On The Road with the ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year - Conferences & more

By Lisa Ritter posted 05-05-2010 21:21


Where to start?  I am absolutely living a dream.  Since receiving the incredible honor of ACTFL TOY in November, I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from wonderful teacher leaders throughout the country and take part in some wonderful opportunities and adventures.  

I am a fairly reserved person so stepping into the spotlight has been a new and interesting experience.  My students have enjoyed being included with me in photo shoots for various publications including the cover of ACTFL's magazine, The Language Educator and another for my alma mater Drury University who recently featured me in Drury Magazine (alumni profile-Lisa LilleyAnother early highlight was the trip to my state capital of Jefferson City to meet Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (read more about it in my Advocacy Legislative Visits blog entry). 

Springtime is conference season and I have racked up frequent flyer miles with visits to the regional conferences.  I'm going to give some highlights of each in the space below.  I have mentioned several names but know that there are so many others that could have been included here.  Many more are included via the photo links that follow my reflections on each conference.  My travels have only confirmed my long held belief that world language teaching professionals are the very, very best!  

The Central States Conference (CSCTFL) in Minneapolis provided very friendly turf for me to get started.  I was called upon to speak throughout the conference that attracted over 1000 language teachers. I got to meet the inspirational keynote speaker, Marilyn Carlson Nelson.  Her book, How We Lead Matters, offers many insights that seem appropriate to me at this time in my life.  The Minnesota delegation was very welcoming and treated the ACTFL representatives, which included our impressive President Eileen Glisan,  to a wonderful dinner in Anita Ratwik's fabulous Victorian home in St. Paul.   Local arrangements chair Jan Kittock is a real dynamo and she shared intriguing insights about her approach to TPRS during our lunch together.  I also enjoyed getting to visit with NADSFL President Rita Oleksak and former ACTFL president as well as ACTFL Board Member Dave McAlpine and Julie Mason who is ACTFL's Director of Membership.  And in all of my travels I have been accompanied and aided by Marty Abbott, ACTFL's Director of Education and another former ACTFL President.  Marty is rock solid and has provided helpful guidance to me at every turn. 

Photos from CSC

The next conference was the Northeast Conference (NECTFL) in New York City.  It fell during my school's spring break so I invited my eighteen year-old niece Lydia to travel with me for a few days of sightseeing before the conference began.  We took in several shows and logged countless miles exploring the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Lydia even got on The Today Show during one of the audience shots and later met the band Green Day when we dined at Sardi's, the famous Broadway restaurant.  Once the conference began, I gained a lot of ideas from the various state leaders who make up NECTFL and was amazed by their dedication.  I had an overflowing crowd for my session and delighted in the opportunity to share with teachers especially those who are new to our profession.  I attended two of the plenaries and learned a great deal from the panelists.  I got another John DeMado and Greg Duncan fix by attending their wonderful sessions that make me think about virtually everything I do in my instruction and assessment.  For years I had considered attending NECTFL and am so glad that I finally had the chance.  Over 2000 teachers attend so there is a wide array of sessions and the number of exhibitors is second only to ACTFL.  Next year the conference moves to Baltimore and tries out a new format.  I believe that it can only be a success based upon the strong leadership in evidence.

Photos from NECTFL

In early April I flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the Southwest Conference (SWCOLT).  Lydia may have met some celebrities in New York but I was starstruck at the talent that gathered at SWCOLT.  Greta Lundgaard, Program Chair  and Jodi Klopp, Executive Director, organized a wonderful conference with a strong focus on technology.  Toni Theisen, the 2009 ACTFL Teacher of the Year, is a star in our world and is so good at sharing cool Web 2.0 applications with teachers.  I also enjoyed spending time with past ACTFL President, Janine Erickson who dazzles with her mega-watt smile and charming personality. I ate lunch with TPRS founder Blaine Ray who easily remembers his visit to Springfield, MO in the early 90's.  And my thinking was definitely expanded by futurist Tom Welch.  I also met Noah Geisel who will be the keynote speaker for the Foreign Language Association of Missouri this October and I know that we are going to enjoy learning from him about ways to utilize technology with our students.

Photos from SWCOLT

My last conference trip this spring was to Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the Southern Conference (SCOLT).  Shortly after checking in, I attended a get together for NADSFL members held in the lovely home of Leslie Baldwin.  While there I enjoyed visiting with several leaders including Lynn Fulton-Archer, David Jahner, Donna Podgorny, and Ann Marie Gunter.  SCOLT featured several excellent sessions including Ken Stewart's early morning session that drew a full house.  Carmen Scoggins shared many easy ways to use technology and she just sparkles in her presentational style. Charles Moore gave a timely and popular presentation on ways to teach the low-achieving language student.   J.C. Morales, Linda Zins-Adams, and Carol Anne Costabile-Heming so willingly give of themselves to advance our profession and I am so impressed by all they do to advocate for German.  And Krishauna Hines-Gaither, as FLANC President, was very welcoming to all.

Photos from SCOLT

 I am so grateful for all of these wonderful opportunities and hope to make contact with the Pacific Northwest Conference (PNCFL) this fall.   I will be updating my wiki site throughout the summer months in the interest of sharing what I have learned.  You can see photos from my travels and much more by visitin