Past Award Recipients
Larry Vandergrift receives the
Robert Roy Award 2009.
Robert Roy Award Acceptance Speech
As I look around at this welcome group of witnesses, members of CASLT, colleagues and friends, I feel a sense of gratitude for where I am today and for what I have been able to contribute. I never ever dreamed that my career would have evolved in this way.
Forty years ago this year, I eagerly began my career as a high school French teacher in Edmonton, not really knowing what layed before me. It was the time of the audio-lingual period and the teaching resources to support this new method had just been approved for the school curriculum. This was really different, especially for someone trained in the grammar-translation method. By the beginning of October, the novelty of this new, young teacher was beginning to wear off, and the monotony of the new audio-lingual program, Écouter et Parler, had sunk in. I won’t go into the details of that year; the important thing is that I survived, and I stayed around for another 20 years. At the time, I don’t believe I thought much about what the end of my career might look like. One thing is certain; I certainly never dreamed that I would be honoured with a prestigious award of this kind.
Thank you for acknowledging my contributions with this award. It is equally an honour for me to join the ranks of previous recipients, many of whom I have worked with:
- the Alberta group with whom I worked on the new Alberta FSL curriculum in the early 90’s: Wally Lazaruk, Denise Bourassa and Peter Heffernan;
- the OISE ‘gang’ who have been such great mentors and friends: Sharon Lapkin, Merrill Swain and Birgit Harley;
- University of Ottawa leaders such as Pierre Calvé and Raymond LeBlanc who were my professors at one time and, later, colleagues.
C’est à la fois un grand honneur et un très grand plaisir de pouvoir travailler dans le cadre de projets menés par des organismes tels que l’Association canadienne des professeurs de langues secondes (ACPLS) et, sur le plan national, la communauté de celles et ceux qui travaillent en français langue seconde. Dans tous ces projets, j’ai travaillé avec des collègues formidables, très engagés dans leur profession. Ils m’ont inspiré et encouragé et ils ont contribué à mon cheminement professionnel et intellectuel. Parmi eux, j’aimerais citer en particulier :
- Madeleine Monod à l’Université de l’Alberta, une dame fort dynamique, qui m’a beaucoup inspiré et encouragé au début de ma carrière;
- Lee Hollaar, un de mes directeurs au niveau secondaire, qui m’a toujours poussé à donner toute ma mesure;
- Wally Lazaruk, qui m’a confié des projets très intéressants;
- Claire Bélanger, avec qui j’ai travaillé étroitement tout au long du projet pan-canadien en évaluation en français de base; et,
- mes collègues à OISE et à l’ILOB qui m’ont appuyé et qui ont été d’excellents mentors.
J’aimerais également souligner l’appui important des organismes tels que la Direction générale des programmes d'appui aux langues officielles de Patrimoine Canada et le Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada. Grâce à leurs subventions de recherche, nous (les chercheurs et les chercheuses) pouvons en effet examiner les questions importantes dans le domaine de l’enseignement et de l’apprentissage des langues.
I also want to acknowledge the support and encouragement of Kathy, my wife and best friend, who has been a tremendous support throughout my career. During the high school years, she largely carried the load of childcare and household responsibilities and, in my post-secondary years, has been a critical but supportive editor of my writing.
Coming back to the opening anecdote, I can now look back over those 40 years with some objectivity. There were lots of challenges, but also lots of blessings. As I look back, I am constantly amazed at how opportunities presented themselves. My school board gave me a sabbatical to do a Master’s degree at the University of Ottawa which eventually led me to pursue a doctorate. Doors were opened to me at critical points in my career and these opportunities have allowed me to contribute to interesting projects along the way:
- Beginning my doctorate at the time when Alberta Education was rewriting the FSL curriculum in light of the NCFS recommendations and being invited to join the team;
- Being invited to do the study of Core French programs in Canada, leading to the National Core French Assessment Project;
- Joining the Board of the Canadian Modern Language Review at a critical time of reorganization; and
- The Scholar in Residence opportunity with PCH and the subsequent proposal of the Common European Framework as a framework of reference for languages for Canada came just at the time when some jurisdictions were exploring different assessment tools and the European Language Portfolio was attracting some attention.
There were other less public occasions; however, I see all these milestones as distinct opportunities to serve the second language teaching community in Canada, and the FSL community in particular. Doors were opened for me, and I’m thankful to have been there to serve with equally dedicated colleagues. Given my high school background and knowing the challenges faced by FSL teachers, I am particularly happy that the various projects have led to tools that can be useful to the classroom teacher.
It’s an honor to be recognized by CASLT. As an organization, you have made huge strides over the past years in becoming a voice for language teachers in Canada. You have become a respected leader thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of your leadership team and I’m delighted to become a life-long member.
Thank you! Merci infiniment!