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West Hall High Spanish teacher embraces language for speakers of all levels

POSTED: January 28, 2012 11:30 p.m.

Hall County Teacher of the Year

Belinda Sauret, a Spanish teacher at West Hall High School, was chosen as the 2013 Hall County Teacher of the Year. Sauret teaches Spanish literature to native speakers and truly believes in the power of being bilingual.

TOM REED/The Times

Belinda Sauret, a West Hall High School Spanish teacher, goes over a language exercise with her class.

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Belinda Sauret did not want to follow in her sister's footsteps and become a Spanish teacher.

But the Argentinean-born and Puerto Rican-raised college graduate eventually changed her mind. Now she's both a Spanish instructor at West Hall High School and Hall County Schools Teacher of the Year 2013.

She and her husband were both teaching at Gainesville State College when the Hall system began pursuing International Baccalaureate programs.

"International Baccalaureate, in addition to being genuinely international, puts a lot of emphasis on foreign languages. You get to teach languages at quite a dramatically higher level," Sauret said. "I came here because they were starting a Spanish for native speakers class. I got in on the ground floor with that and it's been very satisfying."

Her native speakers, IB and Advanced Placement students delve into literature and current events, learning the language through projects and constant immersion in the classroom.

"We're allowing those students to maintain a language that is theirs by virtue of their heritage that's also of value in a highly globalized world," Sauret said. "A lot of Hispanic students in particular are always eager to show they speak English and they speak it well, so I have to talk to them in terms of the benefits of keeping Spanish."

According to research Sauret follows, being bilingual allows children to become better at making complex decisions. It also makes it easier to learn third and fourth languages.

"And the question of someone being more employable by virtue of being bilingual ... one sells in the customer's language rather than in the manufacturer's language," she said. "It's very satisfying to feel that the work we're doing has that long-term benefit. Really, you have to be proud of the Hall County schools when you look around and see how much emphasis has been put on language."

Sauret said this is an exciting time to teach foreign languages. The Internet gives students instant access to resources such as magazines, books, newspapers and a host of other items Spanish teachers would search for when she first started her career.

As for being the representative for the Hall system this year, the thought "brings a little knot" to her throat.

"Not so much from emotion, but just the sense that somehow I've got to be able to convey how much fabulous stuff is going on in this area," Sauret said, citing West Hall High's award-winning drama and Health Occupation Students of America organizations. "I will try to be up to the task."



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