HIGHTSTOWN: Students to participate in Classroom Close-up, NJ

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HIGHSTOWN – The Board of Education approved the high school to participate in the TV program Classroom Close-Up, NJ during its meeting on Nov. 16.
“The show focuses on all the wonderful things happening in New Jersey public schools,” said Candice Bland, Hightstown High School Spanish teacher, Spanish National Honor Society advisor and Spanish Study Abroad advisor.
Classroom Close-up, NJ is a half-hour television program that features innovative projects in New Jersey public schools. The 14-time Emmy award-winning show is in its 22nd season and airs on NJTV every Sunday at 7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 11:30 p.m.; and Saturdays at 5:30 a.m, according to the Classroom Close-up, NJ website.
The half-hour show contains four stories, each about five minutes long.
“I am so incredibly honored to have received the opportunity to promote this unique program that I have worked so hard to build and offer to the students of Hightstown High School,” said Ms. Bland. “It is my aspiration to inspire fellow Spanish educators here in the state of New Jersey to offer a similar opportunity which will ultimately reinforce the importance of Spanish as a second language as well as instill the necessity of traveling abroad.”
The program is a co-production of NJTV and the New Jersey Education Association and is sponsored by PSE&G, according to its website.
The show is the only half-hour program in the country devoted to featuring the positive things happening in public schools. Students will spend a full day taping one segment, and the goal is to make everyone look good and feel proud of their participation in the show and in the school project/event, according to the program’s newsletter.
“I signed up for its newsletter and filled out a profile about my position as a Spanish teacher as the Study Abroad Program advisor,” said Ms. Bland. “In turn, they contacted me via school email and with a phone call after viewing my profile.”
She said that she thinks this is the first time that HHS has participated in the Classroom Close-up. The show is expected to be taped on Feb. 26, 2016.
According to the BOE, the representatives from the program are interested in visiting the high school, taping interviews with students who participated in the Spanish Study Abroad program, and then broadcasting it on channel 13.
“I am a 15-year Spanish teacher in East Windsor Regional School District where I have taught all levels of Spanish in Hightstown High School,” said Ms. Bland. “About six years ago, I decided to create a program with my transatlantic cohort at the University of Granada in Granada, Spain.”
She said this program is a “microcosm of a university semester abroad, thus catered to the high school student.”
“This is been the most amazing part of my career, sharing a beloved corner of the world where my daily pedagogical inspiration is rooted, Granada, Spain,” she said.
She said the program has been a huge success and now has been installed at Ocean County Community College as well as Mercer County Community College, where students are now able to benefit from a dual enrollment program, earning three credits in humanities, global studies or Spanish language.
“I created this program out of the need to offer to students in New Jersey at the high school level as well as the community college an authentic language immersion program where they become members of the community during their 18-day homestay, attend 45 hours of course work at the University of Granada’s Center of Modern Languages, enjoy daily excursions and weekend day trips all for a reasonable price,” she said.
The majority of programs offered to Spanish teachers throughout the nation are generic, do not include academic coursework aligned to NJCCCS and are astronomically priced, she added.
“I am so proud of this program and would love to share this opportunity with my Spanish teaching colleagues throughout the state,” she said. “The students who have participated in this program over last six years have been forever changed, exposed to the language in ways that can never be achieved in the classroom and are more worldly.”
She said there are more than 45 students participated in the program last year and there are currently 27 students who will participate in the program this summer 2016.
Ms. Bland was also approved by the board for a professional development opportunity. She received an invitation from the Embassy of Spain, Division of Tourism, to participate in an all-expense paid Familiarization Conference and Workshop that took place in Castilla y Leon, Spain. The invitation was extended to her as a professional development opportunity, which is designed for teachers who oversee study abroad programs. She left for the workshop on Nov. 15 and returned Nov. 20, according to the board. There was no cost to the school district.