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World Languages

Nurture meaningful and authentic communication.

The mission of the Language Department is to nurture meaningful communication, develop cultural competency, and promote multilingualism and multiculturalism.

The advantages of being able to communicate in another language include increased adaptability and mental acuity as well as acting with empathy and an open mind. Learning another language advances the development of skills essential to academic, social, and personal growth.   

Modern language courses at Walker’s foster language acquisition by emphasizing meaningful and authentic communication in all three communicative modes: interpersonal, interpretive and presentational. Modern language instructors deliver rich, compelling and comprehensible input in order to maximize engagement with the target language across all three modes. In this way, learners will develop confidence and fluency communicating in the target language.

Latin courses naturally focus primarily on the interpretive mode of communication. All language instruction is guided by pedagogical standards that enable language learners to set linguistically appropriate goals, identify areas of growth, and track progress. Learners will come to understand that language and culture are intertwined and interdependent, but that a shared language does not necessarily represent a shared culture. Through knowledge and appreciation of the geography, customs, history, and literature of the regions where the target language is or was spoken, learners gain cultural as well as linguistic competency.  

Walker’s language classes are learner-centered and collaborative, and designed to maximize engagement and meaningful communication. The interests and needs of learners constantly inform the curricula, which are designed to be relevant, dynamic, and responsive. In this way, language classes enhance learner agency and curiosity. From collaborative storytelling to the discussion of current events or classical literature, learner questions and contributions are at the heart of the learning environment. Finally, the Language Department is committed to creating learning environments that are inclusive and respectful of all the diverse characteristics of learners’ identities and experiences. 

News

World Languages Faculty

Dr. Chris Semk

Chair, World Languages Department and French Faculty

Dr. Chris Semk

 860-408-4302

B.A., University of Pittsburgh
M.A., Indiana University
Ph.D., Indiana University

Chris is the chair of the Language Department and teaches both French and Latin. He earned his Ph.D. in French literature from Indiana University and taught at Yale before joining Walker’s. Chris coaches cross country and advises the Middle School Garden Club, the French Club, and Wings (Gender and Sexuality Alliance). He is actively involved in the community and serves on the board of directors of A Place to Nourish your Health (APNH), a community health organization in New Haven, and the Hartford Karma Thegsum Chöling, a Buddhist meditation and study center in the city’s West End. Chris lives in Hartford with his partner Jonathan.

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Isabel Ceballos

Head of the Middle School

Isabel Ceballos

 860-408-4309

B.A., Central Connecticut State University
M.A., Central Connecticut State University

Isabel Ceballos was born in Medellin, Colombia, and raised in Connecticut. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in Modern Languages with a concentration in Spanish Language, Literature & Culture from Central Connecticut State University. She is currently working on her Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning in Organizations from Peabody College Vanderbilt University. Isabel Ceballos has been a member of Walker’s Language Department since 2013, and is the founding executive director of Horizons at The Ethel Walker School, the first all-girls Horizons program in the country.

Named one of Hartford Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2016, and a recipient of The Thelma Ellis Dickerson Community Bridge Builder Award, Isabel is an active member in the community. She serves on the Board of The Aurora Women & Girls Foundation, and is a member of the United Way Community Engagement Committee.

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Lara Dotson-Renta

Dr. Lara Dotson-Renta

Spanish Faculty

Dr. Lara Dotson-Renta

 860-408-4311

B.A., Dartmouth College
M.A., New York University in Paris
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Lara joins Walker’s World Languages faculty as a Spanish teacher. She presently teaches Spanish 4, Honors Spanish 5 and Advanced Spanish: Literature and Cultural Studies. Prior to joining Walker’s, Lara held academic, pedagogical and administrative positions, including roles as a visiting scholar at Brown University in their Middle Eastern Studies Department, an Assistant Professor of Modern Languages/Assistant Dean at Quinnipiac University and an adjunct professor at Drexel University. Lara is a published author, having published work in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. Her academic book, Immigration, Popular Culture, and the Re-Routing of European Muslim Identity, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in September 2012. Dr. Dotson-Renta is a Mellon Mays Fellow, and earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Romance Languages and Literature and a certificate in African Studies. Lara also holds an MA in French Language and Literature from New York University in Paris, and a BA in Spanish and French from Dartmouth College. Lara’s daughter, Catalina, is a seventh-grader at Walker’s.

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Beatriz Gonzalez

Beatriz Gonzalez

Spanish Faculty

Beatriz Gonzalez

 860-408-4312

B.A., University of Manizales (Colombia)

Betty joins Walker’s World Languages faculty where she will teach Spanish 1, 2 and 3. She has served as a bilingual tutor for several years for the Bristol (CT) Board of Education; she previously was a Spanish teacher in grades PreK-8 in Torrington (CT) and Bristol (CT) private schools and served as an English as a Second Language instructor. Betty holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Manizales (Colombia).

Alexandra Noël Grisanti

Latin Faculty, Assistant Director of Social Justice and Inclusion

Alexandra Noël Grisanti

 860-408-4313

B.A., Amherst College

Noël joined Walker’s in 2018 from Phillips Exeter Academy where she was a Latin teaching intern. At Walker’s, Noël has taught Latin in both the Middle and Upper School, advised middle schoolers, coached JV and MS basketball, and lived in Smith Dorm. This year, she is the Assistant Director of Social Justice and Inclusion, and is excited to work with Elisa Del Valle in order to make Walker’s a safer, more equitable learning and living environment for all students. Noël is actively involved with several organizing groups, including Resource Generation, a multiracial membership community of young people with wealth and/or class privilege committed to the equitable distribution of wealth, land, and power, and the Nonprofit Accountability Group in Hartford. Noël currently lives in Hartford with her partner, Max.

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Karim Mabrouk

Karim Mabrouk

French Faculty

Karim Mabrouk

 860-408-4314

B.A., Iona College
M.A., UConn

Karim joins Walker’s faculty on a full-time basis this year as a member of the World Languages faculty specializing in French; previously he served on the faculty on a part-time basis. Karim will teach French 1B, 2, and 4 this academic year. He is fluent in French and Arabic and has focused some of his work on teaching French for diplomacy and international affairs. Previously, Karim was a Graduate Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at Trinity College (Hartford, CT), an instructor at Yale University, and he held various teaching and administrative roles at the University of Connecticut. He is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) at the University of Connecticut in French Language & Literature. He holds Master of Arts degrees from UConn in both International Studies and French Culture Language & Literature and a Graduate Certificate in Human Rights Studies. Karim earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in both International and French Studies from Iona College. Karim is a JV soccer coach and will coach swimming in the winter.