French class

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. 


World Languages Faculty

Dr. Chris Semk

Chair, World Languages Department and French Faculty

Dr. Chris Semk


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


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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Todd DAlessandro

Todd D'Alessandro P'19

Spanish Faculty, Director of Summer Programs

Todd D'Alessandro P'19


B.A., University of Connecticut
M.A. Mount Holyoke College

Todd graduated from The University of Connecticut and entered the business world. While working for name brands such as Hertz, Banfield, and Pfizer, he found that speaking two languages gave him a strong connection with the teams he managed and clients he called on. Todd has always had a strong desire to teach and guide tomorrow’s leaders, so he jumped at the chance to be a part of the Walker’s community. Todd also serves as a soccer coach. He was an All New England player at Farmington High, All Big East selection at UConn, was drafted by the Boston Bolts of The ASL, and played semi professionally for The Lowell Red Devils of the LASA League.

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Alexandra Noël Grisanti

Latin Faculty

Alexandra Noël Grisanti


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

French Faculty

Karim Mabrouk joins The Ethel Walker School as a part time French teacher. A Tunisian native, Karim is a native speaker of French and Arabic. Karim received a dual B.A. and a dual M.A. in French studies and international studies with a focus on the study of human rights as well as peace and conflict resolution. Karim served as a teaching assistant of French and Arabic at University of Connecticut, a teaching fellow and adjunct at Trinity College, a summer instructor at Yale University and is currently serving as the team manager and head coach for the Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford Swim Team. Karim has volunteered and worked alongside several youth-focused organizations and is thrilled to be a part of the Walker’s family. 

Rebecca Rojano

Spanish Faculty

Rebecca Rojano


B.A., Keene State College

Rebecca join Walker’s from The Master’s School just up the road in West Simsbury, where she was a middle and high school Spanish teacher. While at The Master’s School, Rebecca designed curriculum, taught a wide range of classes, was the faculty leader for student government and coordinated the Human Trafficking Awareness Club. Previously, Rebecca taught Spanish at the Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, CT. A magna cum laude graduate of Keene State College with a dual degree in Secondary Education and Spanish, Rebecca studied abroad in Spain; Managua, Nicaragua; and Atenas, Costa Rica.

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