With 75% of the world’s population being non-English speakers, the goal of our world languages department is to help our students be engaged, productive citizens of a global community.” - Vanessa Giuliani, Department Chair
Walking through the academic buildings at Christ School is a little like stepping into another part of the world. Beginning through advanced levels of Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin Chinese can be heard in several areas of the campus. Students are offered courses of study through AP in Spanish and Level 4 in both Mandarin and Arabic. Students are also afforded the opportunity to elect more than one language of study as an elective course. Christ School is dedicated to providing our students with access to the most relevant and high demand languages in our global community.
Our department’s incorporation of Mandarin Chinese, the most widely spoken native language in the world, assists our students in connecting with the world’s most populous nation, as well as influential Chinese communities in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
“Arabic and Mandarin have been two of the most challenging classes that I have taken at Christ School. Mrs. Chung has taught us very quickly to carry on a basic conversation in Mandarin. I don’t know what career I want to pursue in the future, but I am sure that these two languages will help me.” –Duncan Jones ’16
A number of developing nations are located in Northern Africa, many of which are Arabic-speaking. Our students are not only taught how to speak, read, and write Arabic, but they also learn the social nuances, customs, and traditions of those nations.
As a result of taking Jennifer MacDonald’s Arabic class, two students have studied abroad at Kings Academy in Jordan, two have attended the Middlebury Summer program with an earned scholarship, and another attended the State Department funded Morocco Summer Immersion on a full scholarship.
Students have the opportunity each summer to develop their global language skills beyond the classroom through a Spanish immersion program at a language institute in Salamanca. Salamanca is home to Spain's oldest and most prestigious university, the University of Salamanca.
In this three-week study abroad experience, the students stay with Spanish families, attend four hours of class daily, and participate in tours, excursions, and workshops. There are afternoon activities and weekend excursions to Madrid, the beach in Portugal, and a bull farm owned by a famous matador.
Students make friends from around the world while also being fully immersed in the Spanish language. This program is also designed to teach diplomacy in international relations.
M.Ed., Columbia College
Marshall Baltazar teaches Spanish and assists with theater. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature from the University of Illinois-Chicago, and his Master’s in Education from Columbia College in Chicago. Mr. Baltazar has taught for many years at schools in Chicago, Florida, Costa Rica, and Spain. He also taught Spanish and directed the drama program at Asheville School. For many years, Mr. Baltazar lead student travel groups on a study abroad summer program in Salamanca, Spain.
Jonathan Barnard joins our World Languages department, under the mentorship of his former director of curriculum at the King Language School, Christ School’s Shao-ting Chung. From 1987-1991, Mr. Barnard taught English to native-Chinese speakers in Taipei. Since then, Mr. Barnard has worked as a translator for Taiwan Panorama magazine, but began freelancing in 2001. Though he continues to translate general-interest stories – politics, tourism, culture, social trends – for Taiwan Panorama, he expanded to short stories and literary essays for The Taiwan P.E.N. quarterly and promotional materials and book excerpts for publisher Locus, including works by the best-selling author Jimmy Liao. Mr. Barnard has also written and edited stories for Asheville’s weekly, the Mountain Xpress.
Mr. Barnard graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, class of 1985, with a B.A. in History. He is also a graduate of Collegiate School (NYC), an all-boys independent school founded in 1628, so Mr. Barnard is no stranger to single-gender education.
M.A., Middle Eastern Studies, University of Michigan
Jameel Brenneman is a jack of all trades, and will get a chance to show that versatility in his first year at Christ School. Mr. Brenneman joins the faculty as an English and Arabic instructor. He will also coach soccer and tennis, along with assisting the Christ School Broadcast Network.
Mr. Brenneman graduated in 2012 from Indiana’s Huntington University with a degree in Broadcasting before getting an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan four years later. His interest in the Middle East stems from the fact that his mother’s side of the family is from Palestine.
Mr. Brenneman’s introduction to boarding school came with two years at The Stony Brook School in Long Island. He also wore many hats there, including teacher, coach, and dorm parent.
Mr. Brenneman is excited to be moving to North Carolina in large part because he is a big fan of barbecue, so much so that he and his brother took a ten-day culinary road trip across North Carolina and South Carolina during the summer of 2018. His other interests include sports, music, and crossword puzzles.
Shao Ting Chung teaches Mandarin Language and Culture. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei and also studied in the teacher licensure program at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has taught at Carolina Day School and T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville.
Certificate Modern Standard Arabic/Derija Dialect, ALIF-FES
Jennifer MacDonald teaches Arabic Language and Culture. Ms. MacDonald attended at Los Angeles City College and San Francisco State University, where she majored in Arabic, anthropology, and film. She also received training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, and at the Arabic Language Institute of Fes, Morocco. She is an award-winning filmmaker and writer and served for several years as a translator and cryptologist for the United States government.
M.A., Spanish Linguistics, San Diego State University
Vanessa Magdaleno Thorman chairs the World Languages and satisfies her curiosity to travel to new places every summer. She has been at Christ School for six years, also serving as an ASSIST Representative.
Prior to Christ School, Mrs. Thorman taught at the Bishop’s School, San Diego State University, and Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, N.C. She earned a B.A. in Spanish and graduated Summa Cum Laude from UNC Greensboro in 1999. Mrs. Thorman then went on earn an M.A. in Spanish Linguistics from San Diego State two years later.
She considers herself an avid reader, and formerly competed in equestrian sports.
M.A., TESOL, Fairfield University
A graduate of Virginia Military Institute, Les Thornbury spent several years as a Navy F/A 18C pilot. Following his Navy career, he taught Spanish in Connecticut public schools for eight years, including a year as a Fulbright Exchange teacher in Mexico. In addition to teaching Spanish, Mr. Thornbury works with the outdoor program and the ski/snowboard team.