Superintendent Martha Group, of Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District, has been recognized for her support of foreign language education.

The New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers gave Group its Sister Rose Aquin Caimano Distinguished Administrator Award last month for her understanding of the importance of foreign language study.

Group has taken steps to introduce foreign language learning at the elementary level. In a pilot program that started this fall, fifth- and sixth-graders are now learning some French and Spanish. District officials hope to see the pilot expand until all elementary students get some foreign language instruction, Group said.

“Students who receive foreign language instruction at the elementary level, it benefits them in terms of their cognitive development, especially around critical analysis and problem solving. … It does also help their academic performance in other areas … and then, I guess, finally, their attitude toward learning another language,” Group said.

The district also has an optional 20-day summer program for elementary students that includes French and Spanish modules, she said.

Foreign language instruction is particularly useful in a district like VVS with little diversity among the student body, Group said.

“It does help students to develop a more positive attitude toward speakers of other languages,” she said. “They also can develop a more positive attitude toward cultural differences and diversity. Helping students to develop that appreciation toward diversity is part of our mission as a school district.”

Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter at (@OD_Roth)