(l to r, Macalester students) Grace Riegel ’22, Emma Verges ’21, and Dan Szetela ’19 along with Jackson Roche, a student from a nearby university

On a recent weekday, three Mac students flipped their usual roles—as students, that is—to go out and act as teachers instead.

As part of an outreach effort by Mac’s Russian Studies Department, Dan Szetela ’19, Emma Verges ’21, and Grace Riegel ’22 (along with Jackson Roche from the University of St. Thomas) visited Capitol Hill Middle School in St. Paul to give an introductory lesson in Russian to more than 70 eighth-graders.

“The hope was that some of them will go on to study Russian in high school,” said Verges. “A lot of people would typically choose to study French or Spanish, which are also important languages. But in today’s world, Russian is becoming really important to learn, too, and is probably not studied as widely as it could or should be.”

The students, with the help of Professor Julia Chadaga and Brian Johnson, developed their own lesson plan for the day, which included a brief discussion about the country, and an introduction to the Cyrillic alphabet, and some useful phrases in Russian.

“The students were really engaged,” Verges said. “We only had planned to teach them a few phrases, but they picked them up really quickly, and then kept asking us how to say new things.”

After working with three consecutive global studies classes at Capitol, the Macalester students wrapped up for the day, and called it a success—one that may even become an annual tradition for the department.

“I was really glad we did it. I have always loved studying languages, and I think it’s really important to promote from a young age,” said Verges. “I hope at least a handful of those students will go on to study Russian, or that our visit at least sparked an interest for them to learn some other language, and to try to understand another culture.”

June 18 2019

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