Return to Headlines

Shawsheen and Nashoba Lead World Language Curriculum Initiative in Massachusetts Vocational Schools

BILLERICA, MA – Jacob Goliti-Chase, Spanish teacher at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, and Amy St. Arnaud, Spanish teacher at Nashoba Valley Technical High School, are spearheading an innovative effort to overhaul world language education in Massachusetts vocational schools. With the support of the FC 189 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), they have brought together a coalition of six vocational school districts to enhance world language programs and to promote collaboration among teachers.


Aimed at supporting proficiency-based outcomes in Languages Other than English (LOTE): World Language (WL), Heritage Language (HL), Dual Language (DL), and English Language Learner (ELL) programs, this FC 189 grant has awarded lead grantee Nashoba Valley Technical High School $48,500, as part of a $500,000 state-wide initiative. This is the first year the grant specifically targets vocational-technical schools, with roughly 10% of its overall funding allocated to this new focus. Shawsheen Valley Technical High School partners with Nashoba Tech, in leading the way with this innovative program.


Six regional-vocational schools are collaborating to share resources, to align curriculum with the 2021 World Languages Framework, and to take steps to address the shortage of world language teachers in vocational settings: Nashoba Valley Technical High School (Westford), Shawsheen Valley Technical High School (Billerica), Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School (Danvers), Keefe Regional Technical School (Framingham), Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School (Palmer), and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School (Northampton).


Vocational schools have a unique structure, offering students both a traditional high school diploma and a diploma in their chosen career and technical education (CTE) field. This dual focus often limits elective courses, including world languages, leading to smaller language departments and reduced collaboration among language teachers. This initiative seeks to address these challenges by creating a network that facilitates professional development and collaboration among world language educators in similar vocational-technical settings.


This cohort has been meeting regularly since the start of the year and has already seen promising outcomes. Key milestones included two professional development conferences hosted by Shawsheen, featuring Leslie Grahn, a national expert on proficiency-based instructional resourcing, and Education Professor Catherine Ritz from Boston University. During these sessions, participants explored effective strategies for aligning vocational world language instruction with national standards, including the

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages' (ACTFL) core practices. Participants also engaged in exercises to develop immersive, culturally relevant learning resources for their students.


Early success of this four-month-old initiative has drawn attention from state leadership in world languages. President of Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) Dr. Vilma Bibeau attended the March 1 professional development held at Shawsheen, as did Andrew McDonie, World Language Support Specialist in DESE’s Office of Language Acquisition, who remarked, "This collaborative effort has the potential to transform world language instruction in vocational schools, offering students a brighter future through innovative and culturally relevant education."


Shawsheen's Academic Director, Danica Johnston, concurs with McDonie's commendation, underscoring the beneficial influence this initiative has had on Shawsheen. She said, "This grant has allowed Jacob to collaborate with other world language teachers from vocational schools across Massachusetts, resulting in new practices and activities that actively engage our students. This is just the start of further developing Shawsheen's world language program."


Encouraged by its initial success, Amy St. Arnaud and Jacob Goliti-Chase intend to reapply for additional grant funding to extend the program into FY25. Their goal for the next phase includes formalizing a knowledge-sharing system and expanding the collaborative network to include more vocational school districts.


This initiative is establishing a new benchmark for world language education in Massachusetts vocational schools, highlighting the power of collaboration and the dedication of committed educators.


About Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical School District


Established in 1965, Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical School District (SVRVTSD) stands as a beacon of educational excellence, placing students at the center of its mission. Proudly serving the communities of Billerica, Bedford, Burlington, Tewksbury, and Wilmington, Shawsheen caters to the diverse needs of over 1,300 students in grades 9-12.


Dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, Shawsheen seamlessly integrates academics with a dynamic range of over 20 vocational-technical career pathways. Located in Billerica, Massachusetts, Shawsheen's expansive 100-acre campus hosts an exceptional school building adorned with high-end and industry relevant equipment, athletic fields, twenty-four varsity sports, and a plethora of extra-curricular clubs and activities.


With a passionate faculty and staff, Shawsheen remains committed to its mission: "to provide a positive learning experience in a safe educational environment that encourages all students to reach their full potential, emphasizes the value of a strong work ethic, and prepares them for adult life in a competitive world."


Beyond its traditional academic offerings, Shawsheen Valley Technical School extends its educational reach through Adult Education, Afterschool Enrichment Programs, Community-focused Events, and Summer Programs. The district continually strives to expand its rich and diverse programming, embracing the belief

that education is a lifelong, continuous process with numerous paths leading to a successful and fulfilling life.