World Language

2024 NC German Day Results

March 7, 2024

On February 28, 2024, 50 CA German students traveled to UNC Chapel to participate in the annual NC German Day Competition, sponsored by the NC Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of German. Approximately 400 students from 13 schools around the state participated. Check below for CA’s results for both the MS and US! Way to go, Chargers!

2D Art, Honorable Mention: Sophia Cui, ‘28

Photography, 3rd place: Fiona Fitzsimons, ‘26

Digital Editing, 2nd place: Izzy Bottorf, ‘27

Karaoke, Honorable Mention: Nova Leuchtmann, ’25, Sebastian deSouza, ’25, & Zelin Ye, ’25.

Cooking Show Level A, First place: Alaina Jacobson, ‘26

Cooking Show Level B, First place: Annabel Maidorn, ‘25

Cooking Show Level B, Third place: Maddie Kovacs, ‘26 & Keira Sabapathypilla, ‘26

Song with Dance Level A, First place: 6th grade Novice German team Bill Yang, ’30, Rowen Wang, ’30, Penelope Zimmerman, ’30, Patrick Malinzak, ’30, & Thomas Greene, ‘30.

Song with Accompaniment Level B, 2nd place: Augustus Lavalette, ’26, Wells Lin, ’26, & Zack Staffhorst ’26

Song with Accompaniment Level B, 3rd place: Sebastian deSouza, Nova Leuchtmann, & Zelin Ye

Culture Bowl Level A, 2nd place: Jonas McMullin, ’27, Etienne Van Tonder, ’26, & Max Leuchtmann, ‘27

Poetry Recitation Level 1, 3rd place: Jacob Kovacs, ‘29

Poetry Recitation Level 2, 1st place: Mira Greenwolfe, ‘27

Poetry Recitation Level 2, Honorable Mention: Alaina Jacobson, ‘27

Extemporaneous Speaking, Heritage level, 2nd place: Sebastian deSouza

Skits Level 1-2, 1st place: Kaylin Dinker, ’29, Lucy Heinz, ’29, Mallen Jayasooriya, ’29, Isabella Kantor, ’29,  Jacob Kovacs, Olivia Morales, ’29, & Andrew Sillers, ’29.

Skits Level 1-2, Honorable Mention: Benjamin Baumgartner, ’28, Kara Dittrich, ’28, Emerson Herr, ’28, & Brandon Wang, ’28.

Skits Level 3, Honorable Mention: Izzy Bottorff, Tess Perkinson, ’27, Nick Brown, ’27, & Sidd Jones, ’27.

Written by Jack Swingle, Digital Content Specialist

Upper School

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Magazine of CA

Window to the World

December 1, 2022

Wander the halls of the Upper School on any given afternoon, and you’ll hear Spanish—or perhaps Italian—floating out of the doors of founding faculty member Vic Quesada-Herrera’s world languages classroom. You’ll find no random vocabulary drills here, no repetitive verb conjugations. Instead, assuming you can understand the language, you might be treated to a discussion of how themes from Greek mythology resonate in Costa Rican folklore, a collaborative critique of a Spanish contemporary art piece, or a debate on climate change and habitat loss in the Amazon.

You see, Quesada-Herrera doesn’t merely teach world languages; his aims are far loftier and more personal. He’s on a quest to cultivate empathetic and curious lifelong learners, those who are not only fluent in their target language, able to convey their thoughts and ideas, but also culturally literate and appreciative of cultures different than their own. How better to do that than as engaged global citizens exploring the world—its history, arts, cuisines, social issues, and more—in conversational Spanish, both in the classroom and abroad?

“When you learn a second language, the world has a different flavor, a different smell, a different taste, a different color. You enter through a window, a world that is not your own,” he muses, eyes lighting up.

“You gain a whole new perspective. You become more empathetic, accepting, and respectful of others. It makes you more global, your brain and sensibilities more malleable and flexible, open to new possibilities, to seeing things a new way.”

With language as his key, Quesada-Herrera has been throwing open those windows to other worlds his entire life. The lessons he has learned along the way—empathy, forging connections across differences, leaning into discomfort, resilience, and intelligent risk-taking—figure as prominently in his classrooms as his language expertise.

Quesada-Herrera’s passion for language and culture is deeply rooted, shaping his very approach to life. A self-proclaimed “hardcore learner” and consummate global citizen, he has pursued the smallest of curiosities as they have morphed into life-altering adventures spanning the globe.

As a young child in Costa Rica, a tiny spark—an early love of Australian television programming—inspired a yearning to learn English, kicking off a lifelong obsession with languages. After pursuing language study throughout high school, he entered the University of Costa Rica at the young age of 16, ultimately transferring to the University of Northern Iowa to earn a degree in linguistics and TESL.

“I wanted to go somewhere I had no choice but to speak English, where I couldn’t slip back into the comfort of Spanish,” he explains, foreshadowing the immersive approach he uses in his classroom today. He would return to Costa Rice after graduation, teaching English at a private university before settling in the United States.

Another seemingly small inspiration—a chance discovery of Proboscis monkeys made while poring over his mother’s nature magazines as a boy—would lead to a lifelong fascination with the Malaysian region they call home. Decades after first turning those well-worn pages, he would embark on a life-changing trip to Borneo to study nature. Living with a remote indigenous tribe, he was struck again with the unique vulnerability of connecting with a culture other than one’s own and reaped the rewards of giving himself over to a new cultural experience (just ask him about eating a ceremonial fish with a tribe elder).

Today, he delights in seeing students share similar awakenings in the World Language Exchange Program that he has helped shape. His enduring love for Malaysia and its inhabitants—human and otherwise— permeates his advanced Spanish classroom discussions about climate change and habitat preservation and fuels his outside interests in zoology. The ability to weave his interests into his curriculum contributes to his classroom’s vibrant energy, a palpable presence amongst the ever-expanding collection of books and art that line its walls.

Ever the adventurer, Quesada-Herrera enjoys regular trips to Italy (he visits as often as possible to keep his language skills fresh). In his element, he finds himself at the opposite end of the language spectrum, reveling in the joy of fluency—a gift he hopes to impart to his students.

“When I go to Italy, I’m in awe—immersed in it, enjoying every moment,” he offers. “Language is a tool to enjoy life. It allows us to connect and fully participate in the world. It inspires both compassion and curiosity, a sense of ‘Wow, there’s so much out there that I can see, that

I can open my eyes to, that I can experience.’ That joy, that authentic connection to the world—that is what I hope for my students.”


As with all Quesada-Herrera’s journeys, it was the pull of a new experience that first brought him to Cary Academy 25 years ago. Intrigued by the new technology-forward teaching environment, he was enthralled to put the countless lessons learned from his global explorations to good use in helping to develop CA’s world languages program.

“We knew from the beginning that we did not want to just teach out of a textbook or teach to a test,” explains Quesada-Herrera. We wanted to open that window to another world, another culture. We wanted students to be able to truly speak, to convey ideas in their second language.”

Immersion, both in language and culture, was deemed paramount. “I only communicate with my students in their target language. Not 85% of the time, but all the time, and not just in the advanced classes, but even at the most basic levels. Otherwise, it is too comfortable to switch to English; you must get uncomfortable to learn.”

He laughs, “I remember my first advanced students; I think they thought I didn’t know English. Now and then, our paths would cross outside campus, and they would try to speak to me in English; I would always respond in Spanish. Even now, I have alums that text me, but they always text me in Spanish.”

But language immersion was only one piece of the puzzle. From the outset, expeditionary travel has been a hallmark of the CA program, one made possible, in large part, by Quesada- Herrera. Collaborating with leadership, he cultivated partnerships with host institutions around the globe to help develop the World Language Exchange Program.

Over the years, he has been instrumental in transforming that program from the more tourist-based experiences that characterized his early trips with students to the dual exchange program we have today, in which students from CA change places with students from our partner institutions abroad. These deep cultural exchanges offer students the opportunity to develop confidence in their target language, as well as broaden their perspectives to develop a more nuanced understanding of the world.

The program’s evolution has been thoughtful and, for Quesada-Herrera, necessary—for the edification of both students and the broader community. “The dual exchange is so important—not only for our students, but also for the families that receive students from our Argentinian partner institutions,” he offers.

“Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the complexity of Hispanic identities. There is an assumption that if you are a Spanish-speaking person, then you are from one country, that you are Latin American, that all Spanish speakers are the same. Traveling as a local, and on the flip side, hosting a visiting student in your home—forges a connection. You experience the cultural similarities and differences, the nuances. It tears down stereotypes. And that is major.”

As CA has grown over the years, so has the need to expand world language offerings. Quesada-Herrera has been a leading voice in developing the advanced topical classes that are now CA signatures. They offer a welcome opportunity to inject his own interests—and those of his students’—into the curriculum, an approach that keeps his “sparkle” and love of teaching fresh.

“Language classes don’t have to be about language. You can study anything—it doesn’t matter; you are still practicing the language. To do it while learning about something that interests you, something that matters to you, makes it more vivid.”

He credits the variety of the advanced classes with increasing student engagement, appealing to those who might not identify, first and foremost, as language learners.

“My Global Warming and Vanishing Ecosystems class appeals to students interested in biology and ecology; they identify with that part of the class,” he offers as an example. “They can put aside the initial fear and discomfort of it being in a different language because they connect with their subject. They go for it.”


For Quesada-Herrera, that is what it is all about: helping students to forge those personal connections that bring language and culture to life in ways that are relevant to their lives, that open their eyes to new possibilities, and which are sustainable and pay dividends long after they leave his classroom.

It is a legacy that is not lost on his former students, many of whom regularly name him as having a defining impact on their CA experience.

“If I had to characterize Vic’s philosophy in a sentence, it’s todo está conectado—everything is connected,” reflects CA alum Julia Gong, ‘17, who remains in contact with Quesada- Herrera, reaching out when she is reminded of a poem or song that she learned in his class. “He has this neat way of finding and unveiling how concepts are interconnected. His philosophy is all about embracing the world and its beauty, seeing it through the lens of language and how it connects the world,” she offers.

Gong, who studied mathematical and computational science at Stanford University and currently works in artificial intelligence, still makes room in her life for language, much to Quesada- Herrera’s delight.

“I have pursued a very technical direction professionally, but I’ve retained this love for language because of what I learned in Vic’s classroom,” she offers. “I learned in his class to see the interconnectedness of the world—and that feeds into the interdisciplinarity and innovation I bring to my work, in the interplay of humanities and STEM.”

For Quesada-Herrera, nothing could be sweeter. “When I see students using the language in their lives, developing a real sense of confidence in speaking, in interacting with the world, it’s as if they are little butterflies that have been transformed from caterpillars. And now, they are spreading their wings, flying all over the place.”

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications


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Thirty CA Students Honored for German Profiency

February 20, 2020

Thirty Cary Academy Upper School students earned honors for their performance on the 2020 National German Exam, including one student earning the top ranking amongst all German students in the state. The proficiency exam, administered by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), tests listening and reading skills in German.

Gold Medal: David Go (’20; 1st place in all of NC!), Koa Kaliebe (’21), Addie Esposito (’20), Eva Hammer (’21), Obinna Modilim (’20), Claire Ferris (’21), Tommy Frank (’21), Kyle Murphy (’21), Sheridan Page (’20), Matthew Modi (’20), Hunter Moore (’20), Parker Perkins (’20), Max Feliu (’21), Alex Dietrich (’22), Chris Butulis (’22).

Silver Medal: Sara Martin (’21), Ryan Chen (’21), Hannah George (’20), Dorrit Eisenbeis (’20), Xavier deSouza (’21), Kendyl George (’22), Leah Wiebe (’23), Estella Monica (’22), Abby Smetana (’23), Jane Sihm (’22), Cy Reading (’22).

Bronze Medal: Jono Jenkins (’20), Katie Grush (’20), Rin Mauney (’22), Jenna Pullen (’23).

Frau Burgbacher wishes to give a special shout-out to the following students who scored 20 or more percentile points higher this year than last. “They really improved their skill level tremendously in just one year.”:
Katie Grush, Alex Dietrich, Estella Monica, Cy Reading, Sedef Iz (’22), Matthew Modi, Dorrit Eisenbeis, Mary Esposito (’21).

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German Day

Middle School

CA takes second place in NC German Day Competition

March 25, 2019

Seventy five CA Upper School and Middle School students traveled to UNC for the NC German Day Competition on March 21. More than 500 students from around the state took part in contests such as: Extemp Speaking, Poetry Recitation, skits, Singing, Karaoke, Culture Bowl, Scavenger Hunt, etc.

The NC German Day Competition is organized by the NC Chapter of the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German) and was hosted this year by UNC. Cary Academy won second place overall, with the following winners.

  • Overall School: Cary Academy, 2nd place
  • T-Shirt Design: Teo Feliu, 2nd place
  • Culture Bowl Level 2: 1st Place Ryan Chen, Matthew Crow, Finn Kerns
  • Culture Bowl Level 3: 3rd Place David Go, Parker Perkins, Sheridan Page
  • Poetry Recitation Level 2: 3rd Place Owen Taffar
  • Poetry Recitation Level 3: 3rd Place Kendyl George
  • Poetry Recitation Heritage Level: 1st Place: Addie Esposito, 2nd Place: Matthew Modi
  • Extemporaneous Speaking Level 2: 2nd Place Max Feliu, 3rd Place Koa Kaliebe
  • Extemporaneous Speaking Level 3: 1st Place Claire Ferris
  • Karaoke 1st Place “Weltmeister sein”: Kyle Murphy, Rexy Brundige, Sara Martin, Mary Esposito, Eva Hammer
  • Karaoke 2nd Place “Einmal um die Welt” Max Feliu, Koa Kaliebe, Matthew Crow, Kenny Eheman, Xavier deSouza
  • Voice with Instrumental Level 1/2: “Heidenröslein” Instrumentalists : Owen Taffar, Sebastian de Souza   Singers: Christian Herrera, Evan O “Connell,James Joof, Mordecai Mengesteab, Nora Leuchtmann, Adora Koonce, Lily McFall
  • Voice with Instrumental Level 3: 1st Place “80 Millionen”: Dorrit Eisenbeis, Hannah George, Taylor Weber, Katie Grush
  • Voice with Instrumental Level 3 3rd Place: “Zusammen”: Max Feliu, Koa Kaliebe, Xavier deSouza, Matthew Crow, Kenny Eheman

Addie and Matthew´s Poetry Level H poems are posted on the UNC German Day website. They wrote and performed in the heritage level contest. The judges were so impressed that they requested that the poems be posted for the first time following the competition.

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CA Curious

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Library from quad

US German teacher wins teaching award

September 12, 2018

Herzlichen glückwunsch, Frau Burgbacher!

Wendy Burgbacher, Upper School German teacher and World Language Department Chair, has been awarded the NC-AATG Klett-Langenscheidt Teacher Award. The award recognizes a NC teacher for outstanding effort and achievement in the teaching of German, as exemplified by excellent student performance on the National German Exam.

Written by

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Emotional Nutrition

Magazine of CA

Character Construction

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Taking a Risk: Leadership and Volleyball Camp, 2021

Library from quad

German students excel

May 17, 2018

The following students earned the following top honors on the 2018 National German Exam, administered by the American Association of Teachers of German. Prize levels are based upon the national percentile ranking on the exam, and students received certificates and medals from the national AATG office for their performance.  

Gold Medals: 

  • Tommy Frank 
  • Ryan Chen 
  • Addie Esposito 
  • Teo Feliu Merce 
  • Constantin Zodl 
  • David Go 
  • Hunter Moore 
  • Koa Kaliebe 
  • Kyle Murphy 
  • Finn Kerns 
  • Max Feliu Merce 
  • Hope Ferris 
  • Christian Sodano 
  • Leo deSouza 
  • Olivia Frazier
  • Sheridan Page
  • Obinna Modilim

Silver Medals: 

  • Claire Ferris 
  • Parker Perkins 
  • Matthew Schaeffer 
  • Dorrit Eisenbeis  
  • Athina Zodl 
  • Lindsay Callahan 
  • Luke Wilson 

Bronze Medals: 

  • Hannah George 
  • Jono Jenkens 
  • Sara Martin 
  • Eva Hammer 
  • Xavier deSouza 
  • Matthew Crow 
  • Raiden Mason 
  • Meredith Fowler 
  • Olivia Halferty 
  • Dunning Hill 
  • Ceren Iz 

Bundesliga total!

The Goethe Institut in San Fransisco sponsors a contest each year on the topic of the German National Soccer League, the Bundesliga. Students must watch a soccer game clip each month and answer listening comprehension questions and also make predictions for the series of Bundesliga games occurring on the following weekend. Last year was our first participating, and we may have landed in last place in the Southeast Region (due to our predictions, not our listening comprehension!). But this year we finished in the top 5 in the Southeast Region, which qualified us for the "Champions League" play. We finished in 4th place overall nationally, and were awarded the lovely Bayern-München tricot that Christian is modeling in the photo below. We are excited to compete again next year!


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Charger student-athlete earns national recognition

Upper School

STAR Dinner with Documentary success

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Welcome French exchange students

April 27, 2018

Cary Academy extends a warm “bienvenue” to a visiting exchange group from the Lycée Sainte Ursule, our sister school in Tours, France.  Head of School Mike Ehrhardt and Upper School Head Heather Clarkson welcomed the 31 students and their teachers, Isabelle Théry and Christine Becker, during a brief reception on Friday morning in the Administration Building lobby. This year’s exchange, coordinated by Kim Jones and Sam Goeuriot, is the 17th between our two schools. During their time at Cary Academy, the French students will visit regular classes with their CA partners, as well as participate in a series of special classes offered by volunteers from the CA faculty. The program also includes visits to downtown Raleigh and UNC-Chapel Hill, a tour of the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, a a day at the beach and a picnic at Jordan Lake. Our friends from Sainte Ursule will be with us until May 8th, and Cary Academy students will return the visit to Tours in late May/early June as part of our annual world language exchange program.

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Leading the Way

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Library from quad

CA students take top honors in Chinese language contest

April 9, 2018

Cary Academy students took 6 of the top 10 spots in the North Carolina Advanced Chinese Language Contest.

The 9th annual speech contest had 441 contestants, from 34 different schools/organizations, 11 cities and 11 counties (Cabarrus, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Orange, Polk, Randolph, Union, and Wake).

Selecting 10 speech contest finalists in each category from Beginner to Advanced level Chinese, CA students took 6 of the top 10 in the Advanced level section. The following outstanding CA students are invited to compete in the Final Competition on April 28, 2018 at the Hunt Library of NC State University.

  • Coman, Zach
  • Ellison, Phoebe
  • Gozon, Peyton
  • Hampton, Kate 
  • Pitterle, Cate
  • Swift, Christianna

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Spotlight On: Poetry and Hip-Hop Showcase

Upper School

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Sixth-grade Spanish students attend Flamenco

March 23, 2018

Sixth graders learning Spanish at Cary Academy participated in a field trip on Monday, March 19, made possible by a grant from the PTAA. During this exciting day, students attended two performances by the Hispanic Flamenco Ballet at the Clayton Center. The first show was an exciting exploration of Latin American Rhythms, and the second one featured Spanish Passion with a Flamenco Tablao. This field trip was a culmination of a Music Project Novice students have been working on during the Spanish class. After the performances, they enjoyed an authentic Mexican lunch in a local restaurant in Cary. Students had fun ordering and asking questions about the menu in Spanish.


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Super Charging Athletics

Upper School

Putting their game face on


Students make their voices heard during CA’s first-ever Poetry Slam