Being a Spanish professor, I have attended mostly conferences on literatures and languages and the occasional gathering on language teaching and pedagogical issues. Although I was very familiar with the MaFLA Conference taking place every year at Sturbridge, I had never attended it. I always associated it with an emphasis on K-12 foreign language education. Due to the enthusiasm and professionalism of some of my students and the impetus from our Graduate Program Coordinator and 2008 MaFLA Conference Director, Nicole Sherf, I decided to participate at the MaFLA Conference. Together with Christina Berry, Gerda Pasquarello and Ann Marie Quezada, Spanish teachers in Massachusetts and participants of the MAT program, we organized a Panel on the Teaching of Culture in the Language Class. The MAT students presented an expansion on their final projects of their Seminar on the Cultures of Spain. Most of all, what I loved was the diversity of the public: seasoned high school teachers, new teachers, graduate students, college professors.
Our panelists, all graduate students, presented very professionally and the public welcomed them warmly, adding some tips to their suggestions and raising good informative questions. Young teachers were eager to collect their activity package and some had inquiries about SSC Graduate Program.
What a wonderful experience! The MaFLA conference provided a space for educators at all levels to really communicate and interact. We often complain in all disciplines that there is not a connection between what happens in the high school and what happens in college, perhaps more so in the foreign languages classes. Of course, we all analyze the trends in language study, we track the budget cuts and standardized tests at the K-12 level and we administer placement tests to our incoming students to see the new level they are at. But the dialogue, informal discussions and human interaction at a conference are as valuable as the studies and data gathering. The MaFLA Conference was a great experience personally for me, to see first-hand what other K-16 professionals were doing and was great for the graduate students to feel included in the professional circle. I cannot think of a better way to promote, increase and improve foreign language study than the MaFLA gathering. After all, we are the ones who will design a cohesive K-16 study plan and the ones who will infuse the enthusiasm in our students. In sum, we need each other’s support.¦