Episode 75 – IAL at AATSP: Celebrating Community

It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 75 - IAL at AATSP: Celebrating Community

“For two years, we’ve been looking at each other through our ZOOM tombs, as I like to call it, because it’s just so much energy and so much motivation to attend a webinar and participate and be that good student that we’re so used to being. But in-person, it feels so much more natural, and so I was really looking forward to attending in-person, face-to-face. The professional and personal connections for me are the catalyst to the learning.” Meredith White

For this episode I am going to let the AATSP “speak for itself” in selections that caught my eye and touched my heart from the organization website. I also invite you to revisit my biography post of the generous, dynamic, and skilled Executive Director, Sheri Spaine-Long, who was a guest on my podcast aptly named “Multiplier Effect,” Episode 19.

Though I am a language “jack of all trades” and not a specialist in Spanish language or cultures, I have been a member of AATSP for my entire career, because of the spirit, service, dedication, joy, and energy you will see in these excerpts about the AATSP.

If you are a Spanish or Portuguese educator and not yet a member of AATSP, please consider the powerful potential in your life in joining with generous and talented fellow-educators.

If you are not an educator but love and/or live and work Spanish or Portuguese languages and cultures, become a member of the AATSP. You will find the community that will welcome and strengthen you.

AATSP Mission

The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) promotes the study and teaching of the Spanish and Portuguese languages and their corresponding Hispanic, Luso-Brazilian and other related literatures and cultures at all levels of education. The AATSP encourages, supports and directs programs and research projects involving the exchange of pedagogical and scholarly information. Through extensive collaboration with educators, professionals, and institutions in other countries, the AATSP contributes to a better and deeper understanding between the United States and the Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking nations of the world.

AATSP Values

The AATSP has established a set of five core values that reflects our identity. We will rely on these five key values to guide our service and agenda:

• Share a passion for multilingual education
• Foster diversity, inclusion, access, and equity
• Empower transformational advocacy and outreach
• Promote global and local impact through research and scholarships
• Cultivate relationships and professional development opportunities

The AATSP was a founding member of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Language and International Studies. NCLIS lobbies for languages at the national level. JNCL-NCLIS maintains a Washington office and presence for us, the other AATs, the MLA, and various other groups concerned with the promotion of languages in the United States. 

The AATSP has been people-oriented and it has served its members for more than 100 years. Today it is a vibrant and vigorous association, with a renowned journal, fine intellectual and financial assets, a modest endowment, a free-standing corporate office directed by a full-time language professional, good will on the part of its members, and great respect from its sister groups. AATSP national and international members represent primary, secondary, and university teachers, professors, and administrators as well as other professionals who support Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian languages and cultures. It is probably the largest organization in the world devoted to individual languages, although that claim would be hard to prove conclusively.

Ever looking toward the future, the AATSP invites all teachers of Spanish and Portuguese and all those interested in those languages to become members and to share in the great task of fomenting the study of Spanish and Portuguese wherever its members live and work.

Enjoy the podcast.

Scroll down for full transcript.

Thank you for always focusing on the possibilities, opportunities and the power of language and what it can do for us individually - and collectively!

Elizabeth Mack

If you've never done #cliftonstrengths, yourself or with your team, don't wait any longer.  Norah Jones of FLUENCY CONSULTING is the one and only to do it! It's all about your super powers: finding & using them to affect positive change in the world. What's not to love?!

Elizabeth Mack
Founder and CEO / Freestyle Languages


Yes, @NorahLulicJones definitely has the talent of "bringing out" the best in others or allowing them to showcase themselves in the best light! Thank you for directing the spotlight on others who have great stories and talents to share with others. 

Lisa Fore


Your podcasts are exceptionally relevant and applicable, thought-provoking and insightful, easy-to-follow and enjoyable!  

Paul Sandrock
Senior Advisor for Language Learning Initiatives / ACTFL


You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

Richard Brecht


Norah knows how to LISTEN - she really "hears" the message - and the interview is richer because of it.  New questions come from the hearing. 

Terri Marlow

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0:00:00.1 Norah Jones: Well, welcome virtually at least to San Juan Puerto Rico, and to the conference of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, the AATSP. It’s an international organization that brings together teachers of Spanish and Portuguese from little children all the way through university and adults, and those that support them. And it’s a fantastic conference, not only because it’s held in really cool places where people speak Spanish and Portuguese, but also because the folks are dedicated to what they do and the excitement that they bring to it. And you’ll hear it in these many interviews in which I ask my typical pilgrimage podcast questions. Who are you? Why are you here? Why are you in this profession? And what’s your superpower? And do you remember that those are the same questions I ask you? So, as you listen to this variety of answers, which like the ocean itself come in one wave after another, after another and bring a lot of energy, think what are your answers to those questions? What’s your language about yourself, about your profession, about your service to the world, and what’s your superpower?


0:01:32.2 Norah Jones: Hi, I’m Norah Jones. Welcome to It’s About Language. So, what is language all about? Well, it’s about learning and sharing, opening doors in education work and life. Language is about creating communities and creating boundaries. It’s all about the mystery of what makes us human. So, our conversations will explore that mystery and the impact of what makes us human. It’s about language in life, it’s about language at work, it’s about language for fun. Welcome to the podcast. You know, I want to start this podcast by hearing a few words of reflection from the executive director of the AATSP, Sheri Spaine-Long. Hi, Sheri.

0:02:25.4 Sheri Spaine-Long: Hi. Great to be here, Norah.

0:02:27.7 Norah Jones: Thank you so much for giving us this short reflection of the conference that just took place. Maybe you can give us some perspective on how many people showed up, what kind of experience that you experienced that they had, and what you think this invests for the future?

0:02:45.5 Sheri Spaine-Long: Sure. No, we had… First of all, we had a wonderful conference. There was such good energy. The site was terrific and people were just happy to be together again. Let me share a few numbers with you. We just looked at how many people registered and how many actually came to Puerto Rico. So, we had 816 people register and we had 708 people that presented themselves in Puerto Rico, which we thought was a great number considering we’re up against a pandemic. And we had problems with flights and all kinds of complications. So, we thought that was a really good turnout. And so hosting more than 700 people does have its fun challenges. Let me tell you a little bit about that group, the group themselves. One thing that was new for the AATSP is that out of that 700+ people 436 of them were first time attendees.

0:03:50.7 Sheri Spaine-Long: That doesn’t mean that they hadn’t been members of the AATSP prior, but that they made it to this conference, which is really fabulous for us because it really means we’re looking toward the future with a group of people that we hadn’t been engaging with, face to face in particular. So, that’s exciting for the association and it’s exciting for the profession that, we have that many people that were first time attendees that had never been able to come before to one of our conference. And then the makeup of the registrants by teaching level was also surprising. Our conferences used to be historically dominated by those in higher education. And this year, what happened is that we had a tremendous response, in the, at the high school level, at the middle school level and in pre-K and elementary.

0:04:45.2 Sheri Spaine-Long: And I’ll break some of those numbers down for you, but the thesis statement here, as we say in the business is that our numbers showed us to almost be higher education and pre-K through 12 at parity. In other words, very similar numbers of professors and teachers and instructors and groups. We also have data that so many of our conference participants teach at multiple levels, which is interesting as well, but we had, just to give you an idea, we had 279 high school teachers, 125 middle and junior high teachers, and then in elementary with pre kindergarten, we had 99 of those folks. That’s very new for us. And it positions our association very well to be having those discussions about our relation, working from level to level, trying to get language learning to work, the way we wanted to work from level to level and not just the same thing repeated from level to level.

0:05:50.4 Sheri Spaine-Long: So, we were really excited about that outcome, seeing that we had a different group of people there, and we had just basically a different makeup of our conference attendees. I can tell you a little bit about another interesting data point that I think is worth sharing. First of all, I’ll talk about some of our top states, but I also wanna mention that since we’re looking forward to going to Europe, we of course would like to have a broader reach internationally, which is a big tall glass, because we’re still in the pandemic and there are certain complications, but we were happy to have people from abroad represented pretty darn well at this conference, given what they were up against trying to come to our conference. So we had 13 from Spain, nine from Canada, we had three from Colombia. We had a few, a handful from India, the UK, United Arab Emirates, The Bahamas, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, South Korea. So we are hoping that we can even have more of an international presence when we’re in Salamanca next year, because of the fact that we hope that we’re further along with this darn pandemic and that it becomes easier for people to move around.

0:07:17.7 Sheri Spaine-Long: In case you’re wondering with bated breath about the top states, the top prize goes to drum roll, please, Massachusetts. They had 75 people there from Massachusetts, which was absolutely staggering, California no surprise. The nation’s most popular state was able to deliver 65 people. And then New York followed by Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and even Alabama had 28 folks at the conference. I say that with a special pride because our national office is located in Alabama and then Georgia came in ninth place with 27 and we had our conference there last year. And we also know from rotating around in and out of the country and domestically that, that helps us with reaching out to different groups of people. So we were very pleased with the attendance this year and the energy and the vibe and the learning and the sharing.

0:08:18.9 Norah Jones: And what kind of impact as you sum up here, do you believe that this organization and conference have for that articulation, that connection that you referred to?

0:08:33.7 Sheri Spaine-Long: Well, it’s really endless. So it’s, it’s a big impact because I think this is something that, the conversation becomes a two-way conversation between higher education that desperately needs the energy that’s coming out of pre-K through 12 right now. And so this really puts us in a different position than, tables were turned many years ago when higher ed was dominating that conversation. I think there’s mutual need. I think that we have a lot of opportunities to not silo ourselves within the AATSP and really use our voices to figure out how we can do more together to lift up the whole profession and produce more teachers because we don’t have enough teachers.

0:09:23.1 Norah Jones: Sheri Spaine-Long. Thank you very much. And now we’ll have a chance to hear the voices from the conference. Thank you again, Sheri.

0:09:30.8 Sheri Spaine-Long: Thank you.

0:09:31.9 Lyvia Valentin-Pagano: Good morning my name is Lyvia Valentin-Pagano. I live in Port Matilda, Pennsylvania. And my title is I am an assistant teaching professor at Penn State University. Why am I at this conference? I am here because this is my first time after 22 years of teaching Spanish for native and non-native speakers that I access to a conference. So I am delighted and I’m very happy to be here today. Why I got into the language profession is, it’s interesting in my part. My mother is a Spanish teacher for native speakers and she taught university, high school and I did not want to go follow her path. And I ended up being a Spanish teacher for native speaker. I was a Spanish teacher here in Puerto Rico, and I worked at the Catholic in the Inter-American University here and love brought me to the US. And I continue my path of teaching Spanish. So language and love was the united force. What’s my superpower? My superpower, I think, as a teacher is being patient with my students and understanding and meet them at their level. And from there I develop what they can enforce them to speak and motivate them to learn the language and to love, the most important, to love my language and eventually their language too.

0:11:12.5 Blanca Vargas: Hello this is about me. I am Blanca Vargas I live in Massachusetts. I am a professor, I teach Spanish face to face and online. And I’m here in this conference because I want to advance my skill in teaching online and designing. What got me into the language profession is that I love languages regardless of what language it is. And I love when children and even adult learn language. I feel blessed because I have taught all ages and now I teach higher education. And my superpower is that I love to teach.

0:12:16.9 Claudia Villavicencio: I am Claudia Villavicencio, and I live in Naples, Florida. I am a Spanish teacher in the upper school, and I am a lead advisor for the senior class. I am at this conference to get some professional development after almost three years of being online, getting professional development online. So making connections and see what’s new, it’s exciting. And well, I got my… Got into teaching because I met a fabulous Spanish teacher in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Alice Springer. And she took me under her wing and taught me 90% of what I know and what I do and it was a fabulous experience. And 21 years later, here I am teaching Spanish in the upper school. And what is my superpower? I think at school, well, since we’re talking about professional life, my superpower is connection and empathy with my students. I think it’s very important if I can connect and if I can be empathetic, I can teach them.

0:13:46.0 Demi Diaz: I’m Demi Diaz, I live in Naples and I am an upper school Spanish teacher and department chair as well for the language program. I am at this conference because I wanted to kind of see what’s new out there, get to know a few people in the field, get some ideas, particularly with technology and new innovative approaches to teaching language. I got into the language profession because I really enjoy teaching and literature. My mom was a teacher, so I grew up with that. And I was the most boring kid. I always had my stuffed animals sitting on a row, I had a record book for them, I gave them grades and I loved to teach, and I would invite my friends to come and play school with me, but no one wanted to do it, ’cause they already did that all day. But I loved it and I continue with that, so I enjoy teaching a lot. And my superpower… I don’t know, I think one thing is that, I can come up with a new lesson as I’m teaching something, so I’m very quick at taking something and creating something different out of it. So sometimes I’m teaching and as I’m teaching one thing, I come up with an idea and then kind of shift the entire class in a second to doing something else and making it work, or seeing very quickly, this is bombing, this is not good, and then switching into something new, ’cause I’m always trying to do different things. I never teach the same lesson twice.

0:15:20.3 Wendy McBurney: My name is Dr. Wendy Angela McBurney. And right now, I’m living in Georgia. And Georgia… And so I have moved from DC, Washington DC to Atlanta. During the pandemic I took the opportunity to return home. Home for me in the United States is Georgia. But originally, I’m from Trinidad and Tobago. And I studied in the United States. And as I said, I began to teach in Washington DC after I finished my PhD, and I taught there for about six years and then I returned to Georgia. Over the last year, I’ve been teaching at a public school called Redan High School, and so the transition… I have gone through a transition from teaching at the university level for more than 10 years and because… Before I went back to school, I had already taught at the college level, at the university level in Georgia, the Atlanta University Center for around 10 years.

0:16:46.9 Wendy McBurney: And so I returned to school at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. And I stayed there for about seven years, and then I went on. So, I have had a very long career already in the United States, but nonetheless, the transition, as I said, required some sort of adjustment. Adjustment in terms of the style, in terms of the methods, in terms of even your relationship, my relationship with the students. And so, I’ve gone through a learning curve as they say. But it’s one that I kind of welcome because sometimes you become so… You reach a level and growth... You don’t feel as if you’re growing anymore. So, that’s what I sort of experienced over the last year. Although I think that I was prepared for it, because even at Howard, I had already started to go to the local, like local associations, the conferences for the local associations. I was involved with GWATFL, which is the Greater Washington Area Language Association. So, I was already into that and making that connection, going to the public schools and like doing different activities. So, I was prepared to some degree. But being in the classroom is another thing. Yes, so the conference, as I said, I’ve already… I was already going to GWATFL, I was already going to NECTFL, I was already going to all these conferences for language, language teaching.

0:18:39.0 Wendy McBurney: And so, this one, it was introduced to me by the Vistas. The Vistas Group, and last year. And they invited me. They invited me, they paid for me, they sponsored my attendance and everything. So, I felt as if, you know, I needed to come again. I needed to come again, I needed to continue growing and seeing what this particular association has to offer me, especially as I have entered into the public school. I decided as I came to the United States, in terms of the profession. Why did I choose Spanish? And I think… Spanish language. I think that it’s somewhere along the line, I just realized that it made me happy. It made me happy, joyful, and because I have a number of ability, skills and interests. So, I wasn’t too sure, I was very undecided. So, you know, doing, and trying a number of things, I realized that this was it. And as I did that, when I came to that realization, I decided to just continue with Spanish. So, even though I had come to the university in the United States and was thinking that I would do business, I would…


0:20:06.6 Wendy McBurney: I would specialize in some form of business or information sciences and Spanish would be my minor, you know? As I realized… Came to that realization, I just switched. And I just went full fledge into the language. And even today when people ask, you know, it arises, why did you choose language? Why didn’t you choose something else or add something else? But I just know in my core that that is what I wanna do. That’s what I wanna do. And it’s not easy, it has been challenging, because it’s my second language, but I realized that this is it. This is it. And when you get to that point, I tell my students every day, when you get to that point, when you feel know that this is what makes me happy, okay, that’s where you ought to be. That’s where you ought to be. So that’s why I decided on language teaching. And what’s my superpower? Okay, my superpower is being able to do what I am doing at the moment. And that joy it gives me to see students grow, to see them progress. Like this morning as I was coming in, I recognized one of my students, my old students from the Atlanta University Center and that gives me joy.

0:21:39.7 Glenda Rosado: My name is Glenda Rosado. I live in Miami and I’m the event specialist for Vista Higher Learning. I am at this conference because my company, it’s exhibiting and it’s also a sponsor for this conference, so we are very happy to be here. We are presenting and we also have an event for our new AP edition, so we are excited to be here. So, I’m in this profession, because yeah, I like to interact with a lot of people and I like our mission and I like to provide resources for students, for EL because I am a EL, you know, English is my second language. And I also learn a lot every day from this job. And well, my superpower is that I can multitask.


0:22:37.0 Norah Jones: Yeah. You’re in Puerto Rico with this conference. Are you from here?

0:22:40.7 Glenda Rosado: I am from here, I’m from Bayamon. Yes. Yes. I spent my first 25 years of the… Yeah, of my life here and then I moved to the United States because I… Yeah, I wanted to practice my English and learn, I’m getting there.


0:22:58.1 Norah Jones: And what do you think about working with a language publisher, is that interesting in itself?

0:23:02.2 Glenda Rosado: It’s very interesting, yes. This is great and I love that we… Yeah, we are providing resources for students all over. Yeah. Perfect. Oh, thank you.


0:23:15.1 Ken Stewart: Hi, I’m Ken Stewart. I am from North Carolina, I’m a lifelong language teacher, primarily Spanish. I spent my entire career at Chapel Hill High School in North Carolina, more recently at Duke University. And I am currently working as the PD director for Vista, which is exclusively a language publisher. I’m at this conference with Vista, but I’m also here to reconnect with colleagues. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to attend an AATSP conference, even though I’ve been a member for many, many years, but it’s great to be back in-person in this beautiful setting in Puerto Rico.

0:23:49.2 Ken Stewart: Why I got into the language profession? It’s been a passion of mine ever since I was a kid, anything foreign, anything out of the ordinary, always struck my attention and I guess, like a lot of people I have always wanted to speak in tongues so that other people couldn’t understand at times if I wanted to. I thought that was neat as a kid. So, I don’t know, I’ve just always been kind of a language nerd and I find myself among other language nerds here and that makes me happy. My superpower is, I guess, I don’t require a lot of sleep or food, I just work a lot and I’m dedicated to what I do here. So, yeah, just thrilled to be here.

0:24:33.2 Mike Hegedus: Hi, I am Mike. My name is Mike Hegedus. I live in Bloomfield, New Jersey and I teach Spanish and Chinese at Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange. I’ve been teaching there 10 years now. Love it. Fell into teaching, like, I was not planning on teaching. I was actually planning on using Chinese to do government work and that just took so… It took too long and I needed a job and I kinda fell into it. I’ve been involved with AATSP at the local level, the NJAATSP chapter and just a lot of professional development organizations. I’m here because, one, I’m presenting with a good friend of mine. Two, I wanted to explore Spanish, ’cause I’m in the process of getting dually certified in Spanish and Chinese. So just explore that, do more professional development in Spanish and just kind of network, meet people.

0:25:39.7 Mike Hegedus: And I would say my superpower is probably… Because I’m a musician, I’m really good at imitating sounds. I think that’s what got me into language, like, imitating voices and sounds, like I do that for my nephews and nieces and stuff like that. They love it. So, yeah, so that’s kind of a random superpower. So that’s me.


0:26:03.8 Norah Jones: I’d like to thank the two sponsors that helped to make this pilgrimage podcast from the AATSP conference possible. Avant Assessment. Avant Assessment is dedicated to the proficiency assessment of language that allows for that kind of powerful growth and outcomes that you hear these educators talk about. Take a look at my website, fluency.consulting to learn more about Avant Assessment, what it provides for educators and what it can do for you. I’d also like to thank the AATSP itself and executive director, Sheri Spaine-Long for the generosity of asking me to be present and for supporting this podcast. Thank you Avant Assessment and AATSP.


0:26:52.6 Maria Butron: Hello. I am Maria. I live in Dubai and I am Peruvian. I am a teacher of Spanish and French, yes. And this conference is for me the opportunity to learn a little more with so many people that are in the languages team. And I am enjoying so far. How is it happening today? And since I was a child, I want… I was wishing to become a teacher. And I realized that French was my first foreign language, when I was a child in my school. So when I just finished school, I realized I want to be a teacher, a French teacher. And after the years, I discovered that I got very passionate about this teaching profession. And then I also would like to share my own mother tongue that is Spanish. So then I also did studies for Master Degree in Spanish, and a French as a teacher. And then I decided to go abroad. So I was teaching in India for four years and now in Dubai, yes. [laughter] And I think my superpower is perhaps my smile and to try to be kind and to try to approach to these students and in a kind way in a patient way, in a friendly way. So I think many of my students enjoy the classes and they want to continue learning French or Spanish. And I just love that, yes.

0:28:50.0 Norah Jones: It sounds like you also bring a real sense of the global experience.

0:28:57.2 Maria Butron: Yeah.

0:28:57.7 Norah Jones: Because of being you.

0:29:00.6 Maria Butron: Yes. Yeah. I really enjoyed that and I believe I was very thankful to the Erasmus Mundus Programme in Europe because I went there in… I stay in France for one year and then in Spain for another year, and I discovered so many cultures studying together at the university level. So then I went back to my country and also to Chile and I decided to continue moving abroad and teaching because I realized so many students, didn’t know much about other cultural experiences. And I would like to share that with them, even at a school level in high school, because they can be very motivated to do trips and exchange with other countries. And I did that also with France, Peruvian students going to France and enjoying with families and [laughter] after all they didn’t want to come back to the country. They made good friends and the cultural connection they got is something for the rest of their life. And yeah I love that the multilingualism and to be able to speak many languages, yeah. [laughter]

0:30:18.9 Alan Hartman: Good afternoon. My name is Alan Hartman. I live in long island, New York. I have several titles. I am an associate professor of Italian and Spanish at Mercy College and Dobbs Ferry, New York is where our main campus is I also have the titles of director of Latin American, Latino studies, program director of modern foreign languages, Fulbright language teaching assistant coordinator. And I also in a different capacity. I’m the vice president of Italian Charities of America in Queens, New York. And I run the AATSP New York Metropolitan Chapter Podcast. I’m at this conference because it’s the first time that I’ve come to the national conference. And I have been to our regional conferences in AATSP but some time ago, and I’m very active in the field. I go to many conferences, and I had wanted to come to the AATSP national conference, which for me, generally speaking is difficult because it’s in July, but this year I made it work and it’s a pleasure. I’m here to meet my colleagues, see what opportunities come up.

0:31:23.0 Alan Hartman: I have a book. A translation of a book that I’m hoping to get published together with a colleague at the University of Alabama. And I thought I would see if there’s some opportunity with some people here, as well as seeing many colleagues, who have become my friends, [laughter] this is my life’s work. I educate students in languages. I believe that we’ll have a better world. If we can communicate with each other fully and understanding who they are. It also helps us understand who we are and we can all get on better and just have better, more fulfilling, meaningful life. What got me into the language profession was a whim. I was a Bachelor of Science and Psychology major. I had… I was a poor student, my freshman and sophomore year, and I had always wanted to go to study in Italy, where my mother’s family is from. And so I had an opportunity, to study for a summer in Florence, Italy. I’m an undergraduate from Manhattan College in the Bronx. And, it was delightful and it changed my world.

0:32:28.0 Alan Hartman: And I signed up immediately that following fall of my junior year in college to go do the semester abroad in Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Then I came home from a terrific experience. I became a 4.0 student basically was put on the deans list, which was unfathomable to my family as much as it was to me. And it changed the course of my life because I had then started applying for graduate programs. Boston College accepted me into the Master’s of Arts and Hispanic studies, which was Spanish language literatures. They gave me teaching fellowship which allowed… Which paid for the degree. And it gave me a stipend from which I lived, and it opened a new door for me, which was education. I had never known what I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn’t to teach. And then sure enough, I had gotten a teaching fellow position at Boston College and I loved it. And the students really enjoyed being with me.

0:33:34.8 Alan Hartman: And… I was trained by a woman named Debbie Rusch, who I’m not even too sure liked me very much, but she was an innovator in her field, and she taught me how to teach. And I’m very thankful to her, and I think that… Then I went on. I did a Master’s in Italian at Middlebury College, which is a beautiful experience because it took me back to Italy for a year, a beautiful immersion experience. And then I couldn’t get away from higher education. I did a Master’s in Theology at the University of Scranton. I did a Doctorate in Modern Languages then at Middlebury College, and so on. What’s my super power? I have no idea. I do fairly well with people and I enjoy people’s company. And I hope to God that I’m doing something meaningful in the classroom with my students, something that impacts them in a forthright and good way.

0:34:34.6 Meredith White: My name is Meredith White, and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a Spanish teacher, and I teach grades 9 through 12, levels one and two. I am at AATSP, well A, for the connections, professionally and personally. For two years, we’ve been looking at each other through our ZOOM tombs, as I like to call it, because it’s just so much energy and so much motivation to attend a webinar and participate and be that good student that we’re so used to being. But in-person, it feels so much more natural, and so I was really looking forward to attending in-person, face-to-face, especially in San Juan, which is obviously beautiful. But really, the professional and personal connections for me are the catalyst to the learning.

0:35:19.3 Meredith White: Obviously, learning new things and seeing new tools or just confirming things that I know are already high leverage practices for me, but it’s also the people, which is what got me into the language profession as well. I am a teacher because of my Spanish teacher. She was amazing, and she modeled great pedagogy, but also just great human-ing. She was a great person. She is a great person, and I learned so much from her about Spanish, obviously, but about teaching and just about sort of becoming yourself. She was just a really great model of a teacher and of how you can be yourself while being professional, while being… While having a personal life, drawing some pretty healthy boundaries, and I just learned a lot from her.

0:36:09.7 Meredith White: She was like a life mentor, not just my high school Spanish teacher, and I would say that’s something that’s becoming a super power of mine. I’m trying to really lean into that maturity that allows you to say no, or that allows you to draw up some walls in your life a little bit. You step back and you realize, “I don’t know if that’s for me, or I don’t know if I need to do that thing, or take on that extra or stop doing something,” really reflecting. I think my superpower is really reflecting, and that’s been a fun journey as a teacher, really to kind of sit back a little bit and not realize you have to do all the things, especially as a woman, right? We can do anything. But we don’t have to do everything.

0:36:55.1 Judy Noif: I’m Judy Noif. I live in Florida, and I am the New Florida sales rep for Vista Higher Learning. And I’m very excited to have that role. I’m at this conference representing Vista, and wanting to meet people. Hopefully, some in my territory, but happy to meet people from all over so that they can meet me as a new member of Vista. I’ve always had a passion for languages as both a learner of Spanish and also as an ESL teacher. I was in English and Reading teacher, secondary level, for over 20 years, so I’ve always had a passion for language learning, language teaching. And I love to share that passion and hopefully get others to feel as passionate as I do, and definitely my superpower is empathy.

0:37:43.0 Judy Noif: I always say that the great thing about a heart, either of a mother or a teacher or a learner, is that the more it fills up, it actually gets bigger. So, that is the superpower, that the more I love, the more I have a capacity to love. It doesn’t actually diminish, it gets stronger. And so, I feel that my superpower is hopefully sharing that love and sharing that passion through language learning and just really wanting to spread the learning through Vista.

0:38:14.4 Nelann Taylor: My name is Nelann Taylor. I am in Louisiana. I’ve been there for the past 16 years actually, and I am currently moving into the role of an english language learner coach, but previously, I was the a Spanish teacher for a high school, a web design teacher, and a multi-media teacher, so and technology. My whole thing is merging technology and languages. So, I’ve always had a love of languages, but more recently, and I guess, it’s just your culture, your background, which you grew up with and not knowing that it was just in you, I’ve been merging technology with language acquisition. And so, I’ve had an opportunity for the conference to share twice. This morning was my first one and I have another one tomorrow, another presentation.

0:38:56.3 Nelann Taylor: And yesterday’s presentation was on your first love. So what’s your first love, and what got you into what it is that you’re doing? And I tried to share that we can incorporate different applications and tools for our students to get up, to move around in the classroom and to do those things with technology. So we created a different yearbook, a digital portfolio. We’ve done different scavenger hunts or flip hunts. We’ve created a Canva check-in. So I did something for the conference as well, where everybody could do a little check-in sheet to say, “Hey, I’m from Georgia. I’m from Louisiana, and I’ve come to AATSP.” So, doing those things with students as well, so whatever you were passionate about, journaling, I’m over there sketch-noting now about my little takeaways, but I bring those things back into the classroom, and I want everybody else to see that too. And tomorrow, my thing is on digital breakout rooms, so I’ll get a chance to share how I create those with the Microsoft platform and with Google and how we use it in the language world. So I just kinda wanna merge those things together, yeah.

0:39:56.5 Nelann Taylor: What got me into language? Now that’s the good stuff. So I have always loved languages and I don’t… I’m gonna say, I don’t know where it came from, but I know that I’ve always had a love for Spanish. And why Spanish? I don’t know. I just… I like how it sounded. I like how… I don’t know. I just felt like it was like a song, you know, everybody was just kinda singing when I heard it, but I grew up in a multilingual household because my dad is African, he’s from Sierra Leone, West Africa, and so I would hear him speaking on the phone to cousins and his uncle… I mean, my uncles and aunties, you know? And even though I would tell him, I was like, “Dad, well, tell me something to say so I can talk to them too.” But I remember him telling me, it’s a dying language so he didn’t wanna teach me that. And so, I heard that all the time and I would hear his language. And then of course I would hear my mom, but my mom is American, she’s African-American and she’s from Louisiana.

0:40:47.5 Nelann Taylor: So she didn’t have an accent, but it was just very rich. We had a rich household of food and culture and languages. And so, I grew up in California. I was born in California and then grew up in Washington state and began studying there, studying Spanish there. And I had a teacher who brought me in front of the classroom and she just let me talk to everybody. Like, she would give me the power to, I guess, give a test. Like, I got to speak out orally in front of my students and talk about little verbs or [chuckle] stories or whatever it was. But I remember going home to practice and I would just… I wanted to hear what it sounded like, so I would be in the mirror just saying.


0:41:24.9 Nelann Taylor: Trying to make my accent sound the way the different people did. And so by the time I got to college I felt as though I had still had a love for the language, but I wasn’t able to communicate the way that I really wanted to. And I had the opportunity to go study abroad and I chose at that point to go to the Dominican Republic. So I stayed there. Usually everybody was staying for just the first semester for four months. And I was just like, “Well, why you guys don’t stay the whole year?” Me. So I’m the only one who stuck it out and stayed for the entire year. An amazing experience though and getting to know people. And then the second come around, I was still in school. This is probably my junior year now of college. And I get a chance to go to Costa Rica when I go to Costa Rica, I meet at that time, Ms. Murphy or miss, excuse me, Miss Wendy. And her last name at that time was Combs. Miss, Miss Wendy McBurney Combs, Coons. And she was from Trinidad and Tobago. And as a person who looked like me and I was just like, she had a group of students who were going to Costa Rica and I was just like, “Well, can I go, because I went to Dominican Republic before,” and she just welcomed me into the fold. And just at that time I believed that it was just exposure. I had run into people who gave me the opportunity to travel. They gave me the opportunity to fuel the passion that I had.

0:42:46.5 Nelann Taylor: And I didn’t even know where it came from. Like the elementary school teacher or the junior high teacher who let me be me in front of the classroom to speak my college professors who just kind of like, “Go with it, Nelann, you can do whatever you wanna do.” And then the opportunity to go abroad. So those were experiences that allowed me to get into the profession, I suppose. I didn’t imagine that I would be teaching and my mom was an educator and my dad was into electronics. And you kind of run away from those things, you kind of do… You don’t wanna do really what your parents are doing. Like, “I’m not doing that. I’m not going to anybody’s classroom. I’m not teaching. I’m not.” And look at what happens [laughter] so you run away from it, but you get back into it and you find out just like my session today, that it was really one of your first loves. It’s just something that is in you and things that are in you, things that you are passionate about, you wanna share. And so I had the opportunity to share my love of languages. And I think my dad, because he was with technology and did electronics engineer, I would always see him repairing things.

0:43:46.0 Nelann Taylor: I would always see him fixing TVs or computers. And then, I didn’t know, I would be on the computer sometimes. I thought we would’ve this big, old, clunky, you know how computers looked when they first came out, big, old, clunky, things and big, old, keyboard, but I’d be on the computer trying to play little games at that time and getting into gamification and not knowing so many years down the line, I’d be doing that. And then I’d be giving the opportunity to my students too. So it’s just been a beautiful thing. You know, I feel like things have just come in full circle around. And so I got a chance to walk in the hallway today and I’m walking with another friend, we’re leaving an awesome session. And here comes, Dr. Wendy McBurney Coons and she comes in. Then she says, “Nelann… ” And she has her mask on. So I didn’t really know. I didn’t realize it was her. She has her mask on. She says, “Nelann you remember me? Clark Atlanta.” And I look and I was just like, “Oh my goodness. I don’t know.” So I said, “You gotta take your mask down so I can see you. I don’t remember anything.”

0:44:41.6 Nelann Taylor: She pulls the mask down. I screamed so loud in that hallway. I was like, “Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.” And all I could keep saying was Costa Rica over 20 years ago, this woman took me my college years to go study in the country for the summertime. She… It was a summer trip and just opened me up to a whole nother world. So at that time, I mean, I realized my manners and I know that when I was in my early twenties, I said, “Thank you.” But just today to have the opportunity again, to tell her, thank you. I just said, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” You know, isn’t that beautiful?

0:45:15.8 Norah Jones: Yes, it’s beautiful.

0:45:17.5 Nelann Taylor: So I just… And she said, “You gotta come meet Ms. Jones.” And I said, “I never… ” I said, “I didn’t know.” She was doing a podcast here. And she says, “I saw you this morning.” And she said, “I actually told her that I ran into somebody that was her go to, or her trooper power.” And I was just like, how beautiful is that? How beautiful and amazing that is. So I just… I’m so excited and I… A language did that. It, unites people. And I think that’s what I want my students to be able to see now. And I’m moving… Even though I’m moving into a different area now, I won’t have my own specific classroom for language learners. I’ve always loved languages. Like I speak English, I have Spanish, I have a little bit of French, I’m a little rusty. American sign language was my first love, really what I really wanted to study at first. So I kind of practiced every now and again.

0:46:08.9 Nelann Taylor: And then I was excited about coming here because I’ve been picking up Portuguese recently. Just trying to study and do my thing. So, but I, I realized that language is such a connector. You get a chance to communicate with people in the language that they’re most comfortable and how amazing is that. And so now I don’t have that chance to share that specifically with my high school students, but as an English language coach, I feel like I get an opportunity to share it to everybody now in the district and give them opportunities to not just pick up on English, because it’s more than that. It’s just the opportunity to share and to connect and communicate. So that’s it. Yeah.

0:46:46.9 Norah Jones: That’s your superpower?

0:46:49.1 Nelann Taylor: I think so. I think so. Connecting, huh? Communicating, that’s it.

0:46:52.7 Israel Velasquez: My name is Israel Velasquez. I live in Dallas, Texas. I am a Spanish teacher, an ESL teacher, a motivational speaker. And I’m also in charge of the newcomer academy for my school district to be the liaison. I’m in Puerto Rico at the AATSP conference 2022 to bring my presentation. My presentation is called Believe. And it’s about never giving up shifting a the statistics, beating the odds and disrupting the status quo. What got me into the language a profession was to impact future generations and to project potential of what bilingual people can do. My superpower without a doubt is to be bilingual to manage two languages. I think you can have more friends because imagine having a friends in two different languages that would be my superpower.

0:48:00.0 Norah Jones: Fun and exciting. Isn’t it? To hear the energy generosity of spirit of these educators. Join us again next week, when we hear the second half from this, AATSP conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico and until then have a good week and keep that energy going in your life through your language. [music]

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