Introducing Sharla Zwirek (Episode 11)

“Having the ability to speak another language allows people to be more open to other people and to new experiences… You don’t have to go out very far to find people who may have different language or different experiences. In this time of misunderstanding at the national level […] having that opportunity to be open to our neighbors and to have conversations so we can come to understand each other could be a path to a more peaceful world.”

As you can see from her quote above, my guest for Episode 11, Sharla Zwirek, is a woman of peace and clarity, whose own personal language and cultural history has led her to look deeply at how people understand themselves and others through the lens of language and culture. Her sensitivity to inclusion of those whose access has been limited because of their language–members of the Deaf Community, refugees, those with limited-English–is combined with having, through publishing, worked to address inequities or exclusions.

Sharla says, “I’ve always felt very strongly about education as a tool to change lives, and so here [in educational publishing] was an opportunity to combine my love of language, my love of education, with a career.”

What about YOU? What do you love, and what paths have you chosen that allow you to share what’s important to you with the world? How do you include others in your journey?

Sharla shares:

“Those of us in educational material development commit ourselves to providing high-quality material that allow teachers to have a strong structure on which to scaffold their lessons, while allowing them the freedom to pick and choose what works for their students and to personalize, knowing that the base material provides access to good instruction and meet the standards they have to follow… We believe that we support teachers and students every day in their educational journeys.

Sharla (Volkersz) Zwirek’s bio:

I have dedicated my professional life to the development of educational materials at a variety of publishing houses and educational companies. I believe strongly in the importance of learning languages to improve understanding between individuals and across cultures, as well as in education as a way to improve individual lives and society in general.

After teaching English as a Foreign Language in Barcelona for three years, I returned to the U.S. and got a job as an Editorial Assistant  in the World Languages group at McGraw-Hill Higher Education. During my ten years at McGraw-Hill, I learned all aspects of material development: content development, copyediting, proofreading, third-party permissions clearance, photo shoots, photo selections, state standards requirements, art development, design development, page rounds, and four-color offset printing processes. (I recommend a tour of a printing and binding plant to anyone who hasn’t seen one; fascinating.)

After moving to the Boston area in 2000, I’ve worked at Co-nect, Inc., Houghton Mifflin Higher Education, McDougal Littell, Pearson, and Vista Higher Learning, with the exception of Co-nect, all in world language development groups. I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to development of Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin, Chinese, and American Sign Language projects, including the entire array of print, digital, audio, and video components. I’ve worked on projects from elementary through higher education, all requiring a similar base of knowledge of good language pedagogy and standards, as well as the developmental needs of students as they grow and mature.

Resources provided and recommended by Sharla:

Here’s a link to an EdX course on inclusive teaching in higher ed.

Here’s a link about the benefits of dual language classes and bilingualism.

6 Potential Brain Benefits Of Bilingual Education

“US businesses need more multilingual employees” – and important article with specific information about economic impact of language skills or lack thereof:

Here’s an excellent chart (also available in high-quality poster format) from the national world language organization ACTFL showing the relationship of language skills to types of employment accessible to adults having such skills:

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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