Students at Lake Howell High School learning RussianHigh school students began learning Russian as part of their regular classes at the beginning of the 2010 school year. This marks the first and only known high school class of it’s kind in the Central Florida Public School system. But, before we tip our hat to the enlightened administrators at Winter Park’s, Lake Howell High school, we need to give due recognition to the person behind this project-the school’s Principal, Dr. Storch. The class is taught by Nina Toomey, a native Russian, who also works as a French teacher on the campus.

The process began 5 years ago and required extensive research and patience as demographics were compared to what other schools were using as curriculum. The school’s provider of text books stated there were no schools in Central Florida requesting material for Russian classes-Lake Howell was the first.

Today the class is comprised of less than 20 students, who’s reason for learning the language varies from curiosity and challenge, to a desire to retain what they may have learned from Russian speaking parents. Learning Russian is more complex than the other languages like Spanish, French or German because it uses a different and bigger alphabet (Cyrillic) with sounds not found in English. However, the students appear to have taken quickly to the task, according to Toomey, “They are already speaking complete sentences, writing and reading in Russian without hesitation”, she said.

As of the 2000 Census, Russian was spoken by 7% of the US population. This made it the second fastest growing language in the US at that time. It will be interesting to see the results from the 2010 census, which will hopefully incline more schools in Central Florida to follow Lake Howell’s lead. The Russian Federation has half the population of the United States (not including the other
Russian speaking countries of the FSU) but with twice the land mass-it’s obvious the future will have opportunity and value for those capable of speaking Russian both in the United States and abroad.

We applaud Lake Howell High School for bringing a long overdue element to our school system and have invited the teacher and students to be  our honored guests at any of our Society events. We also look forward to seeing more classes like this in our area.