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Danbury High School     43 Clapboard Ridge Road Danbury, CT 06811     (203) 797-4800

The Hatters' Herald

Danbury High School     43 Clapboard Ridge Road Danbury, CT 06811     (203) 797-4800

The Hatters' Herald

Danbury High School     43 Clapboard Ridge Road Danbury, CT 06811     (203) 797-4800

The Hatters' Herald

DHS has first fully staffed language department in years; students no longer forced to learn with Rosetta Stone

DHS has first fully staffed language department in years; students no longer forced to learn with Rosetta Stone

Danbury High School, and the nation, is plagued by a teacher shortage. For years, the World Language Department has suffered immensely, with certain Spanish teachers having to take on more classes than they were able to in order to compensate for the insufficiency. For much of the last year, students without Spanish teachers were forced to be “taught” by an online platform called Rosetta Stone. However, in the 2023-24 school year, the department has made leaps and bounds in its effort to repopulate the language classes.

via USA Today

While the issue has been resolved for this year, previously, the World Language Department was woefully understaffed. According to the Department Head, Ms. Elisa Mazzarese, several teachers needed to take on more and more classes to accommodate the vast number of students who were taking a language course. These teachers had to spread themselves thin, and yet there was still a major staff shortage. In certain Spanish classes, particularly, students were being taught by an online program called “Rosetta Stone” instead of a real native speaker.

via USA Today

Rosetta Stone

But what is Rosetta Stone? The language learning platform’s website claims to have a “Dynamic Immersion method” that allows students to surround themselves with a language. It also states that “Rosetta Stone’s structured immersion method expedites language learning. Students start speaking the new language on day one, as they learn intuitively through real-world images and audio from native speakers.”

However, Danbury High School students’ opinions of this app tend to differ. According to Samuel Ramirez, a student who was in a Rosetta Stone Spanish class for his sophomore year, Rosetta Stone “fails to teach. It serves more as a specialized Quizlet; it doesn’t substitute for a teacher.” He went on to add that “teachers actually clear up confusion and are just irreplaceable.”

Additionally, Mazzarese, who also is a French teacher herself, explained the major disadvantages of using a website to teach students a language. She explained that “it is not a replacement for a teacher” and that there is a need for a physical person to help build a connection with students to help them learn. Students need a real teacher to help them learn a foreign language, and the teacher shortage rendered this impossible.

 

National Teacher Shortage

The teacher shortage is not just a Danbury High School issue, either. While it is easy to blame the overpopulation and underfunding problems in this school, the lack of educators is widespread. While there is limited data available regarding the understaffing, “As of October 2022, 18 percent of public schools had one teaching vacancy, and 27 percent had multiple teaching vacancies,” said the National Center for Educational Statistics in a December 2022 press release. They also noted the shortage was disproportionately prevalent in low-income and high-minority communities. Thus, the situation at DHS is simply due to the fact that it is a microcosm of the nation.

As explained in a USA Today article regarding this topic, the scarcity of teachers is likely rooted in the infamously low salaries and the intense burn-out. According to Mazzarese, teachers have to take on additional classes to make up for the shortage, leaving them even more burnt-out and fatigued due to the sheer amount of students they need to teach. As a result of this vicious cycle, teachers truly cannot catch a break.

 

This Year

Shockingly, however, Danbury High School has been able to successfully resolve this issue within the World Language Department this year. This year, the World Language Department is fully staffed–a massive improvement from previous years. It is rare that DHS is able to resolve any of its issues, and this success is an immense feat.

How did this issue get resolved? Mazzarese explained that a partnership with the local college, Western Connecticut State University, allowed DHS to fill the gap. In this partnership, she said that the college’s “teacher program sometimes sends language student teachers here to DHS.” Eventually, these student teachers start working full-time.

At last, DHS students no longer need to be subject to hours of online learning that do not truly aid them in language acquisition. Though the teacher shortage may still be a major issue affecting the core of the US education system, this is one small step towards improving the education of local high school students.

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About the Contributor
Riya Pharsiyawar, Staff Writer
Hey! This is my first year writing for the Hatters Herald and I am super excited to be learning about Journalism. I am currently a junior here at DHS. I love reading and writing and I am the Treasurer of the National English Honors Society as well as an editor for our school's literary magazine, the Nutmegger. Besides this, I am also very interested in international relations and hope to pursue a career in this field. For fun, I like to travel, bake, and learn new languages.

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