Dear fellow language educators,
On February 20th, 2016, Cactus Shadows High School hosted the AZLA spring workshop entitled “Are you ready? The NEW Arizona World and Native Languages Standards.” The workshop brought together more than one hundred educators from all over the state teaching languages at different levels of the K-16 educational system: from kindergarten immersion teachers to university professors. Arizona’s World and Native Languages Standards, which were approved in May 2015 and will be fully implemented during the 2016-2017 academic year, provide a concise and complete description of what learners should acquire and be able to do in the target language as they move through the process of studying another language. I am very happy to say that the workshop was not only well attended but also very successful and the feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive.
The workshop was led by a team of outstanding language educators who have played an essential role in the revision of the standards: Doni Nasr, Lisa Berkson, Cristina Ladas, and Jocelyn Danielson Raught. Doni, Lisa, Jocelyn, and Cristina are among the most experienced and dedicated language teachers in our state. All of them are currently serving on the AZLA board. Always on the frontline of our profession, these truly inspirational educators have been working selflessly and tirelessly to promote the field, improve the quality of language education, support teachers, and educate administrators, parents, and legislators. Their interactive presentation and hands-on activities familiarized the participants with the scale of proficiency levels, the three modes of communication, the content of the nine strands of the standards as well as with key concepts such as performance and proficiency. It also provided educators with a roadmap to guide them in the implementation of the standards in the language classroom. Understanding the descriptions of how language learners demonstrate performance of the three modes of communication is crucial for planning and assessment. At the end, the workshop participants left inspired to improve their teaching practices and achieve greater levels of teaching effectiveness.
After lunch, workshop attendees were joined by a panel from the Arizona Department of Education and Cave Creek Unified School District. Our panelists were Tammy Waller, Director of K-12 Social Studies and World Languages (Arizona Department of Education), Dr. Jana Miller, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning (Cave Creek Unified School District), Maura Yildirim, Director of Rules and Procedures in Certification (ADE), and Aiden Fleming, Deputy Director, Policy Development and Government Relations (ADE). After a brief description of their job and responsibilities, the panelists answered a wide array of questions from the audience. During the engaging question and answer session, attendees were able to learn more about issues related to state legislation and language programs, the role of the director for social studies and world languages, dual language immersion programs, the instruction of Native American languages, and teacher certification among others. We are very excited to share with you that one of our panelists, Aiden Fleming, received the Southwest Conference on Language Teaching (SWCOLT) Friend of the Profession Award for his contributions for the development of two bills for AZ language programs: SB-1242, Arizona Critical Language and Economic Development Pilot Program (which passed in 2014) and SB 1239, State Seal of Biliteracy Program, which was passed unanimously be the Education Committee of the AZ House of Representatives on March 2, this year.
AZLA has a long history of advocating for and advancing the profession of language teaching at all levels and across a variety of institutions and programs. Last month, for example, we created a new sub-committee on Native American languages in order to better represent their voice on the AZLA board. I would like to urge you to get more involved in our organization and in the language teaching community. As a member, you can contribute in many ways: you can share your ideas, innovative practices, student success stories, exciting events, or issues and suggestions; you can write short articles for our website; you can help us plan conferences and workshops and you can present or participate in them; you can provide us with valuable feedback; most importantly, you can advocate for the profession by encouraging and inspiring your peers and administrators and by getting them involved in AZLA. It is our responsibility and our job to make the case for languages.
Finally, I would like to thank all board members whose hard work, enthusiasm and creative ideas help the profession improve and move to higher levels. I would also want to thank all of the engaged and involved AZLA members for their contributions. We cannot do it without your help. I wish you a productive, creative, and enjoyable rest of the semester!
Dr. Mariana Bahtchevanova