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“Monolingual is the minority” – Learning a foreign language is key to global success

At Mount St. Joseph, we spend a lot of our time studying subjects such as mathematics, science, history, or English because we’ve been told that it is “important” within our choice of major for college and career. Yet we seldom seem to hear about the importance of a foreign language. After all, I hadn’t given it much through since I no longer pursued my French language study. Even in our school system Math, Science, English, and History are all classes you have to take for 3 or 4 years, no excuse, yet in foreign language, it is only 2 years. So with that knowledge, I set myself out on the journey of finding the fundamental importance of knowing a language that isn’t your own. 

I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

I decided that I would interview Jonathon Gibbons, a teacher who teaches Spanish, Italian, and the first two levels of French, to better understand why we should study a foreign language with a more self-important look. Most of us students would ask ourselves when exploring a new language would be “Why does it matter for me to study this?” or “Am I wasting my time studying this?” The question as to what we could benefit from studying a new language can be a complex answer for some, but to Mr. Gibbons, it was one of simplicity. “When in the cases of, especially in the ones that we learn, in either Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Chinese. These languages all have rich history and culture phenomenon that are worth knowing.” Gibbons added, “And also to say from my personal experience, in general, if I had not spoken another language I would have not met someone, might not have seen something.”

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When studying anything in high school, we often ask ourselves what the most essential thing to study is? The answer to that question is not as easy as learning Spanish, Italian, or French. Instead, it is one of the people’s motivations for what they want to do with their language knowledge. “If you, for example, are looking to get into, you know, art or history, you probably want to learn Italian or French,” said Gibbons. 

You have now seen why we should study a foreign language, but what do we get from learning a different language? In a sense, it is a case of what you should get from learning a new language. As stated before, a person who finds it necessary should want to study it for maybe a goal of history or art. A way of having this appreciation is for having the ability to go to see a film and understand the language they are speaking, even if you aren’t as good at that language. Or it can even unexpectedly help you. Mr. Gibbons explained how suddenly, it can help you, “I would say more practically, deal with survival situations when need be. Not only to help yourself but also another person.” 

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If you are a junior or soon to be junior, you likely think about continuing down the path of studying a foreign language. Dr. Elizabeth Pease believes in the importance of going beyond the basics. “A real simple one is working beyond the beginner basics in one subject area and taking it to an intermediate advance level, is just a very good exercise and experience in the foreign language.” For us to continue the study would be like taking a higher math subject from what we are required to do, you could do the same for a foreign language. 

So yes, there is some use to studying a foreign language beyond the two years required. However, some students may already know a foreign language before going to MSJ. Now, this is probably just a far-off example, yet it is a natural thought because of the many people that go to this school. The simple answer is that it would be beneficial to be bilingual and be trilingual, which can benefit you in life in the long run, or it can help you study the language you already know to improve for a variety of reasons. “They would still really need to study the written form of the language, the grammar, and greater precision of the language. So they still may need to keep studying that very same language,” Dr. Pease said.  

More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

The final question I asked was, why should we study a foreign language in university? This was a question I had thought about for a while because what would we exactly do with the language during university. “I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.” Dr. Pease continued, “More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.”     

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So at the end of the interviewing process, it ended up opening my mind up to learning a foreign language again. Learning about why we study a foreign language was actually more interesting than I imagined it would be. Hearing from people directly involved with the learning and teaching of a foreign language made me appreciate it even more. And I hope it has done the same for you.

Chris DeGroote is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Does material matter? A look into the revised MSJ dress code

We wanted to simplify the outerwear as much as we can.

Mr. Ryan Luckman, Dean of Students

As Mount St. Joseph eases into the 2021 academic year, confusion regarding the dress code has already taken place. The new rulings impact in-classroom coverings, specifically 1/4 zips. In an act to end the confusion, Mr. Luckman sent a faculty-wide email regarding the new enforced 1/4 zip mandate. According to the email, “Only gray and black 1/4 zips with the school seal on them [or MSJ], bought from the school store, may be worn during class, all other outer coverings are coats and should be removed during the class period.” As most students are aware, the hunt for illegal outerwear has been ongoing since the second week of school. But what does this new ruling precisely encapsulate? I interviewed Mr. Luckman, our Dean of Students, to clarify the attempt to end covering chaos.

A senior wearing an “illegal” blue Under Armor 1/4 zip.

Early this year, and years in the past, students have been wearing 1/4 zip coverings from companies like Under Armor, Patagonia, and Columbia and have been asked to remove them during class. Senior Jonah Matthews was told that he cannot wear a blue Under Armor 1/4 zip, see above. Students like Jonah are thrown into a spiral of questions on why their covering is not allowed. What makes that covering any different from the school-store 1/4 zip coverings? If the covering matches one of the permitted school colors, why must it be removed? The answer is the material of the 1/4 zip. The administration believes that the fabric of the covering determines its appropriateness.

This change made by Mr. Luckman was “all based on making it easier for teachers and staff,” to determine the correct covering. Mr. Luckman stated, “Some students are wearing things that kinda have (a) flat look to them, but then they have sweatshirt material inside…that’s a no-go.” He explained how the covering worn by Jonah Matthews would be allowed two years ago, but is now a violation of the dress code.

The new MSJ Seal (sweatshirt material) 1/4 zip from the School Store

The reason the material matters to administration is because of its connection to professionalism. I asked Mr. Luckman to dive deeper into professionalism and how material indicates that idea: “You don’t see too many people going to work at a business with a sweatshirt…we [the administration] don’t want anything that’s sweatshirt material.” So even if you wear the new light grey 1/4 zip with the MSJ seal (see above) from the school store, it is deemed unprofessional due to its sweatshirt-like material, and you will be asked to remove it during class. But you can wear it all around campus in between classes for that five-minute break!

For the past few years, students were allowed to wear 1/4 zips with sweater-like material. This led to the question: What is sweater-like material? This question can then snowball into a disruption of class time where a teacher must debate with a student over their apparel. Situations occurred where a teacher has told a student to remove their covering at the end of the day while this student has been allowed to wear it in all of his other classes. Students and faculty alike are adjusting to the full-time return to school, and are also adjusting to the new outerwear rule and its application. For example, I had a conversation about whether the Mount Saint Joseph 1/4 zip sweaters sold from the School Store a few years ago are allowed.  I would think the answer is yes, based on my conversation with Mr. Luckman.

After talking with Mr. Luckman, I think the revised rules are straightforward. Students can, in class, wear either of the two 1/4 zips from the school store, a cardigan or pullover sweater of the appropriate school colors, or a blazer. Hopefully will help faculty and staff quickly determine if the student is appropriately dressed for school.

Ethan Webber is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

How will the COVID-19 vaccine be distributed?

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As we progress into the winter months, and people stay indoors longer, this likely means the Coronavirus will be easier to spread. We are in need of a vaccine and fast. Luckily, the government has received doses of the vaccine. Now it’s just a matter of distributing the vaccine to the rest of the nation. The question is, how is the distribution process going to work?

First of all, it’s important to understand how much each state is being affected by the virus, because that could change how they are distributed. Currently, according to the CDC COVID data tracker, states like California, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee are the states with the most cases in the last seven days. Meanwhile, states like Vermont, Montana, Washington, Minnesota, Wyoming and Oregon have the least amount of cases in the last seven days. 

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With the knowledge of which states are affected by the virus the most and least, now we can determine how the government is going to distribute the vaccine. It is ultimately up to the state governors to determine how they want to distribute the vaccine. According to the CDC, it is recommended that the vaccine should be distributed in phases. The first phase would include healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. The second phase includes frontline essential workers and people who are 75 years or older. The final phase includes people who are between 65-74 and people who are 16-64 with underlying medical conditions, along with other essential workers. Following these phases, the vaccines would then be administered to the rest of the population not covered in these tiers.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Despite the CDC’s recommendation on how to distribute the vaccine, not every state will choose to follow the recommendation. For example, Florida is not following the recommendations but is instead using a first come first serve method, while trying to prioritize the elderly and healthcare workers. While some people might agree with this method, others may disagree with this method either because of Florida’s decision to not follow the CDC’s recommendations or because they don’t like the distribution process. According to a CNN article from December 30, 2020, a man named Bruce Scott arrived at the vaccination site at 1:30 a.m. and waited in a line for about 8 or 9 hours to get vaccinated, saying, “Although I’m grateful to get the vaccine, I feel that there’s got to be a better way to distribute this.” He later adds, “For people that really need it, elderly that might be disabled in some way, they can’t endure this process, so there’s got to be a better way to manage this.”

The Trump administration expected to vaccinate about 20 million people by the end of December. However, only about 1 million people were vaccinated in December, that’s about 19 million short of the goal. So far in 2021, as of January 11, approximately 9 million Americans have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, and according to officials, the hope was that 50 million Americans would have been vaccinated by the end of January. It looks pretty unlikely that America will reach that expected goal.

President-elect Joe Biden spoke about his 100 day COVID response plan on December 29th. 

On January 20th, Joe Biden will be inaugurated into office as the 46th President of the United States. As he inherits a system that is behind in distribution, it’s going to be interesting to see how well he sticks to his 100 day challenge to turn the tides on the pandemic. It’s expected that Biden will follow the CDC’s recommendations for vaccine distribution, but the question is: Is he going to distribute them as quickly as he says he will?


Andrew Gonder is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

A new face on a historic campus

Mr. Frank Espinosa, Mount Saint Joseph’s Principal

Over the past year, the Mount Saint Joseph community faced a challenge that the school hadn’t faced in a long time – the search for a new principal. With the retirement of Mr. Dave Norton, St. Joe began the search for a new principal at the start of the 2019 school year. Because of the longevity of the principals that Mount St. Joe has had over the past three decades, this was definitely a new experience for the community to go through. It was a time of uncertainty, where we all had to put a lot of faith and trust in the leaders at St. Joe.

On July 1st, the school announced that Mr. Francisco Espinosa, a life-long servant of Xaverian education, would become the new principal at Mount Saint Joe. For Mr. Espinosa, this journey to The Mount was one that took him time to realize was the correct move for him. Mr. Espinosa has been an educator for 28 years, his most recent position being Principal at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky. During his time at Saint X, Mr. Espinosa held a variety of jobs, including varsity football coach, history teacher, assistant principal for student life, and assistant principal for supervision of instruction, before taking on his role as principal. Now he takes over as principal at another XBSS school. Saint X is a fellow Xaverian Brothers Sponsored School, and as a school community, we share the same values that they do. Both are very similar environments.

“I’ve been coaching and teaching kids for 28 years to take chances and it was time for me to take a chance” 

Mr. Frank Espinosa

Mr. Espinosa took on the challenges of being principal head-on during his time at Saint X. He always took the time to create strong relationships with students, and he used his coaching experience to build strong bonds with the students that he interacted with. Mr. Espinosa was often faced with working with students who were dealing with a multitude of challenges, in and out of the classroom. He was determined to give all students a chance to prove themselves by giving them opportunities to better their situations. He has an open door policy for all students, and in his time at Saint X he strived to develop strong relationships with students through communication and contact. This is a goal that he has for himself at Saint Joe too.

“I enjoyed giving kids an opportunity to prove themselves; giving them an opportunity to better their situation” 

Prior to coming to St. Joe, Mr. Espinosa served as principal at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky.

While he was in Kentucky, Mr. Espinosa was well-known within the MSJ community. For the past 6 years, Mr. Espinosa served as a member of the board, and during that time he was impactful in effecting change in the school, including developing the iPad program and a massive overhaul to college counseling last year. It has been one of the biggest changes for seniors and Mr. Espinosa was very involved with the work to increase college counseling. He offered many suggestions that helped the school design this program, placing his mark on St. Joe even before joining as principal. I’m currently in the college application process and it has been a huge tool for me.

“Mr. Andrews was very influential for me in talking to me about the school, but I think my experience on the board was especially influential” 

When the search for a new principal began, there was a period of deep thought for Mr. Espinosa. He realized that MSJ was in need of a good academic leader, and he had the experience on the board and at St. X. But this was a daunting task, considering he would have to move to Maryland for the position. Leaving his hometown, while leaving most of his family back in Kentucky until they can join him in Maryland, all while in the midst of a pandemic.

“The biggest passion I have in my life is my family and having good, solid, family values” 

Mr. Espinosa has been tasked with the biggest challenge of his professional career. The Mount has been very open about their plans regarding the pandemic, and they’re taking every step possible to ensure the safety of the community. Being able to protect all of the members of the community while still creating relationships with all the students has been a challenge at St. Joe and for Mr. Espinosa. But I think it is safe to say that this community has rallied around the new challenge and the new leadership of our principal, Mr. Frank Espinosa.

Andrew Sheppard is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class and a member of The Quill.

Mr. Sam Bianco takes on a new role at The Mount

Always considering himself a teacher first, this year, Mr. Sam Bianco added a new feather to his cap when he began the administrative role as Director of Student Life. I wanted to learn more about what this new role entailed, and give Mr. Bianco a chance to explain why he made the switch from Director of Students to this freshly carved-out job.

“Simply put, I really deal with anything that relates to Mount Saint Joe students that is not discipline or academics,” said Mr. Bianco. Specifically, the role involves student clubs and activities, as well as Spirit Week and school dances. He works with and supports the teachers and the students running the various clubs on campus. Mr. Bianco also talked about his plans to establish a Student Leadership Initiative. “I basically support students in any way I can.”

When the new role was announced back in April, I had assumed it was because of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I learned that was not the case. “The position was actually in the works well before the pandemic. It’s actually a position that has been talked about for years and years, because the goal there in part was bringing on another administrator.” One purpose for having the new administrator is to have the person handling the student opportunities on the administrative team.

“My number one goal is that every student finds something outside of academics that brings meaning and fulfillment to them here at this school.”

Mr. Sam Bianco, Director of Student Life

I also reached out to Mr. George Andrews, President of Mount Saint Joseph High School, for his take on the development of the Director of Student Life role. “I think it came about organically,” he stated. “It seemed to rise from many people suggesting it at the same time. From faculty and students, to the principal’s cabinet and the administration. The Mount had the same administrative structure for more than two decades and even the board of directors asked about a new structure to better meet the needs of students in extracurricular activities.”

I asked Mr. Bianco about his transition from Director of Students to Director of Student Life. He told me that he thinks his gifts and talents are better suited for the new role, for he is typically a more upbeat person. As a student, it is clear to me that Mr. Bianco is well suited for this job.

Both Mr. Bianco and Mr. Andrews emphasized the importance of having a good experience on campus. They encourage us not to be the “8:00-2:30 student,” to get involved, and to participate in extracurriculars. The new Director of Student Life role was formed as a means to support students, as well as the clubs and activities, and to ensure that each student has a memorable experience at Mount Saint Joseph.

“My number one goal is that every student finds something outside of academics that brings meaning and fulfillment to them here at this school,” said Mr. Bianco. “This is more than just a place where you take classes, and as cliché as that sounds, there’s so much truth to that.”

Mr. Bianco said that after we students graduate we will not necessarily remember that one thing we learned in class, but rather the experiences we had, and that his job is to help us find those experiences. “I’m not the guy that provides those experiences per se, but I’m the guy that’s gonna help you find them. And that’s why I’m passionate about the job, because it is personal for me.”

While Mr. Bianco will always see himself as a teacher first, he is elated to pursue this new role. As the Director of Student Life he has made it his goal to make sure that every student finds something meaningful to them on campus. St. Joe will definitely be a better place for all students if they are able to find that meaningful activity that might stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Gabe Henstrand is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Is distance-learning an effective alternative to face-to-face education?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives immeasurably, and has introduced new concepts we probably never gave a first thought to, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and distance learning. Distance learning, or remote learning, assures that everyone is staying home, and is proven to have significantly slowed the spread of the virus, but the question everyone is seeking to answer is different: can this type of learning be as effective as face-to-face learning?

I started off asking both of my interviewees about their experience with online learning. Ms. Thadine Coyne, a Theology teacher at Mount Saint Joseph High School said the online learning we started last spring was very new for her, but thought it had gone really well. She knew the kids she was teaching, and “they had a sense of how to interact with me and what to expect.” 

Theology Teacher Ms. Thadine Coyne

Ms. Coyne found this year’s online, and hybrid, classes to be much more challenging, “It’s impossible to establish what I call a classroom flow of action.”  Eli Gatto, a junior at St. Joe, and one of Ms. Coyne’s students had a much different response. He thought his online classes this year, as well as last year, have gone pretty well so far. “The workload hasn’t been as excruciating; I have been able to have some free time while still doing good work,” said Gatto.

Online learning and face-to-face learning certainly have their benefits and downsides, but could a specific type of learning significantly affect a student’s grades? Ms. Coyne said the greatest difference regarding student’s grades was in testing. “I hate to say it, but the truth is you guys cheat.” Giving objective tests through Google Forms allows the student to use other resources that wouldn’t be normally be available, and Ms. Coyne has no control over what the students are doing/viewing when they are on their iPads at home.

Now thanks to the hybrid model, Ms. Coyne said face-to-face learning so far has been “like a dream come true,” because the smaller cohorts allow her to engage with her students easier, and she finds it more enjoyable. Eli Gatto had a similar response, saying that face-to-face learning makes it easier to engage with your teacher. 

On October 1, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan implored schools to begin getting back to normal, welcoming students on campus as it became feasible. So when Mount St. Joseph made the transition to hybrid learning on October 5, what was the general consensus of the faculty and students to this change? 

The sign of the times: Interviewing Ms. Coyne via Zoom for this story

Ms. Coyne thought opening school on October 5 as a hybrid schedule was a good decision, because families were given the option to stay at home, and overall, she thinks that students and adults are being responsible with social distancing. “Hopefully, everybody will keep doing that so we can continue coming back and forth to school.” Eli also said it was a good decision, because the hybrid schedule has a smaller amount of students, and people are following guidelines and all wearing masks in their classes.

After interviewing Ms. Coyne and Eli Gatto, it became clear that face-to-face learning had more advantages than online learning, whether it be easier to engage with your teachers, or less distractions. Although this is true, there were still some benefits to online learning, such as increased flexibility and not having to drive to school. Both Ms. Coyne and Eli spoke about the benefits of each type of learning and concluded that the hybrid schedule that we have in place was the most preferred. 

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This pandemic has been challenging for everyone and has made us all adapt to a new lifestyle. Every teacher and student has had to adapt to virtual school and some have found the transition to be easy while others have struggled. For my part of the story, I interviewed Mr. Brian Shearer and one of his students, Jeremy Abrams, to get their perspectives on how a teacher and student have handled this unexpected change. 

In the interview with Mr. Shearer, I wanted to get an idea of how he handled the transition and some of the challenges he faced as a young teacher. The primary challenge for him in virtual learning is communicating with his students, and he made it clear that he is using email much more than he had in the past. “The biggest difference has been having to stay on top of students who are missing work. It’s easier for me if a student has incomplete assignments to just speak to them after class. It has been a lot more emails to students and parents as well, just about grade updates, staying on top of missing assignments, and getting work completed.” 

Theology Teacher Mr. Brian Shearer

Mr. Shearer said that while he definitely prefers to be physically in the classroom, being virtual with students has forced him to rethink the way he does certain assignments and the way he approaches teaching. He also said that being online so much has forced him to get comfortable with different platforms. When it came to the technology aspect, he said “My transition was easier than most and part of that I think is just because I’m younger so I’m a little bit more familiar with some of the platforms.”  

While there are a couple of benefits of online learning, Mr. Shearer made it clear that there were many issues that he encountered. He told me that Zoom would sometimes be a problem for him saying “being a discussion-based teacher, having discussions through Zoom is the worst because of connection issues or just timing when someone is going to respond, it just feels unnatural.” He also misses the social aspect that he does not get from virtual learning, adding “What I value the most is the relationships you can form in the classroom that are really hard to form without a physical presence in front of you.” 

I also wanted to get Mr. Shearer’s opinion on whether he thinks students who are completely virtual are getting the same education at home that they would be getting if they were in school. He feels that more students are struggling. “The more you are in-person, generally speaking, the better the education because there is more of an emphasis on focusing and being able to elaborate on deeper questions when you are in the classroom.” He said that some are handling it well, but more students are struggling worse than they should be. 

When I asked him the amount of time he is putting into teaching at home opposed to in person, Mr. Shearer said, “I would say more time in planning, but less time in actually teaching.” He said when it comes to teaching, it takes more time to do attendance, more time to get platforms ready, and more time to grade which does not allow him the full amount of time to teach whereas if everyone was in the classroom, he would have the full class period.  

At times, a student’s perspective of virtual learning can be very different from a teacher’s perspective. Some students enjoy virtual learning because they are able to wake up later and have more free time during the day due to the cohort schedule. Other students miss the in-person interactions and struggle to keep up without physically being able to have a teacher in front of them. I wanted to get a student’s perspective on how he has adapted to online learning. 

I interviewed current sophomore Jeremy Abrams. Jeremy pointed out that the biggest change for him from a traditional classroom setting to virtual learning was the obstacles he had encountered with the technology. “Depending on the WiFi, it was either hard to see what he was presenting or the microphone was lagging. In person, this was not an issue because the presentations were always ready to go.” Jeremy also said that he found himself putting more time into school when he was virtual as opposed to if he was physically in school. “I feel like teachers are giving out twice as many assignments. This has made online more stressful than in person.”  

Sophomore Jeremy Abrams

After my interview with both Mr. Shearer and Jeremy Abrams, I realized that teachers and students both had a lot of the same challenges when it came to virtual school. Whether it is having to stay on top of students who are missing work, or microphones lagging because of the WiFi, both teachers and students have encountered challenges throughout virtual learning. Everyone is still adapting in these unprecedented times and we will surely always remember our time virtually teaching and learning.  

Sean Thompson is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Kyle Shao is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class