Introducing Debbie Callihan-Dingle (Episode 8)

“Whatever your role is, I would challenge you to write five little thank you notes to teachers… Because right now they are moving heaven and earth to make sure our students are served…. Imagine how good we could make everyone feel if we just acknowledged five people. Then in your note you say, ‘I’ve thanked you. Now, when you are comfortable, I want you to thank five more people.’ Because that could be a contagion effect, and that would be a lovely thing… A ‘contagion of kindness.'”

My guest for Episode 8 is Dr. Debbie Callihan-Dingle, supervisor of a large and vibrant district world language program in San Antonio, Texas, and the president of the National District Supervisors Association, NADSFL (see below). Debbie has also been the president of the Texas world language organization.

Clearly, Debbie is a recognized, effective leader in her community, state, and nation.

And so look at what an effective leader does in challenging, disorienting times–especially a leader who specializes in knowing the role of language in the lives of human beings and in knowing the critical role of the community (that is, the culture) that surrounds each individual: the effective leader focuses on the emotional and physical needs and value of individuals. Read again the quote above, from the podcast. Debbie’s leadership is lived out in paying attention to the circumstances of the times to adjust her approaches to leadership. She speaks of choosing when best to lead from the front, back, or in the midst. She is both modeling and developing proficiency not only of language skills in students but of educational excellence in the faculty and colleagues under her charge.

So take Debbie up on her invitation and exhortation. Think of five people (educators, she hopes you will agree) who would gain energy and joy from being acknowledged. Respect their contribution. Make a small effort on their behalf. And if you yourself receive such a supportive “touch,” pass it on to five others. A “contagion of kindness” can go a far way to stabilize an individual, a school, a community, the nation. It is language in the service of all humanity, and a culture of solidarity and support.

Needed now. Needed always. Advocate for it. Practice it.

Enjoy the podcast.

Debbie’s short bio:

Dr. Debbie Callihan-Dingle has spent her adult life in the realm of education and world languages–first as a French teacher and then as the Program Director for the world languages program in North East ISD.  As the program director, she is responsible for developing all professional development for the world language teachers, implementing the world language program, giving support to teachers, and providing vision for the program.  She is currently serving as President of the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Language and has served as President of the Texas Association of Language Supervisors.  During this pandemic, she has been working to make sure the world language teachers in her district are feeling supported and cared for.

Resources provided and recommended by Debbie:

Are you a supervisor (or the equivalent) of a district world language program? Connect with to see what the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages can do support, empower, and involve you.

Debbie speaks about developing proficiency in the new language in students, and of the “Proficiency 101” program for students so that they understand the purpose and approach of proficiency. If you wish to find out more about proficiency, performance, and the point of proficiency, check out these documents and charts.

Both formal and informal advocacy are critical for families, communities, and the nation to understand the central role languages and language learning play in the development of well-educated and integrated citizens of the 21st century. For much more information and to see how you can take part in advocacy actions small and large, please visit the national advocacy organization JNCL-NCLIS.

To learn more about previous guests on It’s About Language or access other episodes of the podcast, visit It’s About Language or click on the Podcast tab above.

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