Introducing Jen Carson (Episode 39)

portrait of jen carson. woman with long hair and blue suit jacket

“My issue is justice: it is what led me to a career as a lawyer and to switch careers to become a world language educator. Everyone deserves respect and access to the world.”

My guest for Episode 39 is Jen Carson, whose power as a leader and thinker is evident from the podcast and reflected in the biography below. As a mentor and colleague she is inspiring not only because of her compassion and clarity, but because of her personal story. As she says in the podcast, she did soul-searching to discover the path to which she was called, and that took her from a monetarily lucrative law practice to a life-enriching and life-giving career in language education, teacher education, and publishing, with advocacy for the right of ALL to have access to the life changing power of language and cultural study and application. Be inspired, too.

Jen Carson’s Bio

Trained as an attorney, French and Spanish teacher, and educational administrator, Jen Carson has taught world languages at all levels K-12, from FLES to International Baccalaureate. Jen’s passion for languages and love for children led her away from the courtroom to the Career Switcher Program at Old Dominion University (ODU) in 2005.

Since 2010, she has shared her expertise with successive cohorts of career switchers and teacher candidates as adjunct faculty at ODU and Virginia Wesleyan University, teaching a range of courses including World Language Methodologies, Professionalism, Student Assessment, School Law, and Culturally Responsive Practices. In her first year of teaching for Norfolk Public Schools in 2006, Jen won the Inspiration Award for Most Outstanding in Foreign Language Education and twelve years later, in 2018, she was inducted as a Chevalier in the French Order of the Academic Palms.

Along with thought leaders Debbie Callihan-Dingle, Mara Cobe, Thomas Sauer, and Alyssa Villarreal, Jen co-authored the 2015 pioneering guide to world language supervision, the Principles of Effective World Language Programs.

After earning her Masters of Education in Administration and Supervision from the University of Virginia in 2011, Jen worked as Coordinator of K-12 World Languages for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. In that role, she was responsible for developing curriculum and performance-based common assessments, facilitating professional development, and supervising instruction for more than 180 world language teachers in nine languages, a Spanish Partial Immersion Program at three elementary schools and one middle school, and a grant-funded Summer Russian and Mandarin Chinese STARTALK Academy for elementary school students.

Since 2019, Jen has worked as a Curriculum Coordinator for Wayside Publishing Company, where she establishes the pedagogic vision for its proficiency-centered French and Spanish textbooks for students in grades 6-12, overseeing teams of authors as they collaboratively develop online and print resources.

Throughout her career, Jen has served the profession at the state and national level: as President of the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages (NADSFL), as Secretary of the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA), and twice as President of the Virginia Organization of World Language Supervisors (VOWLS). Jen presents regularly on topics ranging from proficiency-based grading, authentic resources, dual language immersion, and culturally responsive practices. She currently serves on the Virginia Department of Education Biliteracy Seal Steering Committee, the Joint National Committee for Languages – National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS) Bylaws Committee, and is an active board member of Global Virginia, a grassroots movement to develop globally competent citizens.

Resources (in development) – Note the Principles document

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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