The students at Weybridge Elementary have a new tool when it comes to learning a foreign language -- thanks to Middlebury Interactive Languages.
"I think it is really great. I have learned a lot this year. Last year I did Power Speak. Last year I had a lot of fun, but this program teaches me a lot more," said Weybridge student Alison Seaton.
Middlebury Interactive is the leading provider of virtual and in-person world language courses for students in Kindergarten through grade 12. It is a joint venture of the College and the Virginia-based K12 Incorporated, the nation's largest digital education provider. These courses were developed by Middlebury College professors based on the college's immersion language instruction method.
"Providing summer academy and online language learning, we want to be a partner to educators -- public policy folks -- who are trying to give all of our kids the education they need in order to be successful in what is a rapidly changing world," said Jane Swift, Middlebury Interactive's CEO.
The company just opened a new headquarters in Middlebury. They have 22 employees and plan to hire more. And Monday they announced a $2.6 million initiative with Middlebury College to provide 30 Vermont schools with discounted unlimited access to Middlebury Interactive web-based language courses in Chinese, French, German, Latin and Spanish. "Because of the generosity of Middlebury College -- where an entire school can get a course in five languages for as many students as they want to enroll for $6,000 -- Middlebury will pay for $3,000," Swift said.
Weybridge Elementary school was the first to sign on. "It gives a cultural element. It re-enforces grammar lessons. It provides more vocabulary too. It's a nice way to support classroom instruction," said Natasha Causton, the school's Spanish teacher.
And for Middlebury College this is the chance to become a leader in digital language learning. "To expand access to language learning -- secondly, in addition to access, we want to retain our leadership position in language teaching," said Middlebury President Ronald Liebowitz.
Governor Peter Shumlin was also on hand Monday to praise the announcement. "Jobs -- and growing right here in Middlebury. The most innovative language learning online that I have ever seen and a commitment -- financially -- to Vermont schools to provide $2.6 million of match money," he said.
Shumlin said the announcement will help prepare the next generation of Vermont students to compete in a global marketplace.
The students will have full access to the courses. They will be able to sign on at home or the library.
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