Hortonville instructor is state’s top Spanish teacher
Janet Rowe interviewing for national award in March
By Scott Bellile
The Hortonville Area School District can proclaim it is home to the top Spanish teacher in Wisconsin.
This is according to the Wisconsin Association for Foreign Language Teachers, which awarded Janet Rowe the Teacher of the Year Award for 2018.
“This is an incredible honor for Ms. Rowe,” Hortonville High School Principal Thomas Ellenbecker said in an email to the Press Star. “She has been a great advocate for students and provided our students with outstanding opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. I am happy for her to receive this recognition from her peers in the World Language Community.”
A Spanish teacher at Hortonville High School since 1992, Rowe helped introduce foreign language instruction to HASD’s elementary schools. Prior to her initiative, only students in grades eight through 12 received a Spanish education.
Spanish rolled out at the elementary level in 2001. German was added in 2010. Students from second grade onward now receive foreign language education.
“The younger students have a much easier time acquiring language. [Their] brain is wired to learn a language … so the older we are, the more difficulty we have in picking up a language. So it’s certainly beneficial,” Rowe explained.
Rowe said students achieve a higher level of proficiency by starting a second language early in life. She witnessed this firsthand because as HASD’s elementary learners advanced to middle and high school, the language curriculum had to be adjusted to be more challenging.
In the classroom, Rowe reaches her students by using the Spanish language as much as possible as well as incorporating music and culture into lessons.
Students who want to immerse themselves in Latin American culture while putting their language skills to the test have the opportunity to embark on a class trip abroad every one to two years. Rowe has led HHS trips to Spain, Central America and South America. This year’s trip will be Costa Rica.
For the students who fly through the four years of standard high school Spanish instruction, HHS added fifth and sixth year Spanish courses facilitated through the Cooperative Academic Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Rowe serves as a qualified adjunct teacher and leads these classes at HHS.
Through CAPP, Rowe said her students graduate from HHS with as many as 21 Spanish credits already completed, nearly enough to attain a minor at most universities.
Many HHS students major in Spanish in college because they have so many credits but also because they are enthusiastic about the subject matter, Rowe said. In the past year or so, four alumni studied abroad in Guatemala or Spain.
“For the little town of Hortonville, that’s a lot of students,” Rowe said.
Rowe was also a past board member for WAFLT. She continues to present on foreign language instruction at the organization’s conferences.
“She is wholeheartedly committed to developing and refining quality learning experiences for her students, and yet somehow still manages to find the time to give back to her colleagues through professional presentations,” WAFLT President-Elect and Awards Chairwoman Linda Havas told the Press Star. “These qualities, along with her zeal for her own continuous professional improvement, embody the best of world language education in Wisconsin.”
Rowe said she knows many excellent foreign language teachers through WAFLT, so it is “definitely an honor” and “pretty incredible” to be the state’s nominee.
Next, Rowe will attend the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages March 8-10 in Milwaukee, where she will interview for the chance to be the Central States region’s Teacher of the Year. The region represents 14 states.
From there, the regional winner will interview for a national award.
Among Rowe’s other recognitions, she holds National Board Certification, is a previous winner of the Kohl Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching, and serves as a Table Leader for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam. She was also part of HASD’s foreign language team when the program won the Donna Clementi Blue Ribbon Award in 2012.
Rowe accepted her Teacher of the Year Award at WAFLT’s conference in November. However, WAFLT formally presented it again before her peers and the Hortonville School Board on Feb. 12.
Donna Clemeni, a foreign language methods instructor at Lawrence University in Appleton and the namesake of the aforementioned Blue Ribbon Award, presented Rowe her certificate.
“It is a huge honor,” Clementi told the school board of Rowe’s award. “She’s already a winner and you’re very fortunate to have her within your district.”