“We know that every single person here speaks either Spanish or Portuguese, it’s just like a very different culture, so it’s a lot of fun. But one thing I’ve noticed my time here is that I’ve done a lot of work at ACTFL this past year, in really shaking up the status quo and bringing all of these new things like indigenous language revitalization and focusing on heritage language speakers and neuro diversity and LGBTQ plus students. But I feel like it’s still not getting to where it’s supposed to be because so many teachers still don’t know these resources exist, and there’s still so much more work to do.” Celia Chomon Zamora
There are many important initiatives in the United States and other countries taking a look at how justice requires an acknowledgement and encouragement of diversity, establishing measures and building attitudes of inclusion so that all may bring their strengths and insights to our common work, and ensuring that all have equitable access to the rights, privileges, and goods of groups and nations.
In this second episode from the conference of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (listen and download the first episode here), you will hear the voices of language professionals who live out those DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) initiatives every day of their lives, inside and outside the language-education classroom.
In many cases they themselves have personal histories of moving from culture to culture, language to language, settled life to new challenges. In these histories, they have, invitably as human beings, sought to be included and have opportunities of which they could take advantage. Inevitably as human beings, they have brought their own selves, their diversity of sound, look, perspective, and values with them.
Even those educators who do not have such histories as I have described are immersed, as language professionals, in cultural and language stories that cover all these experiences.
So when you come into a language classroom now — and if you have not been in such a classroom at any level for a while (or maybe ever), I encourage you strongly to do so — you will see by definition a mini-community of human beings, one a teacher, others life-apprentices, who are addressing every day, in every way, the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
How do we heal society?
Come into a language classroom to find out.
And while you await your opportunity to do so, here are voices that will help you to understand the critical, healing role in our world of languages and of those who teach and learn them.
Enjoy the podcast.
Scroll down for full transcript.
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0:00:00.2 Norah Jones: Well, welcome back virtually to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and to the second of two episodes with the attendees at the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. Like last week’s episode, and like My Pilgrimage Podcast from various conferences of language educators, the four questions that are being addressed include, “What’s your name and title?” “Why are you at this conference?” “Why are you in the profession?” and “What’s your superpower?” Enjoy the continuing excitement that you hear in each voice here. And again, always, my offer is, think about those four questions for yourself, enter into the conversation, find your voice, find your superpower, and use language to enjoy this podcast, to enjoy your own life, and to contribute to the well-being of the world.
0:01:01.2 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.
0:01:42.5 Rachel Mamiya Hernandez: Hola, my name is Rachel Mamiya Hernandez. I live in Honolulu, Hawaii. And I am an assistant professor of Portuguese and Spanish languages at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. And I am also the 2022 AATSP or American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese President. I’m at this conference obviously, because I’m the president of the association, but even if I were not the president of the association, I would still be at this conference. My first AATSP conference was nine years ago in San Antonio, and for me, it was really a life-changing experience. In Hawaii, I’m the only Portuguese teacher in my department, so that can be kind of an isolating experience. So I was so excited to go to a conference and meet other Portuguese teachers and meet other Spanish teachers. And I was just so inspired by what I saw there. It actually kind of sparked something in me and I decided to pursue my PhD. So really, where I am today and who I am today, in large part, is influenced by the AATSP and the AATSP annual conference.
0:03:01.1 Rachel Mamiya Hernandez: What got me into the language profession, I think is a love of language and a desire to kind of explore through language. My very earliest memories of language at all is that I had a Hawaiian quilt and it had little pictures of animals and objects and it had the words in English and it had the words in Hawaiian. So that was kind of like my first time I think I ever really thought of the concept of language and it’s something that stayed with me throughout my whole professional life. And thinking of my superpower, I think maybe that would be my enthusiasm. And I’ve heard that from colleagues as well as from students. I just am someone who loves life, loves languages and loves what I do, and I love to share that and share my passion with everyone. So I guess if I have any superpower, it’s that.
0:04:06.3 Nelia Floyd: I’m Nelia Floyd and I live in Washington State. I’m a Heritage Spanish teacher at Clover Park High School. And I love being a teacher of students who has Spanish as their heritage language and culture. Why I’m here in this conference? I love conferences. Representation is important, ’cause I have students now thinking, “Wait, can I go to college? How did you became a teacher?” So it’s a very rewarding job. My superpower is love. My son call me the love vendor [chuckle] ’cause I just fall in love with pretty much everything, like my job, my house, my friends, my students. So everything is about love.
0:05:04.2 Dana Diskin: So my name is Dana Diskin. I live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, and I am a teacher at Detroit Country Day School, private school, as a world language teacher. So I’m at the conference for two reasons, I love conferences, I like to… And I’m also here because I won a conference trip, [laughter] from my local conference. I always loved language. I think back always to my first experience with language which was a Saturday program at my elementary school and there was a French class and I took it and I just fell in love, and I’ve been a Francophile ever since. I would say my superpower as a teacher is, I’m quick on my toes.
0:05:48.3 Nancy Wysard: Hi, my name is Nancy Wysard and I live in Honolulu, Hawaii. I am a Spanish teacher and I have been teaching for 17 years. I am at this conference because it’s a wonderful place to get inspiration, get recharged for the new year, learn new techniques. My superpower, I would say, is that I don’t give up. Sometimes that could be a bad thing because it’s like, “Stop.” But I don’t, I don’t stop, I don’t give up, and I just keep going, going, going. I also love to laugh everyday because it’s important to laugh. [laughter]
0:06:33.0 Isadora Zanon: Hi, my name is Isadora, she/her. I live in New York City and I am the social media coordinator/assistant producer for Kim Haas, who has her show, Afro-Latino Travels with Kim Haas on PBS right now if you want to watch it. I learned French for a few years in college, and then I moved to France after Spain. I did my Master’s degree in Germany, picked up some German there. And I also speak Italian because I ended up… I rounded out my years in Europe and Italy, and knowing Portuguese, Spanish and French, hopping over to Italian was pretty easy. [laughter] Which is great. I’ve seen presentations about… I’ve seen several things about introducing Afro-Latino voices and culture into Spanish, not only with Kim Haas, of course, her plenary was all about that, but I’ve seen other other sessions aim to introduce this kind of plurality of Latin culture of saying, “Hey, there’s Afro-Latinos, there’s indigenous cultures as well.” So to kind of open the spectrum of what is taught, what is recognized in schools as… Or part of Spanish culture.
0:07:55.2 Mary-Anne Vetterling: My name is Mary-Anne Vetterling, I live in Lexington, Massachusetts, and I’m a professor of Spanish Emerita at Regis College. And also a lecturer every fall, just for three months, at Harvard University Extension School where I team teach a course via Zoom, like a 21st century person. Via Zoom, with another AATSP member, Joy Renjilian-Burgy. Now, why am I at this conference? It’s because I love the AATSP. I have had a big role in many, many different aspects of the association, I’m the official photographer, and I will be doing the conference wrap-up at the end of the conference. And also with this conference, I received the lifetime achievement award. Now, I got into the language profession, one reason is through being… Inheriting a talent for languages. My father knew 12 languages. My grandmother was a French teacher, my father was a Latin and French teacher.
0:09:15.1 Mary-Anne Vetterling: My mother was a Spanish and French teacher, and I found I like to teach. And so, wouldn’t you know, I was a teaching fellow, I won a teaching prize there. And it was really special, because at the… After I had taught my first few classes, I had a conversation with my parents and said how much I love teaching, and a few days later, my father died, but he knew that I was headed in that direction. And yeah, and he was a teacher, he had been a headmaster of a boys school, so that’s it. What’s my superpower? Energy. I’m a person that has more energy than anyone else, and that has sent me, propelled me through life. And I think that’s… And also maybe that energy gives me a positive outlook on life, which I hope is something that gives me many more years to do good things.
0:10:25.1 Frances Mecaritty: My name is Frances McCarthy, and I live in a little town in New Jersey called Somerville. I am a teacher of Spanish, and I teach the advanced levels of Spanish. I have been coming to this conference since 1993. And I like coming to the conference, number one, to connect with colleagues from grad school, to learn, but most importantly, to be able to take back something to my school of the validity of coming to AATSP. I’m also here to present the paper presented on global citizenship. I got into this profession quite honestly, almost by accident, because I wanted to be in medical school, I wanted to be a doctor for children, and then I wanted to be a psychologist for children.
0:11:26.9 Frances Mecaritty: Anything that has to do with children, that’s what I wanted to do. But unfortunately that was not the path that I took for different reasons, and then now I am in the profession of teaching Spanish and I really do love it. Especially working with these students, it’s something that gives me a lot of joy because I can see them grow in the language. I am a nice person, I’m a decent human being, and my superpower, if that’s the case, is that I connect well with people for the most part, especially people who respect others like I do. And I think that I can pretty much make people feel comfortable because I tend to be very giving, and I think people tend to sense that I’m just a nice person.
0:12:27.3 Yohanna Jimenez: Okay, my name is Yohanna Jimenez, I’m from Puerto Rico, from Humacao, Puerto Rico. That’s a town in the east side of Puerto Rico, but I live in Daphne, Alabama, and I teach Spanish to 5th and 6th grades in a private school, that’s Bayside Academy. I love to go to conferences because I love to share what is working in my class, but not also I love to share, I love to learn from other people. But the most important thing for me is networking. What got me into the profession is that when my oldest son, I have five children, and my oldest son, when he was in second grade, he was being discriminated. So that started, for me, coming after lunch to his class and talk about Puerto Rico and talk about where we were coming from, and talk about we’re mixed. We have black people in our culture, we have indigenous people, we have people from Spain, that’s why all my children look so different.
0:13:33.3 Yohanna Jimenez: So I was blessed with these teachers that love the way I was talking, the way I was presenting things, and they told me, “You are just a natural teacher.” You cannot create that. So, when we talk about a superpower, I think my superpower is that I’m passionate about everything I do. I’m a doer, not a complainer. So I, when other people see the problem, I try to see the solution. And that passion that I have, I want to transmit that passion to my student. Passion in everything they do, not only school, the sports they play. And I’m very careful of what comes out of my mouth, because I believe that words have power, so that’s something that I’m teaching my students. I’m teaching my students that know, whatever comes out of your mouth, have creative power.
0:14:25.0 Jennifer Schwester: Hi, I’m Jennifer Schwester. I live in Toms River, New Jersey, right by the beach, and I teach in Brick Township Schools, which is right north of me. And I am currently… I will be getting my 24th year as a French teacher, my 10th year in my current district, and I’m also the owner of Jennyzenyoga, and so I’ve been able to combine all of my passions, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and French and world languages, and bringing it all together to help our students. And, I’m at this conference to present, and I’m just grateful to AATSP for again, accepting the French teacher to show up. I got into the language profession by a fluke, [chuckle] and some being stubborn. I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, I thought I wanted to be a pre-school or elementary teacher, and I was grateful to be able to travel to Paris as a 10th grade student. I did not start studying languages until ninth grade, so I was still 13-ish, and had the coolest French teacher ever, and the only reason I took French was because everybody told me to take Spanish, and I don’t like listening to what people tell me to do. And my superpower is, I said yesterday in our conference, I never stop and I never quit, I would say it now, I came up with the word finally is tenacity.
0:15:55.3 Norah Jones: I’d like to invite you to my website, Fluency.consulting, to check out all my sponsors, but especially the two that helped make possible this podcast from the AATSP. First, Avant Assessment. Through its assessment programs, Avant helps students to understand where they are on the proficiency journey. And through its sponsorship of the global syllabi literacy, helps those using one or more languages to receive certification that helps to prove their proficiency so that they have more opportunities in the world. Thank you Avant Assessment for your support of this podcast. Thank you also AATSP and Executive Director, Sheri Spaine Long, for your invitation to, and support of this podcast, at this year’s conference.
0:16:50.9 Celia Chomon Zamora: Thank you, Norah. So again, my name is Celia Chomon Zamora, I’m Director of Professional Learning and Certification at ACTFL. And being at AA… This is not my first AATSP. AATSP has been very different. First of all, because just Spanish and Portuguese teachers are just so much more fun. It’s just such a much more relaxed atmosphere, I feel like everyone here, because you… We know that every single person here speaks either Spanish or Portuguese, it’s just like a very different culture, so it’s a lot of fun. But one thing I’ve noticed my time here is that I’ve done a lot of work at ACTFL this past year, in really shaking up the status quo and bringing all of these new things like indigenous language revitalization and focusing on heritage language speakers and neuro diversity and LGBTQ plus students. But I feel like it’s still not getting to where it’s supposed to be because so many teachers still don’t know these resources exist, and there’s still so much more work to do.
0:17:51.6 Celia Chomon Zamora: So, I came here to listen. I’ve sat in so many different sessions just to learn and to see how I can be of support, how I can empower, how I can help fill in those gaps that are still plaguing teachers that don’t allow them to do their job. Whether it’s because zero resources exist to support autistic learners or people on the spectrum. To figuring out that social justice in Spanish and Portuguese classroom is still something that a paucity of resources exist, to figuring out that we still need so much more work to do to figure out what… How we can support our heritage language learners. There’s just a lot of work to do. So sometimes it’s a little overwhelming because I feel like there’s been so much done this year, but I feel like now the work is to continue to push it out and continue to make sure it’s getting to the hands that need it.
0:18:50.1 Norah Jones: Do you see progress?
0:18:51.8 Celia Chomon Zamora: I do. I feel like I am my worst critic. So sometimes I feel like the progress I wanna see is much more than I see and it’s not feasible, but there definitely has been movement, there definitely has been progress, and I see it because so many people have come up to me in this conference recognizing my name and saying “Hey, I see the work that you guys are doing at ACTFL and we really appreciate it.” So I know that there has been movements and there has been progress, but it’s not enough for me, I feel like I’m always behind because there’s always so much more to do, and every time that I spend a day not pushing something out, we’re losing a teacher, or we’re losing a student. So it’s a lot of pressure that I know I’m putting on myself, but I want to make sure that people know that when I say that I live, breathe and eat empowerment and supporting and advocating for our teachers, that I truly mean it, and that I hope that people… All the people that I’ve given business cards out to and not just this conference, but all of them that I tell them to contact me, that they know that I am here to listen, that I am here to support them and to talk to them and to figure out what they need to make sure that I get them what they need.
0:20:04.3 Norah Jones: Is your message being received? Not only here but in the 22 you’ve already been to, and ones that you’re likely to attend here in the rest of this calendar year.
0:20:16.6 Celia Chomon Zamora: I definitely think so, because I have… My calendar is usually pretty booked with half an hour or one-hour Zoom calls with just random stakeholders that say, “Hey, can… ” The other day, I had a call with somebody from a district that they have a couple of neurodivergent learners and they didn’t know really how to apply differentiated instruction, so they wanted to just talk it over with me and say, “Okay, am I doing it right?” So we met on Zoom and she went through some of her lesson plans and I gave her some feedback as to how to best apply it. And then I had another teacher say, “Hey, I’m opening up a heritage language curriculum or a program in my district, I need some help with curriculum.” So we met and we talked about that. So I do feel like the message is getting heard, but there’s thousands of teachers in the United States and I know that this message probably hasn’t reached all of them, so I really think it’s up to all of us to make sure that this message is spreading and spreading and spreading so that everyone is getting what they need.
0:21:20.0 Norah Jones: Conferences are important to do that, don’t you think?
0:21:25.5 Celia Chomon Zamora: I do, but they’re exhausting. [laughter] Especially having an eight-year-old at home, it has been exhausting. But I definitely see the merit in it. And I’m just always so blown away by the caliber of teachers that I meet at these conferences. And I think one of the things that we all need to start doing is pulling up people that normally don’t go to these conferences and bring them here. I didn’t go to my first conference till my fourth or fifth year of teaching because I didn’t know that they existed and I didn’t know I had a place. We need to make room at the table for all teachers. And if you have a teacher at home that you… That doesn’t really feel comfortable “Oh, I have nothing to say, I have nothing to share,” that’s not true. Everyone has a best practice. And to be honest, we learn a lot from worst practices too. So sometimes even just coming in and sharing what didn’t work is amazing. We need to bring all of our teachers, our colleagues, our friends to these conferences so that they can share and we can learn from them, especially the first year teachers, especially the veteran teachers that might be already burnt out.
0:22:32.9 Norah Jones: So what do you say to the administrators who say, “I don’t have the money, I don’t wanna let them go because I need them in their classroom”?
0:22:42.5 Celia Chomon Zamora: So about not having money and not having the time and so forth, let me tell you that it’s much more expensive to recruit a new teacher than it is to retain a teacher. And so many studies have shown that offering mentorship and support and professional development and growth keeps teachers in the classroom. So you might lose them for a day or two, but you are investing in them to be there for the long run. Yeah.
0:23:07.6 Norah Jones: An investment, worth the time. Thank you.
0:23:10.7 Celia Chomon Zamora: Thank you, Norah. [laughter]
0:23:14.7 Krista Chambliss: I am Krista Chambliss and I am from Alabama. I am an associate professor of Spanish, French and Foreign Language Education, big long title, [laughter] at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. And I direct the elementary Spanish language program at our university, and I am the current president of SCOLT. [laughter] Alrighty. So why am I at this conference? Well I’m kind of a conference junkie. I love conferences because I get to connect with so many people and I get fresh new ideas. And let’s face it, it’s in Puerto Rico, so why wouldn’t you want to come? [laughter] So yeah. But I do love to come, and for me, a lot of times it’s about the people, it’s about the connections and seeing everyone and just networking and just… There’s just so many wonderful people here that you get to see once a year sometimes, or that you’ve seen only on social media, and then you get to put a face with them and that’s really fun. So I got to high school and I had one of the best French teachers.
0:24:27.4 Krista Chambliss: She’s actually the reason I wanted to become a French teacher. So she was just wonderful and I loved it and I thought, “This is what I wanna do.” I come from a long line of teachers, so I kind of always knew teaching would be what I would do. My grandmother taught in a one-room school house in Alabama. And there’s generations of teachers. I had two great-aunts who were teachers. My aunt was an English teacher. My brother actually was a science teacher, and then became a principal. So that’s just what we are. We’re a family of educators. And so that’s what I knew I really wanted to do. And so I went to the university and way back then you had to be able to teach two subjects. And I was like, “I’m gonna teach French. What else could I teach?” ‘Cause nobody wants me to teach math at all. Two plus two is about as good as it gets for me. Science? No, thank you. I don’t wanna cut up dead things. History was interesting, but not my thing. And English, who wants to do English when you can do French?
0:25:31.7 Krista Chambliss: So I took a Spanish class, and again, I had a phenomenal Spanish teacher at the university. I mean, I rearranged my entire schedule of second semester so I could have her again because she was that good. It’s funny because we actually became roommates in grad school. She was working on her master’s when I was an undergrad, and then she was working on her PhD when I was working on my master’s, and we became roommates. Yeah. It was super cool. And so then I studied abroad and I was like, “This is awesome, because look at all these people I get to talk to,” ’cause I love to talk to people, I love to meet new people so I can talk to so many more people. And it was just phenomenal going and visiting all these different countries and I was like, “Yeah, this is it. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.” Yeah. Yeah.
0:26:22.9 Krista Chambliss: So that’s kind of how I got into the language profession. I just, I love it. And like I said, teaching is just, that’s what our family does. And I think, you know, I think we do it really well. My great aunt was actually the Alabama teacher of the year. Yeah. Back in the late ’80s, she taught math and I used to run, we would go out and we’d run into her students all over Tuscaloosa. And they were like, oh, Miss Hal, was just wonderful. You know. Same thing with my aunt Janice who taught English. If I was out with her in Huntsville, they would be like, oh, she was so great, man. When I got to the university that English 101 class was a breeze and everybody was just, would always talk about them like, wow, these are some pretty high expectations that I’ve got to meet, but it was definitely, definitely worth it. And it’s just a fabulous, fabulous profession, I think.
0:27:13.4 Krista Chambliss: So my superpower, that is so funny. We did a thing at SCOLT. We went around a table asking what everybody’s superpowers were. And I honestly, I couldn’t think of anything. And I was like, well, my superpower is that I get lost in any place I’m ever in, you know, I get lost at the drop of a hat. I mean, even in my own hometown, I can get lost with a GPS. I’ve gotten lost with a GPS. [laughter] So that is one of my superpowers. But in thinking about it a little bit more after that conference, I think maybe I don’t know, my ability to be real with my students. That’s really resonated with me this semester and because this generation can detect fake peoples and they just, they do not like the fake people. You have to be real with them. You have to be authentic.
0:28:11.4 Francisco Garcia-Onegada: Well, my name is Francisco Garcia-Quezada. I am a resource specialist for the Fordham University Graduate School of Education in New York city. And my work is really to gather resources that will help our teachers help our students, especially the multi-language learners within New York city school district. I have attended this conference in the past. I belong to the AATSP since I was a student of the language and on and off renewing my membership here and there, I will say a total of 28 years out of the 30 plus years that I’ve been an educator for me has been very rewarding. This organization as an international organization has provided many opportunities for learning, for meeting wonderful, innovative people in the field of linguistics who are very passionate about the language and cultures that they teach.
0:29:13.7 Francisco Garcia-Onegada: It’s not just Spanish. It is the Spanish and the cultures for me. In my role as an educator, I have taught for 30 plus years. I was a seven to 12 high school teacher and also the chair of the department for a school north of… In Rockland county, New York, north of New York city. I retired last June and went to work full-time for Fordham as I was working for them as a consultant. Now I’m working for them full time in the graduate school of ed. So it has been a rewarding career for me. One that I continue now to contribute to the teachers who are now teaching rather than to just teaching directly to the students. And this particular question of what is your superpower. It’s only making me think of my grandkids right now. Leonardo and Luna, Alejandra, who I… Looking at myself through their eyes and the eyes of my three daughters. I’m thinking that my superpower is that I am really a very fun person to be around. I’ve been called the life of the party several times by friends and families. So I think a superpower is friendly, friendliness.
0:30:46.5 Liza Heath: Hi, I’m Liza Heath. And I live in Mobile, Alabama. I teach… Well, I’ve been teaching K-3 through fourth grade Spanish for the past 10 years, but now this year I’m moving to the middle school and I’ll be teaching fifth grade, Spanish, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade French. So I’m super excited about that. I’m at this conference really because I’m the AWLA president, Alabama World Languages Association president. So I need to be here to represent, but really I was still gonna present whether I was AWLA president or not. So I was presenting at the conference, but even if I wasn’t presenting, I would’ve been here anyway.
0:31:27.5 Liza Heath: So just because I love networking and learning really how to do my work better and just growing. What got you into the language profession? Okay, well, that’s a good question. I’m a special ed teacher. So I think… So, my heart goes out to work with the low functioning children. And so that’s what I did for the beginning of my career. And my superpower is, I think I’ve always said my superpower is to love people. It’s easy for me to love those around me, but really I’ve come to learn in this conference that my superpower is really my ADHD and just being able to take risks because I don’t think about it. I’m impulsive. And so I’m a risk taker. And I think that’s opened a lot of doors for me.
0:32:28.1 Norah Jones: Like I said, that sense of energy and just the waves of dedication and generosity and excitement that come over and over from world language educators. I hope you enjoyed this episode and the one that preceded it from the AATSP. Next week, I’m gonna be taking a look at Spanish speakers from the AATSP including executive director, Sheri Spaine Long. And those that talked to me and told amazing stories, yes, answering the same four questions, but their storytelling contains some extraordinary insights that I know that you’re going to enjoy. So have a good week and join me next week for AATSP in Espanol.