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

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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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World Language

Virtual German Day 2021 results: sehr gut!

April 15, 2021

This year, the North Carolina German Day Competition took place virtually due to the pandemic, with a mix of live online events and prerecorded submissions. German Day is hosted by local universities (this year led by Appalachian State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and organized by the N.C. chapter of the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG).  Congratulations to the following winners! 

Middle School: 

A Capella Song: 
1st place:   Gavin Koo (Level B) 
2nd place:   Aubrey Bundy, Sebastian Escobar, Kelley Felix, Alexander Ferretti, Mirabelle Greenwolfe, Jonas McMullin, Tess Perkinson, Riley Powell, Rishi Ramesh, Hogan Wendt and Rajan Wood  (Level A) 

Song with Choreography: 
1st place:  Izzy Bottorff, Anurag Gaddu, Reagan Lee and Max Leuchtmann (Level A) 

Song with Musical Accompaniment: 
1st place:  Sebastian deSouza, Nora Leuchtmann and Zelin Ye (Level B) 

Cooking Show: 
3rd place:  Aviva Wang (Level A) 

Upper School: 

3D Art: 

1st place: Mary Esposito 

2nd Place: Emma Esposito 

2D Art: 

Honorable Mention: Sara Martin, Rin Mauney 


2nd place: Louisa Wendt 

3rd place: Alexandra Butulis 

Song with Musical Accompaniment: 

3rd place: Kaeshev Alepati 


1st place: Zoe Koo, Rin Mauney 

2nd place: Rin Mauney, Cy Reading, Sedef Iz 

3rd place: Koa Kaliebe, Claire Ferris, Eva Hammer, Kyle Murphy, Mary Esposito 

Verb Bee: 

1st place: Claire Ferris 

Culture Bowl: 

2nd place: Tommy Frank (Level B) 

2nd place: Charlie Eheman (Level A) 

Poetry Recitation: 

1st place: Kendyl George (Level 3) 

Extemporaneous Speaking Heritage Level: 

1st place: Claire Ferris 

2nd place: Tommy Frank 

3rd place: Koa Kaliebe 

Cooking Show: 

1st place: Leah Wiebe (Level B) 

3rd place: Kaeshev Alepati, Tymur Tkachenko (Level B) 

Honorable Mention: Louisa Wendt, Adora Koonce (Level A) 

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager


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Global Learning Continues

October 29, 2020

September 15th was an unhappy day for me.

That’s when I had to share the sad news with current sophomores and their families that—having already canceled the world language exchange trips for the Class of 2022 back in March—we would now have to cancel the trips for the Class of 2023, as well. While the announcement likely did not come as a surprise given our current global health crisis, there is still a feeling of disappointment and loss for all involved.

On a brighter note, however, two recent student events have reminded me that while our world language exchange program may be on hiatus, global learning is still very much alive at Cary Academy, and is even expanding in some exciting new directions!

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to observe an outstanding example of global learning in action as 7th-grade students participated in an “on-campus field trip” for the Migration Collaboration. This yearlong interdisciplinary project gives students a chance to explore the immigrant experience first-hand through multiple, meaningful interactions with people of different backgrounds and perspectives living in the Triangle area. The aim is to help 7th graders develop a sense of cross-cultural awareness and empathy, reflect upon how privilege works, and learn to be positive changemakers in our local community. 

It was heartening to observe the energy and engagement of our 7th-grade students as they met with guests from six different local organizations that support immigrants and refugees. And I especially appreciated the fact that one student has already taken the next step in her 7th-grade global learning journey by organizing her own student-led Flex Day workshop—inviting four local immigrants to CA to tell their stories. Wow!

A second excellent opportunity to witness global learning in action came to me in the form of an invitation to hear a group of Upper School students present an ambitious (but do-able!) proposal to organize and host a global youth forum at CA. These Upper School students, who this past January attended the Youth Forum Switzerland hosted by the International School of Zug and Luzern, spoke quite eloquently about the value of connecting with peers from other countries for collaborative exploration of some of the world’s most pressing issues, from racial justice to climate change. They outlined a plan for a smaller-scale virtual forum next spring that would begin with a guest speaker each day for exposure and inspiration and then move into break-out sessions focused on action and involvement. 

As with the 7th graders, it was inspiring to see the energy and enthusiasm of these Upper School students as they pitched their idea, and the hope is that they will be able to bring their proposed virtual forum to fruition during the upcoming Discovery Term.  Wow again!

These two student endeavors in global learning got me thinking about the full range of school and community-based learning experiences we offer at Cary Academy to build self-awareness, cultivate empathy, encourage responsibility, and inspire lifelong civic engagement. Having an open mind while actively seeking to understand the cultural norms and expectations of others, and leveraging the knowledge gained to communicate and collaborate effectively in diverse environments—these are the pillars of global competence! 

While our world language exchange program is a key component of our global learning effort, there are many other components, as well. The schoolwide Dialog Across Difference initiative comes immediately to mind, together with a host of other offerings sponsored by our Center for Community Engagement.  

That said, Upper School world language teachers are also working hard to ensure that our students continue to have opportunities for global connections through their world language studies, even while the exchanges are suspended due to the pandemic. Plans are in place for students to interact with peers from our partner schools where possible, either through written correspondence or through virtual Zoom sessions. We are also engaging students in a number of other virtual opportunities for authentic interactions in the target language, like the “Meet a German” program sponsored by the Goethe Institut, virtual tours offered through WildChina, and Zoom chats with local Spanish-speaking residents in connection with Hispanic Heritage Month.

Though the cancellation of the exchange trips remains a disappointment, it is possible to find a silver lining. In the absence of the exchanges this year, we are finding the time and space needed to develop and launch some new global learning programs, like the youth forum now on the table. Along the same lines, the exchange hiatus has created the time and space for the Upper School world language team to revisit the structure of that program and consider how we might provide new opportunities for students to use their second-language skills to connect with people and ideas beyond our own borders. The focus to date has been upon school-based reciprocal exchange experiences, but perhaps the offerings could be expanded to include language immersion opportunities in other contexts, such as environmental studies or community service. And perhaps students could be more directly involved in planning and implementing these adventures.

Global learning is not a singular course or experience at Cary Academy, but rather, a series of experiences across grades 6-12 involving growth over time. I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring back our world language exchange trips this year, but at the same time, I find comfort in knowing that the larger global learning journey at CA continues even in the age of COVID, with students increasingly taking the baton! 

Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty


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Ready… Set… Exchange!

February 14, 2019

Groundhog Day has come and gone, and while I don’t put much stock in the furry critter’s weather predictions, his appearance each year is a sure sign that another round of exchanges will soon be underway.

As we get ready for the 17th season of the world language exchange program at Cary Academy, it’s hard to imagine our school without this signature sophomore experience.  Yet when I tell colleagues at other schools that we send our entire 10th grade class abroad each year as a regular part of our world language curriculum, the response is always one of amazement.

It is without question quite a feat to plan and implement a program involving over 100 students each year traveling to five different countries on three different continents.  The program would not be possible without the extraordinary efforts of the world language teachers who coordinate the exchanges and the faculty and staff members who serve as trip chaperones.  The willingness of these educators to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of large groups of students while thousands of miles away from home definitely merits a wow response.

No less remarkable is the fact that Cary Academy has over 100 families each year who are willing to open their homes and their hearts to an international visitor and be part of a cross-cultural learning experience.  This is not always an easy thing to do, particularly in the midst of a busy school year, not to mention the ups and downs that can come with placing strangers together for an extended period of time.    The readiness of CA parents to embrace this opportunity in a shared commitment to the mission and vision of the school is a huge part of the wow factor of our exchanges, as well.

Cary Academy will be welcoming a total of 95 visiting students to campus this April.  Two groups from Argentina and a group from France will be in Cary over roughly the first half of the month, and a group from Germany will arrive toward the end of April and stay through the first few days of May.  During their time in Cary, our guests will visit classes with their CA partners and participate in a program of local fieldtrips and other learning activities.   We were also expecting to host a group from China in February, but sadly, the group was unable to secure the necessary travel visas.   We now hope that those 15 students will be able to visit their CA partners next February instead.  In the meantime, 110 Cary Academy students will travel to Argentina, China, France or Germany from late May to mid-June, where they will enjoy a homestay and school experience of their own.

Local groundhog Sir Walter Wally saw his shadow on February 2nd, and soon another 200+ students and families from all over the world will be connecting, sharing and learning from one another, all under the auspices of our world language exchange program.

Wow indeed!

For more information about the world language exchange program at Cary Academy, we invite you to visit the program homepage on the school website.


Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty


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