South Orangetown Central School District

The New York State Education Department has awarded Tappan Zee High School with the Silver Seal of Biliteracy Badge for graduating students who have earned recognition based on high proficiency in English and at least one other world language over the past three years.

“The New York State Seal of Biliteracy (NYSSB) is important because it showcases the rich, authentic and rigorous instruction we offer in world languages and English,” explained TZHS Assistant Principal Melissa Luciano, who chaired the world language department in her previous district. “The Seal recognizes students who have a high level of proficiency in more than one language and encourages them to continue the study of languages. We want to prepare our students with the skills to succeed in a multilingual society. Encouraging the study of languages and culture is a key goal and this recognition reflects that commitment.”

Since 2019, nine TZHS graduates have earned the NYSSB (most, but not all, pictured). Of these, four students qualified for Spanish and English; three qualified for French and English; and two students qualified for tri-literacy: French, Spanish and English.

“Less than five percent of graduating seniors are awarded the Seal, making it a commendation that distinguishes students from other high school graduates and college entrants,” World Language teacher Elaine Hayes noted. “I tell all my students to pursue this recognition opportunity. Even if they don’t end up getting the Seal, there’s absolutely nothing to lose by trying…so go for it!”

TZHS Class of 2020 NYSSB recipients Juliet Hayes and Juliana Guarracino recently reflected on their own experiences.

“What motivated me to pursue the NYSSB in French and Spanish was my love of languages, my desire to challenge myself beyond the classroom, and the support that Ms. Santiago, Madame Hayes and the other language teachers offered me throughout the process. I felt like I had really accomplished something after completing both of my seals,” said Hayes, who is co-majoring in Marketing and Business Analytics at Villanova University. “My advice to students who are considering it is to go for it. Even if you don’t want to pursue languages in college, it is a great resume booster at the beginning of your college career and can give you a competitive edge in pursuing internship and leadership opportunities.”

Guarracino is currently studying Global Media, Culture and Communications and minoring in French at New York University. “I decided to pursue the NYSSB because I loved French and Spanish and thought I would use them in a prospective career in global business and media. I knew that, even if I went into another career, knowing a second or third language would benefit me. Having this certification would, for me, acknowledge and qualify my achievement and dedication to language learning over my high school years,” she stated. “Learning a language in high school, and eventually receiving the certification, prepared me for language learning in college and professional use of the language. Next semester, I will be studying abroad in Paris and I will also have an internship at a French company where I will have to work and converse mostly in French. I think I would be less prepared and less fluent if I had not pursued a world language in high school. Learning French in high school and getting the certification laid the foundation for an interest and skill that will be a major component of both my collegiate and professional career. Pursuing French as I did helped me land an internship abroad. While I have not taken any Spanish classes in college yet, I plan to study abroad in Argentina next fall and I expect my Spanish certification and learning from high school will help me navigate the city and my classes as I continue to build on what I’ve learned.”

World language instruction in French, Italian and Spanish begins in sixth grade and extends through high school. Advanced Placement courses are currently available for Spanish and French and college credit-bearing courses are taught in all three languages. Students may also register for courses in other world languages through Virtual High School.

TZHS World Language Team Leader Maria Bruno lauded students’ efforts to advance their world language skills. “Our department strives to instill in students a curiosity and appreciation for world cultures while also teaching them the value of proficiency in multiple languages as they move on to future academic pursuits and career paths in the global community. We are so proud of this recognition!”

More information regarding the NYSSB is available on the NYSED website.

NYSSB recipients 2019-2021