Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | December 11, 2017

A Few Words About Service

A Few Words About Service

by Nicole Sherf

I often say that the discipline of foreign languages is the most underfunded, the least aligned with state and national standards and, generally, the least understood by non-foreign language district administrators of K-20 programming. In my Methods classes, we discuss how language teachers need to learn to be strong advocates for well-aligned, long sequences of language study in their school, district and state since it is generally not high on the list of school priorities to strengthen or lengthen foreign language programming. Language teachers need to be at the table at all district committee meetings to ensure that the needs of foreign language programming are made clear. If we are not at the table, we run the risk of being taken off the table.

As our profession is making an exciting shift to proficiency-oriented programming, fueled by the national Seal of Biliteracy movement, an amazing variety of resources are being created at the national level to support strong programming. Professional development at the district level is rarely foreign language specific unless it is contracted directly by and for the department. For this reason, in my view, departmental participation in foreign language conferences and seminars, such as those offered by the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA), is essential for teachers to be able to plug into the newest resources, materials and strategies for effective language teaching.

Salem State University has a long history of strong participation in the yearly MaFLA Conference, as illustrated again this year. Former MAT in Spanish student and current Chair of the Wilmington, MA, High School Foreign Language Department, Carlos Luis Brown, is on the Board of MaFLA. Current MAT in Spanish student and Spanish teacher at Reading High School, Laurie Smith, served as this year’s Advocacy Intern and was a powerhouse of enthusiasm at the Advocacy Booth throughout the Conference, giving out handouts on a variety of topics, fun gifties and important updates about the Seal Pilot Project in MA.

I think that it is so exciting and important to share knowledge researched and practiced in class with a wider audience of language professionals. At the MaFLA conference, MAT in Spanish students Laurie Smith, Kristen Duhamel (Burlington High School) and Martha Abeille (Foxborough High School) created a session to present on their research in a special session entitled “The Teaching of Culture through Grammar and Authentic Resources,” which was well-attended and well-received.

A variety of former students presented sessions as well, including Adriana Gonzalez, Amy St. Arnaud, Carlos, Luis Brown, Christina Toro, Terresa Pietro and Vilma Bibeau. SSU Faculty was also represented; Dr. Louissa Abdelghany, Dr. Elizabeth Blood and I presented on a variety of topics and our colleague, French and Arabic teacher Dr. Abdelghany was elected to the Board. My Methods students attended the MaFLA Conference as part of a course requirement and attended a variety of sessions and events. Though there were more than 700 people in attendance at the conference, there was, as there is every year, a strong Salem State contingent of faculty, and current and former students.

Dr. Sherf with MAT in Spanish students Kristen Duhamel, Laurie Smith, and Martha Abeille

The foreign language teachers of MA are fortunate that even though there is no representation of, or advocacy for foreign languages within our Department of Education, MaFLA is a strong state organization that has stepped up to the challenges of leading the state’s K-20 teachers in professional development and advocacy efforts. MaFLA is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that depends on the service of its Board as well as the active participation of its members. I have had the privilege of serving on the Board in a variety of capacities since 2004 and it has taught me much of what I now understand about what it means to be a professional. I am fortunate that, as the program coordinator of the language teacher preparation programs at Salem State, I have been able to actively involve my students in attending, presenting, writing for and serving on the Board of MaFLA either as Board member or as Advocacy Intern.

Dr. Sherf with graduate and undergraduate students at the MaFLA conference

I was honored and thrilled to accept the Distinguished Service Award at this year’s Business and Awards Luncheon at the end of the 2017 Conference. I accepted it in the name of all the amazing Board members with whom I have had the pleasure to serve over the years. In our Board meetings and conference preparations and the like, as a Board, we continually discuss the fact that all the amazing advocacy and professional development opportunities, all the writing and presenting possibilities, and all the legislative endeavors, represent a well-coordinated team effort. I have been so blessed to be a part of this hard-working and dedicated team that has grown together, faced challenges together and created amazing opportunities together in service of the teachers and the programs of our state. As an added thrill, MAT in Spanish student Kristen Duhamel was honored at the same Luncheon with the Helen G. Agbay New Teacher Graduate Study Award which came with a $500 scholarship!

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