Episode 86 – Inviting You to Reflect With Leslie Baldwin, NADSFL Supervisor of the Year 2023

Episode 86 Reflecting with Leslie Baldwin
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 86 - Inviting You to Reflect With Leslie Baldwin, NADSFL Supervisor of the Year 2023

“In order to do things well, you have to collaborate and work with others. Everything we do is built on communication. You can’t do it by yourself.”

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Reflection helps us make sense of where we have been, so we can move forward.

This reflection with Leslie Baldwin is the first of a series that will, at this end of a calendar year and the beginning of the next, help us all to use our gift of language to see who we’ve been, review what choices we made in the presence of others, and confirm, adjust, or re-evaluate what we’re committed to, and where we are headed.

Leslie Baldwin was named District Supervisor of the Year by NADSFL, the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages. At the meeting at which she was selected, as you will hear in the podcast, Leslie was totally surprised that she was selected, while the rest of us present were not – indeed, I said to my tablemates, who included Leslie, “It’s about time!” and the whole table smiled as Leslie got up to receive her recognition.

For what in your life is it “about time”? What have you been doing up to this point that you are proud of, desire to continue, need to modify, really need to cease doing so as to move forward in a more positive direction?

When you stand up to receive your recognition, what will it be for?

My invitation to you is to reflect on your own accomplishments so far.

I also invite you to go forward to new accomplishments only you can achieve, using language as your tool to bring hope into a world of challenge.

Are you a language leader in your district, formally recognized as such or acting to help your colleagues and programs? Check out NADSFL membership. This organization is the supportive family you need.

Listen to Leslie’s previous episode, Episode 43, to hear more in depth about inclusion, leadership, and service. As a prompt to the episode, I focused on her position as executive director of the Southern Conference on Language teaching, a professional organization in which I have been happily active for many years, and in which I have held leadership positions. If I can do it, you can, too! Check out SCOLT and all it can do for you.

Check out Leslie’s biography and the resources she recommends to you, also.

Engage with colleagues.

Serve through leadership if you can.

We’re all in this together. You are not alone.

Enjoy the podcast.

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Episode 86 | Podcast | It’s about Language with Norah Jones. Guest Leslie Baldwin

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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

Want to hear more? Access previous episodes, and get to know the wonderful people I talk with through the It’s About Language page, or by clicking on the Podcast tab above. You can also find this week’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

As a certified Gallup Strengths coach, I can provide you or your organization personalized coaching to discover and build on your strengths.

I provide workshops, presentations, and talks that inspire and engage through powerful language insights, and I pair those insights with practical applications for the lives of educators, learners, businesses, and faith-centered organizations. I’d love to share ideas with your organization or group, and develop an event tailored to your objectives.

Click here to start a conversation.


Episode 43: Inclusive Language Experiences

Leslie Baldwin Bio



0:00:07.2 Leslie Baldwin: In order to do things well, you have to collaborate and work with others. Our whole… Everything we do is built on communication. That’s our main goal of everything we do has something to do with communication, we all recognize that we can’t do this by ourselves, the education field is not something where you work alone and you can’t do it all by yourself.


0:00:40.7 Norah Jones: In August of 2021, I connected up with Leslie Baldwin and she was my guest on episode 43. In that episode, we focused on her role as the executive director of the Southern Conference On Language Teaching, SCOLT. Leslie had powerful words to say about how we must create a meaningful reason for students to learn, for colleagues to be engaged, for communities to act together, for families to act together. You must discover the why of what we’re learning, doing, and deciding. Leslie also made some important points in Episode 43 about creating a safe environment in which we can be vulnerable and take risks, and our young people can and they’re learning. She also talked about the ability for our young people and for all of us to see people that we can relate with, and see that we can belong to the community of the classroom, the community of the family, and the community of the world.

0:01:57.6 Norah Jones: Along with Leslie’s leadership at SCOLT, Leslie is also the District Supervisor for the Winston Salem Forsyth school district in northern North Carolina, and she’s a member of the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Language NADSFL. This year, those of us that are members of NADSFL met before the National World Language meeting, and at the NADSFL meeting, Leslie was surprised to receive the award for being the National District Supervisor of the Year. I’m smiling as I say she was surprised because not a single other person in that room was surprised that Leslie Baldwin, with all of her years of leadership, her leadership skills, and her compassion and openness, and generosity would have ever not won such an important award. And it’s an award that leads to more action on her part, and that’s another thing that makes it exciting, it’s language in action moving forward.

0:03:14.0 Norah Jones: So I gave Leslie another call. I asked her to take a look at what she had learned in the over years since we had last talked, especially focusing on what had happened that on behalf of her excellence, excellence in supervision of world language programs in schools had been honored. What did she see as the rationale for good schooling to be rewarded? What were the aspects? Where is she seeing Language Education headed? Why? And what are some of her suggestions, not only for the world at large but for us specifically, what action can we take with the language in our lives to help make the world a better place for students, for ourselves, for our families and community, for humanity around the country and around the world?

0:04:17.3 Norah Jones: So here’s 15 minutes to revisit Leslie Baldwin as she reflects on what she’s experienced, what the nature of rewarding excellence can be for all of us, and where we’re headed in World Language Education and world language use for 2023 and beyond, to bring hope to a challenging world.


0:04:46.7 Norah Jones: Leslie Baldwin, when we were all at the National World Language meeting in Boston, you received a special award as the National District Supervisor of foreign languages of the year. First of all, congratulations.

0:05:06.6 Leslie Baldwin: Thank you very much.

0:05:09.2 Norah Jones: Now, I would love for you to just help us to understand what you believe that that reflects not only about yourself personally, but also about the role of district supervisors overseeing programs for many students in multiple schools with regard to language.

0:05:32.3 Leslie Baldwin: I think that the award itself reflects recognition from peers, that is very humbling. Because when I think about the NADSFL, the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages group, for me, that is my group of peers, that also includes many mentors and people I go to when I need something or need help with something, or have whatever issue might be going on in my district, those are the people that I contact and say, “What do you do about this? How are you handling this in your state, in your district?” That NADSFL group is, as you know, people from around the country who have roles similar to mine in larger, smaller, similar districts who, in my perspective, are all very highly competent in this field, and are people from whom I learn.

0:06:38.2 Leslie Baldwin: And so to be recognized by that group for my work is very humbling and not expected, ’cause I certainly don’t know it all. You and I have had a conversation today, which you’re helping me frame professional learning for my teachers in ways that I really needed to have that conversation to help make that happen. I don’t know it all, I’m certainly learning the time, that’s why I go to the NADSFL meetings every year is because that’s where I get professional growth and learning from the people that were in that room in Boston. So while I was extremely surprised to receive the award this year, it’s definitely a humbling thing because that’s the group of pears and that’s where many of my mentors are. So it’s an interesting experience.

0:07:36.2 Norah Jones: Well, it was delightful and touching to not only hear the announcement but to watch your surprise, so I can certainly confirm that you were surprised, although none of the rest of us were because of the excellence that you’ve always shared with all of us at every level. So thank you. Now, when you turn to the folks that are in a variety of situations, folks that are new and what they’re doing when you consider the role that you play in the language-specific profession, what insights do you think that folks in the language profession, especially those in the leadership, can say to others about the importance of understanding how to talk about their role, develop their role, be open to collaboration and learning from each other, what insights do language people have for the rest of the world in that way?

0:08:38.6 Leslie Baldwin: I think that language professionals in particular are very open to and want to collaborate our whole… Everything we do is built on communication. That’s our main goal of everything we do has something to do with communication, which means we want to talk with others, work with others, collaborate with others. My experience with my colleagues in NADSFL and in actual is we all recognize that we can’t do this by ourselves, this is not… The education field itself is not something where you work alone and you can’t do it all by yourself, whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a district coordinator, an administrator in other roles, whatever it may be, in order to do things well, you have to collaborate and work with others. And in order to do that well, you need the communication and language skills to facilitate that work with others, where you don’t come across as the one who thinks you know it all and are requiring a process to go a certain way.

0:10:02.3 Leslie Baldwin: As a leader, we have to hear from those with whom we work about what do they need and what is their current situation, and how do we help support them in that. And we have to do that through a supportive and collaborative type of leadership, which requires knowledge of language to help facilitate such conversations. Listen to what teachers are saying, what administrators are saying, I have to… In this role, I have to work with principals, assistant principals, curriculum coordinators, teachers, area superintendents, my colleagues in other content areas, and we all have to work together to help make student experiences as engaging and as meaningful as we want them to be. That’s the whole crux of it. And so if my job, and I consider that my job is to help teachers do their job as best they can, that is my role is to support them in their work with students, then I have to have the communication and language skills to help facilitate all of those relationships and all of those opportunities for collaboration.

0:11:15.6 Norah Jones: Thank you. Here’s another question, When you turn to the communities, the states or even the nation, what do you wish people knew or understood or would do with regard to support of languages or understanding of the role of languages in the education of young people and in the work in the world.

0:11:41.4 Leslie Baldwin: I wish more people understood that especially now that our current language profession, language instruction is not what they may have experienced in their own high school or college language experiences, and of course, that varies widely, but I know we have all heard a gazillion times from the person who took the courses in high school or college remembers conjugating verbs and does not have any communicative skills regardless of the number of years in which they studied. And I want people to understand that that is not what we do and that our focus is on meaningful communication from day one, where we go way beyond the vocabulary quizzes and the verb conjugation so that our students are truly gaining communicative skills. And I would also want people to understand that language classes are not just about language for language itself but rather certainly, obviously, a large focus that we want our students speaking and reading and writing and listening in the languages.

0:12:58.0 Leslie Baldwin: But that there is so much in our language courses that helps our students in every other aspect of their lives in other classes, in simply communicating with other people, in what they learn about other cultures, other people’s other perspectives on the world, and how that builds those intercultural skills so that our students really gain an understanding and not a tolerance, but an appreciation of differences. And that different doesn’t mean wrong, and that difference is beautiful and helps makeup what our world is, and how do we navigate those differences so that when my perspective is different or my way of communicating or showing my perspective is different from someone else’s, how do I navigate that so that we can communicate and have a productive relationship because I appreciate and understand those differences. And that’s a huge piece of what happens in language classes. And all students need that and may not get that in other ways in other content areas.

0:14:14.0 Norah Jones: Powerful. And one last question, what would you ask others to do, what could they do, individuals in their lives with language, what do you think would be a good encouragement for what people can do with language in their lives?

0:14:32.9 Leslie Baldwin: I think the answers are limitless, and some of it depends upon who you are and where you are with language right now. I think if you are a professional, I would say if you are not involved in a professional language organization, get involved in one, whether it’s at the state level, regional, or national level. I know so many teachers who have never even been to the state conference, and they don’t know what they’re missing, they don’t know what they’re missing by meeting people from other areas, from other schools, from other places. And the learning that goes on at that level. If you’ve never been you really don’t know what you’re missing. And so I would say, get involved.

0:15:18.1 Leslie Baldwin: If you’re already involved, you go to conferences, you go to the state, you go to the regional, that’s wonderful, what can you do to step that up, can you get involved in the leadership, can you be on a committee, can you serve in some other ways, because what I have found over the years is that the more involved I become, the more I learn because I meet so many more people, it expands my professional and friend connections in so many ways that I have more and more people with whom I collaborate share, just talk to and say even in a casual conversation in the hallway, somehow we come to something and I say, “Oh, I didn’t know you all were doing that in your district, tell me about that because we’re about to start that, and I wanna learn from your experience, and so I have learned, and some of this was being pushed by mentors early on, that the more I’m involved and the more I do with an organization, truly, the more I get back and the more I learn from others.

0:16:26.1 Norah Jones: Thank you, Leslie, and again, congratulations on your award, thank you for sharing your thoughts here, and good luck with the rest of the school year and with all the things that you’re accomplishing. Thanks again.

0:16:38.7 Leslie Baldwin: Thank you, Norah.

0:16:42.5 Norah Jones: Thanks so much for listening to this episode with guest Leslie Baldwin. I hope that her encouragement and her invitation’s meaningful to you, and that you will indeed step out and take the risk to learn something new, to engage in a new way, and to take action to bring hope to the world through language. I’ll be re-releasing Leslie Baldwin’s Episode 43. If you’ve not yet heard it, please do listen, and if you already listened to it, listen to it again so that you can dig down deeply into what it is that makes our lives meaningful and makes us feel included, and effective as human beings. We’ll take a look at some more reflections in the upcoming weeks as we have conversations with guests, new and returning that have continued their language journey. I hope you’ll continue yours. Thanks for listening.

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