New chapter of Spanish Honor Society formed in Jefferson

March 31, 2019

JEFFERSON -- High school athletes who excel regularly are applauded, their faces and achievements in the public eye. Trophies in the trophy case, pictures in the paper and honors banquets all follow outstanding sports performances by individuals.

Andrew Schwei, Advanced Placement Spanish teacher at Jefferson High School, said he feels students who excel in other areas need to be recognized as well.

And in some areas, opportunities for that recognition do exist. Jefferson High School already has a National Honor Society chapter recognizing overall academic performance, a chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society for outstanding musicians and a chapter of the National Art Honor Society for young artists doing great work at the high school level.

Now, Jefferson High School is recognizing students in another area with the creation of a new Jefferson chapter of the Spanish Honor Society.

The group held its first induction ceremony Sunday afternoon, with outstanding sophomores, juniors and seniors recognized. It had 45 inductees, although only 36 were able to attend.

“It has been a goal of mine for some time to start a Spanish Honor Society at Jefferson High School to recognize students’ outstanding work in Spanish,” Schwei said.

To create a chapter, schools have to submit membership dues and paperwork to the national organization, then write bylaws for their chapter and establish clear criteria to join.

To qualify for induction into the Jefferson chapter, students must be in an upper-level Spanish class -- Spanish III or above -- and they must have taken at least three semesters of Spanish at Jefferson High School. (Middle school studies don’t count, no matter what level of Spanish students test into as freshmen.)

In addition, inductees must have earned grades of B-minus or better in all of their Spanish classes at the high school.

The brief ceremony Sunday started with a welcome address by Schwei and concluded with a few brief remarks by Jefferson High School Principal Steve Dinkel. In between, teacher Cassie Taylor served as the guest speaker.

Taylor, now a special education teacher at Jefferson High School, went through the Jefferson High School Spanish program as a student and had Schwei as a Spanish 5 (now Advanced Placement Spanish) teacher.

Taylor went on to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She talked about her studies, her travels and how learning Spanish had impacted her life.

For example, she said that knowing Spanish has allowed her to better communicate with the families of some of her students and has given her a greater appreciation of different cultures and traditions.

Asked about the value of a Spanish Honor Society, Schwei said, “We do a lot of different things that are really impressive here at Jefferson High School. We do a great job of recognizing sports achievements, especially, but others who excel in other areas, like theatrics or academics, also deserve recognition.”

He said that when he approached students about the possibility of starting a Spanish Honor Society in Jefferson, the response was uniformly positive.

“There is a big need for people who are fluent in Spanish in our community, as there is across the nation,” Schwei said. “A lot of people come into our schools speaking largely Spanish. Being able to communicate in Spanish, even on a basic level, is really valuable.”