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World Languages

The Winnetka Public Schools uses the Understanding by Design approach to curriculum development and documentation.  This framework is used to design learning experiences and assessments with the end in mind: student outcomes.   The identified student outcomes are categorized into three types: Know, Understand, and Do (KUD). Transfer goals and essential questions are also part of the Understanding by Design framework as well. Transfer goals consider how and when students will use the skills, knowledge and understandings learned in particular units to other learning and life experiences.  Whereas essential questions are thought-provoking questions that will foster inquiry, meaning-making, and transfer.

To view the transfer goals, essential questions, as well as “KUDs” for this content area, please click the link below.  To view the “KUDs” by grade level, please visit the grade level “Curriculum Summaries” in the left-hand menu.

World Languages 2020 Curriculum


We believe language has the capacity to connect all humans.  We empower students to understand and communicate in the target language - another essential tool for human connection.   

Key Beliefs

Our pedagogical approach is grounded in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research. Simply put, understanding messages drives language acquisition.

Instructional underpinnings include:

  • Language acquisition is a subconscious process
  • All students can acquire language
  • We acquire language at individual and non-linear rates
  • Understanding oral and written messages (input) precedes and outpaces writing & speaking (output)
  • Meaning precedes grammatical accuracy
  • Teachers prioritize high-frequency, practical language
  • Comprehensible reading input expands the linguistic foundation
  • “Language is culture in motion” (Sauvignon, 1972)

CI Communication Statement

Comprehensible Input (CI) - the delivery of oral and written messages that are understood in real-time - is the driver of language acquisition.  We strive to optimize CI in our World Language classes by employing a variety of pedagogical strategies.  In this way, we ensure that our students can access meaning.  We engage them in high-interest and often personalized collaborative scenes, stories, and images.  By ensuring that incoming messages are compelling, we maximize student attention. 

Student language growth is evidenced by:

  • increased automaticity and rate of understanding
  • a widening linguistic foundation and vocabulary
  • comprehension of increasingly sophisticated [oral & written] discourse

Compelling interest and comprehension democratize our classes, offering invitations to engage all learners.


Meet the Teachers

World Languages in Winnetka are primarily taught through Comprehensible Input-based strategies. Language is best acquired when students understand everything they hear and read in class and when they are involved, unstressed, and engaged. We believe that every student has an innate ability to acquire a second language and it should feel as natural as acquiring a first.

Julie Ambrose - Skokie and Washburne School French Teacher
Madame Ambrose has been teaching in Winnetka since 1994. She grew up in Lake Bluff, IL. She fell in love with French at the age of six when her fourteen-year-old sister brought her to her high school French class, as a show-and-tell project. She sang Alouette and was hooked!

In college, Madame Ambrose studied theater and French. Who knew she’d be able to use her dramatic training, teaching French every day? Madame Ambrose also studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her ability to navigate the city comes in handy when traveling with students. She also has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
She enjoys taking students on an exchange program to France each year and bringing the knowledge and culture back to her classroom. She enjoys reading, skiing, and knitting.

Rachel Hirsh- Washburne Spanish Teacher

Señorita Hirsh joined the Winnetka 36 language team in 2023. She is a 7th and 8th grade Spanish teacher at Washburne. Señorita Hirsh grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois and attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduating with honors as well as a major in the Teaching of Spanish. Growing up with a French background, different languages were always widely encouraged in her home and they were something that held her utmost interest. She is a third-generation language teacher and has always been passionate about the Spanish language. Starting in middle school, she knew that she wanted to be a Spanish teacher. In her free time, Señorita Hirsh loves traveling to Spanish Speaking countries to be immersed in their culture and meet new people.

Rebecca Landor - Crow Island School Spanish Teacher

Señora Landor came to Winnetka in 2012 and now teaches 1st through 4th grade Spanish at Crow Island. She studied Spanish and Sociology at Grinnell College and received her Masters in Education from DePaul University. She has traveled throughout Spain and Latin America, learning as much as she can about different cultures to bring back to her students.

Señora Landor wrote the book Daniel el Detective which she enjoys teaching to her 3rd and 4th graders. She regularly presents at national conferences and loves to collaborate with her amazing World Language team.  When she isn’t teaching, Señora Landor loves reading, cooking, drawing, and spending time with her adorable niece.

Rocio Monge - Hubbard Woods Spanish Teacher

Señora Monge grew up in Peru’s capital city, Lima. As a teenager, she came to the US to attend  Indiana University, where she got a degree in Computer Science. Señora Monge returned to Peru, got married, and moved to Barcelona, Spain, where she lived and worked for two years.

In 2007 Sra Monge came to the US with her family.   She got her master’s degree in teaching and worked in the Highland Park school district as a Dual Language two-way immersion English-Spanish teacher. She started at our district in 2021 teaching Spanish to 1st through 4th graders. Señora Monge loves teaching at Hubbard Woods!

Su Pesa - Skokie School Spanish Teacher

Señora Pesa grew up in a small province in the northwest of Argentina, called Tucumán, close to the mountains. She lived there for many years and then came to Chicago where she attended The University of Chicago for a brief period. Señora Pesa returned to Argentina soon after and completed her university degree in Licenciatura en Psicología. By then, she had married and had three children.

Señora Pesa ventured with her family to Israel, where they lived for three years and taught English to Hebrew-speaking students. After coming to the USA, she worked with 5th graders at a school in Glenview. She started at our district in the year 2000 teaching 7th and 8th grade Spanish. Señora Pesa loves working with 5th and 6th graders at Skokie School! Sra. Pesa presents at national conferences with her colleagues.

John Rothwells - Skokie School Spanish Teacher

Profe Stangel has been teaching in D36 starting in 2022 and teaches 5th and 6th grade Spanish. He grew up in Whiting, Indiana and majored in Linguistics and Spanish at Indiana University Bloomington. During his undergraduate, Profe Stangel was fortunate enough to spend a summer studying at the Centro de Estudios Superiores de Felipe II, in Aranjuez, Spain. He spent a full year studying at the Pontificada Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima, Peru. He completed his Master’s degree in Language and Culture Education in 2016 and has over a decade of teaching experience teaching middle school.

In his personal time, Profe helps lead an ELL (English Language Learners) book club in  Albany Park, Chicago. He also regularly participates in Chicago Public Library’s Spanish Book Club. He’s fallen in love with the Comprehensible Input instructional method here at D36 and is excited to continue his career here.

Alisa Shapiro - Greeley School Spanish Teacher

Señora Shapiro grew up in Michigan.  She moved to Chicago after studying Spanish and English Language and Literature at Kalamazoo College.  After a year as a second-grade bilingual teacher, she came to Greeley in 1993 for the founding of the district’s elementary World Language program.  Señora studied in Madrid and has traveled throughout Spain and Latin America, and loves both visiting and hosting friends from Costa Rica. She enjoys presenting with the Winnetka World Language team at local and national conferences.  She and her family live in Skokie.

Marnie Van der Voort - Crow Island and Hubbard Woods Spanish Teacher

Señora Van der Voort (Señora V.)  grew up in Texas and studied Communications at Northwestern University and earned her Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago.  She also holds a certification in K-12 Spanish Language Education.  Señora V.  brings vast experience utilizing Spanish in her professional career to the Winnetka classroom. Prior to teaching, she worked for the Ministry of Education in Chile, as well as in International Relations for the City of Chicago and on Chicago’s Olympic Bid, among other global endeavors.  She currently lives in Wilmette with her family.  

Señora V. began teaching Spanish in Winnetka in 2023. She loves sharing her passion for the Spanish language and culture, singing Spanish songs, acting out stories, and playing fun games. Señora V. really enjoys getting to know the students at Crow Island and Hubbard Woods and seeing their faces light up in Spanish class!

Melissa Yeoman - Washburne School Spanish Teacher

Señora Yeoman grew up in Wilmette and learned Spanish from her parents, who are both from Mexico. She joined the Winnetka 36 World Language team in 2022 with 9 years of teaching experience. Melissa graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelors in Elementary Education and earned her Masters in EL and Bilingual Education in 2021. Señora Yeoman loves teaching 7th and 8th graders at Washburne!