Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | November 24, 2014



By Nicole Sherf, WLC

Salem State’s Department of World Languages and Cultures was well represented at the Annual Conference of the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) in Sturbridge, MA, between October 23 and 25.  It is a three-day conference that provides research and practical information for K-16 foreign language teachers in the state.  Approximately 900 teachers of all languages and levels attended and were provided a schedule of sessions and workshops related to foreign language teaching, technology and assessment.  Attendance was a course requirement for the undergraduate and graduate Methods courses who are building a foundation of strong professional engagement.

Amy Mihailidis, Nicole Sherf and Vilma Bibeau at the Advocacy Booth of the MaFLA Conference

Amy Mihailidis, Nicole Sherf and Vilma Bibeau at the Advocacy Booth of the MaFLA Conference

A group of our Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish students participated more actively in the conference by presenting or volunteering.  Amy Mihailidis and Vilma Bibeau served as Advocacy Interns.  As such, they manned the Advocacy Booth in the Exhibit Hall promoting foreign language teaching and programming in the state.  They encouraged attendees to participate in a variety of advocacy activities including contacting legislators about supporting foreign languages in the federal budget.  They also distributed a variety of brochures and informational pamphlets included the explanation of the new Teacher of the Year award sponsored by MaFLA.  Also featured was a brochure with great information to better inform non-foreign language administrators on the special needs of foreign language programming.  Check out the materials at under Advocacy, select “Promote your Program.”

A variety of our MAT students presented on topics developed in their coursework in their program at Salem State.  Vilma Bibeau who teaches at North Andover High School, presented a session for the Italian Strand of the Conference entitled “How to Find and Use Authentic Italian Resources.”  Along that same theme, Jessica Massinari Sapp of Swampscott Middle School presented “Picture This: Using Digital Images and Storytelling to Increase Proficiency.”  Laurie Smith (Reading Memorial High School) and Wendy Cahill (Concord-Carlisle High School) engaged participants with an overview of activities to get kids talking.  Smith presented “Teaching Out-of-the-Box” and Cahill’s title was “Proyectos en la sala de clase con la tecnología.”  The students in Dr. Sherf’s Action Research class presented their research developed as a result of the projects that they created and conducted with their students over the last academic year.  Leanne Briand (Medford High School), Laura Fox (Reading Middle School), Carolyn Giannini (Georgetown High School) and Jacqueline Mokaba (Methuen High School) presented “Research-Proven Ideas to Energize Student Writing.”

Former student Jeanne O’Hearne is now on the Board of MaFLA while 2009 MAT graduate Jessica Clifford is on the Executive Board preparing to Chair the 2015 Annual Conference and serve as the 2016 MaFLA President.  Her Conference theme was announced at the Awards and Business Luncheon: “Climbing the Proficiency Ladder:  Many Languages, One Goal.”  I hope that SSU will show up en masse to support her in her conference for which planning began over a year ago.  The proposal form will be up on the MaFLA site in about a month so start thinking now about a fun topic to present.  Better yet, collaborate with an MAT colleague and present on a shared topic of interest.  In addition, at the start of the year, those K-12 teachers in the MAT program will also want to have their students participate in the essay, poster and video contests that revolve around the conference theme.  It is a great advocacy action for the program to have students be recognized for their hard work and a fun activity to boot!  Find more information in January on the MaFLA website at under Contests.

Professional engagement is important in any career, but especially so in foreign language teaching.  We are lucky to be in a state with an active foreign language association that provides for a variety of opportunities over the year in which to actively participate.  We hope to see you at MaFLA in 2015!

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