Basalt senior profile: Learning two languages to better know her community |

Basalt senior profile: Learning two languages to better know her community

Darian Armer
Special to the Post Independent

Madeline “Maddie” Mercatoris started taking Spanish in kindergarten because her parents thought it was important for living in the valley. Little did they know it would set her on a path that would shape her future.

The Basalt High School senior continued to learn Spanish all the way through elementary and middle school. By her sophomore year of high school she had completed all available courses for students learning Spanish as a second language.

“I knew I didn’t want to stop taking Spanish classes, so I decided to take Spanish Language Arts for Spanish speakers. At first, it was the most uncomfortable environment I’ve ever been in. The teacher was speaking Spanish the whole time, which I wasn’t used to,” says Mercatoris.

After Spanish Language Arts 1, Mercatoris took AP Spanish, who along with one other student, Emma Borchers, are the first non-native speakers to take AP Spanish Language at BHS. The girls are also the first non-native speakers to earn the seal of biliteracy at BHS.

Mercatoris says AP Spanish and SLA1 weren’t just your typical grammar Spanish class.

“It wasn’t looking at a table and conjugating. It was full on immersing yourself into learning how to read and write and speak,” Mercatoris says. “Emma and I were the only kids in the classes that didn’t speak Spanish fluently. It was uncomfortable and it allowed me to understand what it’s like for someone who just moved here from El Salvador or Mexico and is placed in a regular English speaking class and having a teacher teaching in a language they don’t know that well.”

Mercatoris said she wasn’t sure she could handle AP Spanish, but is grateful to her teacher for pushing her to try.

“I was just going to take Spanish Language Arts 2 and get my seal of biliteracy. But by the end of SLA1 our teacher was like I really, really think you can do it. I learned how to write essays and emails. It was a good step and I’m so grateful for Ms. Martinez for helping me get to that step and the seal of biliteracy.”

The State Seal of Biliteracy recognizes high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing one or more languages in addition to English.

After graduation, Mercatoris will attend the University of Arizona where she received a full ride. She plans to major in neuroscience, with the goal of one day becoming a neurologist.

For now, she works at Free Range Kitchen where she is able to communicate with some of the kitchen staff who don’t speak English. She also helps with freshmen tours, translating for parents who don’t speak English. She also tutors other students in Spanish.

“The main drive for me, my goal in life is to become a neurologist, and I want to be able to communicate with patients in the future and be able to explain to them what it’s like to receive a certain treatment. I want to be able to communicate to people in English and Spanish.”

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