Spanish Teacher, Ross High School
One of the many the benefits of membership in the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) is the ability to sponsor a chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica (an honor society for high school students) or the Sociedad Hispánica de Amistad (society for Spanish and Portuguese students at the middle and elementary school levels). At the university level, Sigma Delta Pi is an honor society for students of the Spanish language.
There are many benefits to a Spanish or Portuguese language program in offering the opportunity to join these organizations. Among them: to be a member of the societies, students must demonstrate a real interest in learning and continuing the study of the language, which will encourage students that are members to continue to enroll in upper-level courses, helping to retain students once they are in the program. Additionally, students can reap the benefits of scholarship opportunities, publication opportunities, and the activities that the local organization organizes throughout the year. Students may opt to take the Spanish or Portuguese language over other electives, knowing that they could add to their resume with membership in an honor society, which translates to increased enrollment in courses for the language, as well.
Some districts also encourage the establishment of these organizations by offering paid positions to sponsor the organizations, similar to other extracurricular activities. Check with your local district to find out whether this might be an opportunity for you.
On a personal level, I find that one of the most rewarding parts of sponsoring a chapter of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica is having the opportunity to celebrate my students’ achievements and their hard work in the program. Each year, our chapter initiates between 9 and 18 new members, depending on student interest and qualified applicants. Each chapter has the flexibility to establish certain requirements, such as what constitutes an “honors” grade point average within that institution. It’s wonderful to recognize them in front of their families, our administration, fellow teachers, and peers at both an initiation ceremony and at graduation, where they wear cords to indicate their membership. I relish the moments of celebration, knowing what my students have achieved – a lifelong love of the Spanish language and the valuable ability to communicate with it.
Additionally, our chapter proffers the opportunity to build interest in learning Spanish outside the classroom. Our chapter has social activities such as “Carnitas y conversación,” where students bring ingredients to make carnitas and then enjoy chatting in Spanish, as well as volunteer opportunities, such as reading bilingual books aloud to younger children at the elementary school and public libraries. These opportunities help the participants to make new friends and also to connect younger students with the language and spark interest that may motivate them to enroll in language classes later on.
For more information on these wonderful organizations, and how to get started with a new chapter, you can visit their respective websites at http://www.aatsp.org/?SHA(Sociedad Hispánica de Amistad), and http://www.aatsp.org/?SHH (Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica).