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By Jean Conley
D r. Edward Zarrow, a numismatist by training, is happiest in a museum coin room. The Westwood High School Latin teacher is
drawn to coins because they connect him in a very
tangible way to the history, language and culture of a
region during a particular time.
As the 2016 National Language Teacher of the
Year, Zarrow has had almost a year to speak around
the country about the connections among languages,
history and culture. The honor has also provided
him with the opportunity to make his case —
passionately and publicly — that all students should
be required to study at least one foreign language by
the time they graduate from high school.
“The study of a language itself should not be a
choice,” says Zarrow.
He explains his thinking this way: “Foreign
language study is the principal window through
which we explore world cultures. If we really want
to say that we value critical thinking, that we value
tolerance, that we’re adequately preparing our
students to be ready for the global stage — we can’t
think global without putting languages first.”
Zarrow is the first Latin teacher — as well
as the first teacher from Massachusetts — to be
honored as National Language Teacher of the Year
by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign
Languages, or ACTFL.
As the Massachusetts Foreign Language
Association’s Teacher of the Year for 2015, he
became the state association’s nominee for the
In November, Zarrow will often occupy
center stage at the national organization’s annual
conference, which will take place in Boston. The
event typically attracts 7,000 to 8,000 language
educators from around the nation.
As the school year neared its end in May,
Zarrow and his Westwood High School colleague,
Nancy Aykanian — who is MaFLA’s Massachusetts
French teacher of the year and an MTA Board
member — discussed what they see as their role as
advocates for foreign language study.
“There’s a lot of lip service being paid to
‘being a global citizen,’” said Aykanian. “But absent
knowing other languages, that statement doesn’t
really go very far. It’s empty rhetoric.
“Teaching is not just imparting skills,” she
added. “It’s also about teaching our students
how to think critically about the world around
Please turn to Teachers/Page 17
Dr. Edward Zarrow,
the 2016 National
Language Teacher of
the Year, chats with
who was named the
Teacher of the Year
by the Massachusetts
and Aykanian both
teach at Westwood
High School. “The
study of a language
itself should not be a
choice,” says Zarrow.
Photo by Jean Conley