Reilly (Spanish)
The benefits of attaining the seal extend beyond a sense of accomplishment at the high school level.
From the New York State Education Department website:
The NYSSB acknowledges the importance of being bilingual in today’s global society. It highlights the hard work and achievement of students, encourages them to maintain their home language, and pursue additional language study while in school. The recognition of attaining biliteracy becomes part of the high school transcript and diploma for these students and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admission. According to LeadWithLanguages.org, developing proficiency in two or more languages can lead to many opportunities including a competitive advantage in the workforce, travelling, understanding other cultures, and improved brain function. All NYSSB earners will receive an official seal affixed to their diploma, a medallion to wear at graduation, and may also receive a certificate from the New York State Education Department.
To learn more, visit the NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT'S OFFICIAL NYSSB WEBSITE.