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Ask Away: 5 Questions for a Secondary School Counselor


We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success… 

Meet Robyn Lady—Director of Student Services at a Virginia high school, where she brings more than 20 years’ experience as a school counselor.  She holds a BA in Psychology from the College of William & Mary and a Masters of Education in School Counseling from UVA.

Robyn - banner image

1. How many languages does your school offer? Can you share with us a system or activity that has worked well at your school in regard to supporting language education and language students?

We offer four languages. Counselors support language learning when helping students select courses. The majority of our students identify as college bound, and most colleges want to see that students have taken at least three years of a language in high school. We teach students that many colleges have world language requirements in an effort to encourage them to go beyond three years.

We are also a one-to-one school (every student has been issued a laptop); this has been extremely helpful for our ELL students (English Language Learners) as they can easily find online resources to support their learning.

2. What kinds of questions do you most often receive from parents and students about language education?

The two questions we receive the most are:

1) Is this required to graduate from high school?

2) How many years of a language do colleges want to see on the high school transcript?

3. So much of what we hear about language learning just isn’t true! What are some of the biggest myths about language learning in high school that need to be “busted”?

The biggest one I hear is “you won’t use it later in life,” which we all know is not true.

4. What are your suggestions for how schools can promote meaningful conversations about language learning?

We discuss how marketable being bilingual can be to securing jobs after high school.

5. What advice would you offer to students who are undecided about considering language classes beyond any requirements in high school?

I continue to remind them that many colleges require them as well and I reiterate how they can set you apart when trying to get a job after college.

6. BONUS QUESTION: Could you share with us an anecdote about a particular student you know for whom language classes or cultural immersion have made a difference in his or her personal and future professional growth?

Almost any student going into the medical profession–doctor, nurse, technician, etc.–is extremely well situated if he/she learns Spanish.

I had a former student, who is currently a nurse, recently share with me that she uses her Spanish every day, and there are patients at the hospital who only eat when she is working… Why? Because she speaks their language and orders their meals for them!

As Robyn explains, language skills make both college bound students and those seeking to enter the workforce directly after high school more competitive and “marketable” in the eyes of future employers. And in addition to wider professional opportunities, learning a language helps us become more confident individuals, boosts academic success, and allows us to connect with even more potential friends!

Looking for resources to help support your current or future language learning plans?  Check out our pages on study abroad programs, university programs, scholarships, and careers that require language skills across various sectors.

Or in need of some inspiration? These student success stories are sure to catch your interest!  Then tell us your story @LeadWLanguages on social media.