Increase in enrollment prompts department changes


By Ian Ong, Centerspread Editor
Conestoga’s language department is undergoing a dramatic shift in enrollment. The number of students in Spanish classes at Conestoga, in particular, have exploded, prompting the district to hire a total of six new Spanish teachers in the past three years. Classes have swelled in size, and new Spanish teachers, including Laura Stafford and Marianna Gazzara, have been hired in order to compensate for this unprecedented growth. Patrick Cupo, who had been a substitute at Conestoga for two years, now teaches Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 full-time. According to Spanish and French teacher Ashley Stenger, the increase in Spanish students began last year when an enormous amount of Conestoga freshmen decided to enroll in Spanish 3 classes.
Two years ago, Honors Spanish 3 had about 115 students enrolled. One year later, this number nearly tripled to about 312 students. Because of the expansion of the Spanish program, Spanish teachers were required to teach six classes in a day. Only this year did the administration lower this number from six to five with the hiring of more Spanish teachers. What follows is changes in administration and teacher assignments.
“My classes have pretty much stayed the same, but I actually teach more French than Spanish this year,” Stenger said. “This is the first year where that has happened.”
The growing dominance of Spanish has also impacted other language classes, such as Chinese, Latin and German, in terms of enrollment. Currently, 1,029 students are enrolled in Spanish at Conestoga—significantly more than any other language. French enrollment follows with 421 students, which is more than Chinese, German, Latin and Italian enrollment combined. World language department chair and Spanish teacher Ann Karcewski attributes this phenomenon to a combination of factors, including population growth in the school district.
“The way it’s structured, it’s really hard to take another language course. In years past, when there was more flexibility in students’ schedules, we would have dual language majors,” Karcewski said. “If there were room in the schedule, then students would take Italian, Chinese and German for sure.”
Another influence on language classes are the middle schools, where only Spanish and French are offered as foreign languages.
“At the middle school, they no longer offer Latin and [German], which they used to offer, so students only have two choices,” Stenger said.
Nonetheless, new permanent teachers such as Gazzara and Cupo are looking forward to a fruitful year teaching Spanish at Conestoga.
“I look forward to seeing the progress in my students from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Gazzara said. “I’m also looking forward to teaching different subjects, units and classes.”
Cupo shares a similar view.
“I want to keep kids involved in Spanish. I want to get them interested in it, and I want them to be ready for next year’s courses,” Cupo said.
Although Spanish has become the dominant language for students entering Conestoga, the language program continues to offer a variety of languages that students can pursue; they need only the opportunity and will to make it happen.
“Students in Conestoga have a passion and love for languages, and if their schedule allows them to, you will see an increase in enrollment for all other languages besides Spanish,” Karcewski said.
Ian Ong can be reached at [email protected].