Education

Fair Oaks teacher gives French lessons with flair

French teacher Nicole Naditz, in her classroom at Bella Vista High School, was named National Language Teacher of the Year.
French teacher Nicole Naditz, in her classroom at Bella Vista High School, was named National Language Teacher of the Year. hamezcua@sacbee.com

A student birthday in one of teacher Nicole Naditz’s classes at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks means singing the Canadian birthday song in French. A vocabulary lesson sometimes includes French rap. And students compete to answer questions posed by their teacher using cellphones or other hand-held devices.

Naditz’s innovative style of teaching has made her popular among students and admired by colleagues. Last month, she was named National Language Teacher of the Year by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages at its annual conference in San Antonio.

“I can say she is probably one of the most passionate teachers I’ve ever seen,” said Bella Vista Principal Peggy Haskins. “She will do anything to promote world languages.”

This enthusiasm has won Naditz more than a dozen awards and honors, including being named Sacramento County Teacher of the Year and a finalist for California State Teacher of the Year in 2012.

Naditz says the passion comes from a desire to open students’ eyes to the perspective of other cultures. “This is easy with French because it is spoken in almost 30 countries around the world,” she said. “Because of our extensive work, studying and interacting with the numerous cultures of the French-speaking world, students arrive at university or on the job market with a global outlook unmatched by many American students.”

Naditz has taught French at Bella Vista High School since 2004, with a break from 2004-07 to work as a consulting teacher. She started her career in 1993 at Temple City High School and taught at Viewpoint School in Calabasas and Davis Senior High before coming to Bella Vista.

She currently teaches French from level 1 through AP and serves as the adviser of the French Club and French Honor Society at Bella Vista. She meets with students who need help before and after school and belongs to numerous associations promoting world language and its teaching. She also tirelessly blogs, tweets and posts lessons, videos, games and links to materials in French on numerous sites, including Pinterest, Schoology, Storify, Blendspace, Classroom 2.0 and YouTube. She has a blog at http://3rs4teachers.wordpress.com.

“I’m not surprised she won the award,” said Sam Spinner, 16, after learning of his teacher’s honor. “She is extremely passionate and hardworking.”

Haskins said that Naditz, worried that a substitute would have trouble with a lesson, logged onto the Internet recently and coached students while on a flight to a language conference.

This work ethic has earned her students’ respect, Spinner said. “She is nice and uplifting and positive,” he said. “And to keep the classroom under control, she only has to ask students to ‘Keep it down.’ ”

Naditz’s journey to top-rung French teacher began as a middle-school student from a Sicilian family in search of an Italian class. She found the class, but it only was offered for one semester – leaving her to pick between typing or French. French won out.

Outside of school, Naditz shares her knowledge with other teachers as a member of numerous education-based organizations. She also is the president of the Foreign Language Association of Greater Sacramento and represents that local association on the board of the California Language Teachers Association.

Winning the national award was no easy task. After a nomination from the California Language Teachers Association, Naditz assembled a portfolio that included a 27-minute video of a lesson and her analysis of it. She submitted this to the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching, which represents teachers in eight states. After winning the conference’s top award earlier this year, she advanced to the national competition, where she went through the process again.

State schools chief Tom Torlakson congratulated Naditz last week: “As an outstanding language teacher, she is giving her students a skill that will increase their understanding of other cultures and help them succeed in our increasingly global economy.”

As the National Language Teacher of the Year, Naditz will travel to regional language conferences to meet with teachers and share her classroom strategies. In May she will attend a conference in Washington, D.C., for world language teachers that will include visiting elected officials or their staffs to advocate for world languages.

Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.

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