HUDSON -- Thanks to some work from a local teacher and students, future high school graduates across the state can earn a special seal on their diploma which may help them land a job not only nationally, but internationally also.
"We are the first school in Ohio to implement the seal locally which will happen this school year," according to Hudson High School Spanish teacher Martha Pero Halemba.
On Jan. 9, Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill No. 487 which requires the State Board of Education to establish the State Seal of Biliteracy. The seal can be attached to the high school transcripts or diplomas of students who show a proficiency in two or more languages, according to the Hudson City School District. The House Bill will become law within 90 days after signing.
"The seal is recognized by major colleges and universities as well as international business companies," according to a district press release. "Ohio has many international companies that require global citizens to have knowledge of other languages and cultures." And while the House Bill was signed into law by Kasich, the effort and footwork to get the bill introduced in Ohio was started in Hudson by Halemba.
Halemba, who is active in a variety of educational organizations and is Department Chair of World Language at HHS, noticed several states were given Seals of Biliteracy, and she said she thought it was time Ohio joined.
"I really felt that this would be very beneficial for my students," according to Halemba. "It helps universities and prospective employers know that these students are functional in two languages."
The district wants students in Hudson and Ohio to have the same benefits as other states, Halemba added.
"In Ohio we have 100 international companies with over 9,000 employees, so there are many job opportunities for global citizens who have knowledge both of the language and the culture," according to Halemba. "So, it just became my passion and mission to see this happen in Ohio."
It began with a 2015 meeting between Halemba and State Representative Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland).
"[LaTourette] is my representative in Geauga County, and she agreed to sponsor the bill," Halemba said.
The teacher also asked her colleagues to contact their representatives. One of the teachers heard back from Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), who agreed to co-sponsor the bill.
LaTourette and Roegner introduced the bill, aided by testament from two Hudson High School and foreign language students, Annika Margevich who studies French and Stellan Riffle who studies Spanish and one graduate, Kate Greer who studied German.
"They did a great job and testified in Spanish, German and French so they could see what intermediate mid/high sounded like," Haremba said. "The committee members were quite impressed."
Halemba also travelled across Ohio talking to state school board members and representatives on the Education Committee, Halemba said.
Halemba also asked a variety of educators to testify.
"There was great support," she added.
According Halemba this is just one way Hudson High School works to help students stand out and be noticed. She also suggests parents encourage their children to aspire to earn the seal.
"It takes work to get to intermediate mid/high. It takes approximately four to five years to be able to test out at this level on a nationally normed assessment," Halemba said.
However, Halemba's goal was to have not just a local but a state seal.
"We are the pilot for Ohio and we will be helping the State Board of Education and Ohio Department of Education flesh out the particulars such as what level to test to, what assessments to use, etc," Halemba added.