Sturbridge—This past Halloween weekend, approximately 800 educators traveled from around the state to attend the three-day Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) Conference. This year’s theme was titled “The Foreign Language Standards: Creating Life-Long Learners.” According to Dr. Nicole Sherf, Conference Chair, this number of attendees represents over 50% of MaFLA membership. Given the current economic climate, this number demonstrates the importance of Foreign Languages in the classroom.
Attendees were given a unique opportunity to choose from over twenty-two featured, six-hour and three-hour workshops, and over eighty concurrent sessions. Topics ranged from innovative technology use in the classroom to creating engaging cultural activities. Between sessions, the exhibit hall was open, offering a wide array of foreign language teaching materials and information on global education.
Of this year’s many participants, there was a strong contingent from Salem State College. With over 20 attendees and a total of 16 faculty and graduate student presenters, the high value placed on this conference at the college is clear. Dr. Sherf commented that “the MaFLA Conference is the only opportunity in the state for Foreign Language educators to gather in such large numbers for professional development purposes. It was wonderful to see Salem State College participating so actively.”
MAT in Spanish student, Scott Estes, served as the Advocacy Intern of the conference, writing the lead article for the MaFLA Newsletter about the conference and advertising conference attendee participation in their local newspapers. The Advocacy Booth displayed this year’s photo and essay contest winners from students across the state. Estes also coordinated the sale at the booth of a MaFLA Advocacy Action calendar and lovely note cards both displaying MaFLA poster contest winners.
Leading off Friday’s morning sessions was Dr. Michele Dávila who presented with colleagues from Brookline High School and Framingham State College. Attendees were treated to a 75 minute presentation on the use of film in the classroom. Several Latin- American coming-of-age films and their potential impact in the classroom were discussed.
Under the guidance of Dr. Fátima Serra, MAT in Spanish students Christina Berry, Gerda Pasquarello and Annmarie Quezada focused on the incorporation of the culture strand from the state standards into the classroom. Topics included Immigration, Galicia, and the Spanish Renaissance. Dr. Serra was pleased at the support she found at her first MaFLA experience: “I cannot think of a better way to promote, increase and improve foreign language study than the MAFLA gathering.”
Friday afternoon’s sessions included a session directed by Dr. Kristine Doll. Presenters included Catherine Frost, Natalie DeLaria, Julie Wall, Carolynne McCormick and Margret Sears who shared their findings on research dealing with enrollment issues, challenges to foreign language methodology and strategies for creating life-long learners in foreign languages.
Saturday morning’s sessions included one given by MAT in Spanish student James Donahue. The title of his presentation was “Creation and Innovation in the Foreign Language Classroom with Technology.” Donahue demonstrated how to engage and motivate students in the target language by the use of online tools, PowerPoint and the language lab.
Among the final sessions on Saturday was one given by Chairperson of the Foreign Languages Dept., Dr. Elizabeth Blood and Italian Professor Dr. Anna Rocca who presented with a colleague from Simmons College. The talk focused on how to access the vast amount of online news resources and their incorporation in the classroom, aiding in the teaching of language and culture.
Saturday’s events were concluded by a Business and Awards Luncheon in which Carolynne McCormick was presented with the Helen G. Agbay Scholarship and Lauren Izzicupo the ISE Language Matters Award. Dr. Nicole Sherf, Coordinator of the MAT Spanish program and 2008 MaFLA Conference Chair gave a warm welcome and introduction to those in attendance. The overall success of the conference is due, in large measure, to the effort of Dr. Sherf who spent countless hours organizing and gathering the many fine speakers from across the country. Dr. Sherf has now been elected to the role of MaFLA President.¦