CSCTFL Teacher of the Year
Grant Boulanger is a middle school language Spanish teacher at Skyview Middle School in Oakdale, MN. He earned degrees in Spanish and International Relations, a Master of Education and a certificate in German as a Foreign Language from the Volkshochchule Dachau, Germany. A frequent presenter at MCTLC and CSCTFL, Grant writes a blog that has a large following, co-directed the International Forum on Language Teaching (2015), served as director of the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy, and was a teacher, counselor and curriculum facilitator at Concordia Language Village. In his spare time, Grant is owner, teacher and artist of Boulanger Pottery.
Kay Edberg, MCTLC president, describes Grant as “an exceptionally talented educator who has inspired both students and educators during his teaching career. He works hard to ensure that ALL students at his school are given the opportunity to learn another language and advocates for world language education in his district and beyond. ...He creates a community of learners and skillfully pushes them toward greater proficiency. This has had a positive impact on both his students and his school where he has increased enrollment in world languages by targeting students who are underrepresented and ensuring they experience success.”
In his own words, Grant shares his beliefs on language learning and cultural competence:
Jason wasn’t sure language learning was “his thing.” He never raised his hand and avoided eye contact at all costs. He was not confident communicating in English, much less a new language. Over time, I observed occasional covert smiles when class discussion centered on friends and their special talents. Gradually, his body language eased. He relaxed. He began to trust.
Weeks later, I dared to stand close-by with a gentle hand on Jason’s shoulder. The class and I discussed Jason’s favorite sport and the number on his jersey. He glowed with pride. He understood the Spanish. Then we contrasted the well-groomed grass and expensive cleats characteristic of his soccer experience with images of barefoot children playing on concrete in Argentina. His eyes widened. A barely audible, “¡No lo sabía!” escaped him. Jason had found something that touched him personally, so he began engaging and investing more, growing in confidence. Steadily, nods became words; words, phrases; phrases, detailed sentences.
Jason is one of countless students who grow into real proficiency at their own pace through authentic, personalized communication in my classroom. One can feel the language taking hold in their hearts. In this way, I am creating an inclusive, multilingual, tolerant America from the ground up. Many years of purposeful practice in culturally responsive teaching while delivering comprehensible input, coupled with intensive collaboration with innovative colleagues across the nation, have helped me help students open their hearts to Spanish and a broader appreciation and understanding of different cultures.
As Jason’s story shows, the path to proficiency begins with meaningful language in an active, social context. Students use Spanish to learn about one another. They develop fluency by comparing and connecting their own values, products and practices with those of their classmates. As their teacher, I embed culturally authentic content, such as folk songs, rhymes and gestures into highly engaging, personalized activities that bridge students to cultural literacy and interdependent thinking. Students become contributing members of a joyful, collaborative community, managed completely in the target language. Building linguistic and cultural proficiency in this way impacts students’ perspectives of each other. They come to know and respect each other more deeply than in the traditional classroom I once led. This prepares students to join, be accepting of, celebrate and contribute to the greater community of Spanish speakers in the world.
I aim to create an environment where all students feel they belong and where students view themselves as natural language learners. Content should be so compelling that students absorb and produce language effortlessly. The routine success of the most unlikely candidates in this environment convinces me that anyone can acquire another language. Yet, in the years before I arrived in my district, fewer than 10% of students remained in language classes after four years. Students who remained were college-bound and mostly female. Males and African Americans dropped in droves. This story of inequity repeats itself in communities throughout the United States. I aim to disrupt this pattern one school year, one classroom, one student at a time.
CSCTFL Teacher of the Year Finalists
Ellen Rainey is a Spanish teacher at Har-Ber High School, Springdale, Arkansas, where she has been teaching Spanish for the last ten years, ranging from Spanish I, II, III, IV to Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture, and Spanish for Heritage and Native Speakers courses. She has 23 years of teaching experience in Spanish successfully leading all ages and levels and promoting consistent student success in state competitions, national exams, AP exams, and college majors and minors through innovative methods. Ellen has been a District III Director and State Competition Coordinator at Arkansas Foreign Language Teachers Association (AFLTA) since 2010.
A former student writes: “As a result of Mrs. Rainey’s hard work inside and out of the classroom, I developed both a strong knowledge of Spanish language and culture and the self-confidence to actually engage in conversation in Spanish outside of the classroom. The language skills I developed in three years of having Mrs. Rainey as an educator have stuck with me and have especially helped me in nursing school, as I am able to communicate with Spanish speaking patients. Even after being out of Spanish classes for four years, I am still able to speak Spanish well.”
Kathryn Falvey recently moved to Minnesota where she is currently a German teacher at Hutchinson High School, but she was nominated by the Iowa World Language Association for her teaching impact there. She is a new member of ACTFL and has been a member and officer of both IWLA and the Iowa AATG since the beginning of her teaching career. In addition to classroom teaching Kathryn has taught and written curriculum for Iowa Online Learning and chaperoned an exchange between her high school German students and students in Dortmund, Germany. Kathryn has received two scholarships to attend summer seminars in Germany and has attended numerous IWLA and a CSCTFL conference. In July, 2015, she participated in the Leadership Initiative for Language Learning in Columbus, Ohio, sponsored by ACTFL.
The IWLA president, Linda Quinn Allen writes, “Kate’s dedication to the profession is exemplified by the opportunities she seeks to continually improve her teaching, her proficiency in German, and her leadership skills. Kate epitomizes the qualities that one would expect in state, regional, and national award-winning world language teachers. Her teaching and her leadership skills are well beyond par. Her devotion to the profession and her attention to professional development are admirable.”
Martha Behlow is a French teacher at Geneva Community High School in Geneva, IL. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in French & Secondary School Teaching, from the University of Iowa. She holds two Masters degrees: a Master of Arts in French Language & Literature from Northern Illinois University and a Master of Education from Saint Mary’s University, Winona, MN. Martha is also recognized as a National Board Certified Teacher of French.
Martha’s CV shows that she literally lives the French language and culture, from her teaching responsibilities at all levels, including AP, to her numerous trips with students. Martha has given many professional hours to the Northern Chapter of AATF as a member, presenter and officer. She has also served the Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages as the AATF representative.
Students’ letters of recommendations used the words and phrases “caring”, “fun”, “inspiring” and “ engaging her class in French culture” while colleagues describe her as “dedicated”, “professional” and “helpful”. Her principal and department chair state that “learning French for Madame Behlow’s students is not just conjugating verbs: it is truly living the language.”
Rosa Tezanos-Pinto is a professor of Spanish at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis where she has been teaching Hispanic Literature and Culture since 2006. She is a part of the World Language faculty that directs the Master of Arts in the Teaching of Spanish. The recipient of many honors and awards, she was recently named a numerary member of Academia Norteamerica de la Lengua Espagñola and corresponding member of Real Academia Espagñola. Dr. Tezanos-Pinto has mentored several undergraduate and graduate students alike. She has given over 100 presentations at various professional organization conferences, some with her graduate students, and published several articles on Hispanic literature. She believes that “an important aspect of language learning is to give the students all the tools to succeed but also encourage them to excel.”
One of her MAT students writes: “Dr. Tezanos-Pinto not only shares her experiences with her students, she also opens doors to allow others to take part in helping open the minds of our future generation. She is a passionate teacher first and foremost.”
Brian Santos is a Spanish teacher at Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Missouri, where he was named 2015 District Teacher of the year. He has been teaching Spanish 1-5 AP for the last ten years and recently dual credit courses with the University of Missouri where he also teaches a Methods and Curriculum course. Active in his school community, Brian has served as a PLC leader and an Instructional Technology Specialist. A recipient of many honors and awards, Brian is an active participant of several professional organizations. Brian has shared his expertise through presentations at his school district, FLAM and FLTA. His principal notes that “Brian is continually focused on growth and his colleagues see him as a great resource and a great example of professionalism.”
A Spanish III student writes: “He has successfully integrated more technological tools and academic websites into his class than any teacher I’ve ever had. He states on his class website that he believes that ‘the classroom environment must be a balance of serious and fun,’ and each tool he introduces is both educational and entertaining. Mr. Santos has made an impact in my life as he has instilled in me a desire to continue to learn the Spanish language.”
Katie Hayes is a Spanish teacher at Pius X High School, Lincoln, Nebraska, where she has been teaching Spanish III and IV. In her thirteen-year career, Ms. Hayes has served as cooperating teacher for a student teacher five times. She writes a weekly all-staff email detailing professional development opportunities and best practices, and she has presented at workshops at the state and regional levels. In addition, Katie developed and implemented a new course, Spanish Literature, which is conducted entirely in Spanish. She served on the editorial board of the CSCFL journal in 2007 and co-presented the Conference Workshop/Extension Workshop, “Keeping It In the Target Language,” at 2014 CSCFL conference.
One of her colleagues writes: “Ms. Hayes helped to transform the way world languages are taught at her school. Under her leadership, the entire world language department has shifted to teaching completely in the target language. Getting all teachers in an entire department to change the way they teach is no small feat, but Ms. Hayes’ patience and expertise facilitated this change.”
Lisa Shepard is a 27 year veteran French teacher at Davidson High School, Hilliard, Ohio, where she has been teaching French I-AP and was named lead French teacher for the Dual Enrollment Program for Columbus State. She recently published Four Simple Steps for Creating an Integrated Performance Assessment. Teachers all over the country have introduced proficiency-based methods and assessments as a result of reading her blog, Madame’s Musings, which has had a huge impact on the international community of language teachers. Lisa believes that as World Language teachers, “our role is no longer to teach countless structures or endless vocabulary lists to passive learners, many of whom struggled to experience success or identify the relevance of these lessons.
Instead, we have the awesome responsibility of facilitating our students’ proficiency so that they can make meaningful connections with those outside their own communities.”
One of her students writes: “Madame Shepard creates a calm and relaxed environment for students to practice their skills by gently correcting them, praising their efforts, and allowing students to discuss mistakes. Often, a question or mistake is turned into a grammar lesson that allows the student to feel as though they have contributed to the class instead of potentially feeling embarrassed.”
Sigurd “Siggi” Piwek is a 4th grade teacher at Milwaukee German Immersion School, where he has been teaching for 17 years. He has been a member of the Trainer-Network USA (formerly Trainer-Network Central) since 2009 and has given more than 35 presentations for fellow German teachers at state, regional, and national foreign language teacher conferences. In Wisconsin, he is an active member of WALFT and chaired the AATG Nominating Committee. He is currently the President of the WI-AATG. He is a frequent presenter at ACTFL, CSCTFL, and WALFT not to mention his participation in numerous Goethe-Institut and AATG sponsored workshops. His principal supports his professional efforts “because his participation in local, regional, and national workshops and conferences helps create awareness of and good will toward our excellent German language immersion program, and because of his willingness to share what he learns with the staff.”
One of his student’s parents writes: “Herr Piwek is a teacher in the whole extent of the word. He cares for his students, has their best interests at heart, and is ready and willing to help them to be the best they can be.”