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Faculty Spotlight: Coordinator Bertina Hsu-Miller

During the summer break, many Germantown Academy faculty members take advantage of the Kast Grant program, which supports the professional growth and development of GA teachers. Lower School Chinese teacher and PreK-12 Chinese Curriculum Coordinator Bertina Hsu-Miller attended the Organic World Language East Coast Boot Camp at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA where she learned important methods for better teaching the Chinese language.

"I first learned about Organic World Language at a conference in the spring of 2016," said Hsu-Miller. "It was a magical learning experience which resulted in long term retention of the material due to intense engagement and enjoyment. From then, I knew I wanted to learn how to create such powerful and fun education for my students. "

According to Hsu-Miller, the Organic World Language teaching methods are a conglomeration of best practices in education and in language acquisition.

"It is highly kinesthetic and student-driven, yet naturally flowing in content and in advancing language skills," said Hsu-Miller. "Content is drawn organically from student interest instead of in pre-determined units or with a textbook. Each engagement circle on both the GA teacher and student charts are embodied within every class as students are challenged to persevere, negotiate meaning in context, task risks, and communicate in a non-native language environment."

Organic World Language's methodology is applicable across all ages, proficiency levels, and languages, and provides a proven framework for scaffolding student success.

"It is a proficiency-based class, and is so effective because it aims for language acquisition over language learning," explained Hsu-Miller. "Think of the difference between a child subconsciously acquiring his or her native language by being immersed in it versus the conscious effort of a teenager or adult learning grammar and syntax rules and trying to translate each word that is seen or heard. The first continually happens in context, and holds value in communication, thus meaning and patterns can be inferred. Conversely, the second requires laborious memorization of vocabulary, charts, conjugations, tenses, and rules, all which must be recalled, analyzed, and synthesized in the course of any given conversation. The second method is more likely to become overwhelming, frustrating, and forgotten, which is why adults often say something like, 'I took six years of French in school and I can't remember anything except how to say, 'Can I go to the bathroom?' By using Organic World Language's methods, I hope to ensure that my students have a completely different experience."

Hsu-Miller implanted Organic World Language curriculum for the first time into her classroom last year and received an overwhelming positive response from her students, parents, and colleagues.

"My favorite comment from students at the end of class is, 'What? That's it? But that was so short!' By returning to the Boot Camp this year, I was able to bring a different perspective and specific questions, which promoted a deeper level of understanding for how to improve my teaching practices," said Hsu-Miller. "I am incredibly grateful for GA's support in my professional growth."