Foreign Language Department Heightens Success with New Language Lab


Student uses the new technology in the language lab. (Photo/Derek Caneja)

Aurora Hebner

Student uses the new technology in the language lab. (Photo/Derek Caneja)

At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, Walpole High School said goodbye to beloved Spanish teacher and department head Mr. George Watson.  After being captain of the quirky foreign language team for thirty-one years, Watson decided it was time to leave Walpole High for bigger and better things, such as mentoring and training other teachers.  Mr. Watson will surely be missed as he was a valued component of Walpole High School, receiving the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year award in 2009 and helping the department reach its reputation as one of the best foreign language departments in the state in Boston Magazine.  Watson didn’t leave the department in complete turmoil though, as he introduced a new and improved language lab to the high school that underwent development over the summer.

As the 2011-2012 school year continues, Mrs. Lisa Osborne is taking the reigns as the new department head.  Although these are big shoes to fill, Mr. Watson has high hopes for Osborne and wishes her luck managing the budget for the department. Mrs. Osborne said she is definitely excited to take up the position. Although she is somewhat intimidated to replace a legend, Osborne said that “Mr. Watson [was] awesome, and so supportive.”  When asked about the plans for the new language lab, Osborne immediately referenced Mr. Watson as she admitted he would know much more than she would as he is the brain behind the whole operation.

With the current equipment in the language lab having been used for thirteen years, it is definitely time for a change.  Last year, the lab consisted of cubicle-like desks with a small television and a tape recording station for each student.  The technology allowed teachers to pair students up to do partner work or have one student talk to the whole class through their microphones and headphones.  The class was also able to watch movies on the televisions and listen through their headphones.  Most often used to record foreign language spoken conversations between students, this technology is useful but absolutely out of date.

Mrs. Osborne introduced the new lab as a “Sony 9000 Lab” that will provide students with computers with internet access and software in order to record their speaking activities.  Rather than recording their voices on ancient cassette tapes, conversations will now be saved on digital servers that teachers will have access to, so there will be no more problems concerning lost tapes and such.  The internet access will also allow students to watch broadcasts from around the world.  Besides out of date technology, one of the main problems of the old language lab is that many booths are broken in some way, denying use of the lab to classes with more students than available booths. The new lab is able to accommodate thirty students.  Funded by $135,000 tax dollars, this addition to the foreign language department is guaranteed not to disappoint.

Not only is the foreign language department updating to twenty-first century technology, the art department has also fought for their right to a refurbished art lab.  Over the summer, Mrs. Sandra Allison’s design room received eighteen iMacs with access to photo shop and illustrator in order to continue constructing film festival posters and printing out pictures for references on many different projects. As head of the art department, Mrs. Allison has admitted to trying for about five years to update the ten year old computers presently in the lab as her computers are in very bad shape–she lost four on the very first day of school last year. Mrs. Allison had primarily asked for twenty-two computers in order to boost class numbers higher than eighteen as some projects require every student to use a computer all class, but is grateful for the numbers she will receive and said “Imbusch was extremely supportive throughout the process of trying to get the lab updated.” As Mrs. Allison said she feels bad for all the hounding she had to do, she very enthusiastically said “We do it all for [the students]! It’s for the students!”

As Walpole High makes steps toward a more modern way of learning, the school just wishes that these additions to the establishment didn’t have to come with the loss of admirable teacher, colleague and friend, Mr. George Watson.