Past Leaders & People
I became president of CASLT at a time when no executive existed, when the president was also chair-person of the national conference in his/her province and when fax machines just became popular. Long distance was quite expensive and the expression snail-mail did not exist; nor did the use of computers in the work place for that matter. The time was 1982 - those were the good old days.
The Vancouver conference organized by President/Chairwoman Heike Ferguson (later Sasaki) was held in 1978. As a young newlywed and recent appointee to the position of consultant for Core (Basic) French at the ministry, I was ready for adventure. I remember the upbeat atmosphere during the 1978 conference in Lotus Land. The sun shone, the mountains glistened and hundreds of enthusiastic, friendly second language educators invaded the Bayshore Hotel next to Stanley Park. I met and made dozens of life long friends at that conference. I felt part of a very large extended family. If Vancouver had thrilled my eyes, it was CASLT that had captured my heart.
Many new colleagues witnessed the changes in me while on the "CASLT circuit". From a slim newly wed, to a very pregnant future mama, then later a slimmer business-suited president, many watched the chameleon unfold. By 1980 I was ready for Barry Lydon's (1978-79 president) phone call. I was thrilled when Barry asked me if I would be interested in becoming vice-president of CASLT. I replied "yes" even before asking what it would all entail.
Dr. Joyce Booth, a feisty, energetic professor at the University of Saskatchewan was my predecessor once removed. A kind-hearted mentor she reassured me that all would be well. When Joyce finished her term in 1980, she informed me that she would be passing though Winnipeg on her way to an Eastern trip and that she would bring with her some CASLT documents that would help me get ready. We met at a friend's Greek restaurant, Nick's Inn, located on the Trans Canada highway on the outside of Winnipeg. I will never forget that encounter. The reality of the presidency arrived in that envelope Joyce handed me. When I assumed the role, there was $2,000 in the bank and I was to use $1,000 to organize a national conference for 600-800 educators. Welcome, president of CASLT.
I gathered my local troops- a young, enthusiastic executive, the eldest in the group opened the meeting by asking whether we had liability insurance for the organizing committee: Eliana Handford, Karl Fast, Carol Harvey, Dolores Hébert, Judy Kruger, Lucillet Mollot, Stephania Yurkiwska, Paul Bourassa, Edwin Ralph, Willem Steur and Don Tole. Taken aback but not undaunted, I strongly stated how that would not be necessary since all conferences made money and we would make even more for the association. Truer words were never spoken. When Winnipeg handed over its accounts the following year to Claudine Courtel, there was a healthy balance. The 1982 Winnipeg conference theme was "Take a Second Language to Heart, Manitoba the Heart of the Continent." A modest statement for the "friendly" province.
It was at the 1982 Winnipeg Conference that the much respected, the late H.H. Stern, pronounced the words which would later constitute the basis for the multidimensional approach and the creation of the National Core French Study (NCFS), in his rousing keynote address " Let's use our heads to reach their hearts". David's personal research and work done in Europe indicated that changes needed to be made in how second languages were taught in order for greater impact in a non-immersion setting. Many members are not aware that for the first fifteen years of CASLT's existence, the Association did not have a national Board. At the 1981 Halifax conference, lead by president Jacqueline Guyette, I had the good fortune to meet the past national president of CPF, Janet Poyen. A quiet spoken, dynamic woman, Janet gently mentored CASLT down the path to its first constitution. How can I forget the endless phone calls where we literally created on paper the representational National Council and the regional executive that exists today. Step by step, we discussed, she dictated, I wrote, we rewrote the words constitutionally that have lead CASLT into the 21st century.
This first constitution and concept of a five region Board were presented during Claudine Courtel's reign and put into effect the following year when Carmela Howhy took over in Calgary. During the presidency of the 3 "C's" (Caterina, Claudine and Carmela) many changes marked our association.
As we were busy assembling the constitution we were also working in the area of funding and raising awareness at the federal level, of the importance of David Stern's concept for second languages. It took two more years to convince the federal government, the then Secretary of State, to fund our first national project, the NCFS. I remember the personal visits Janet and David made on behalf of CASLT. They were incredible salesmen for our association. Claudine and I also added our voices by visiting the offices of the decision makers in Ottawa, Hilaire Lemoine, the director, and Guy Coulombe who later followed CASLT project developments as our government representative.
By the time Carmela Howhy came on the scene in 1983, CASLT was getting ready to tackle its major project from which all others have derived. The National Core French Study was ready to be conceived. What an incredible 4 years of work, from 1986-1990 - an important time in CASLT's history, a who's-who on the national educational scene. David Stern directed the research while Roger Tremblay, Raymond LeBlanc, Gisèle Painchaud, Dr. Robert Roy, Clarence LeBlanc, Birgit Harley, Yvonne Hébert, Janet Poyen organized the Schools Project side.
As with the very nature of CASLT, the structure of the Schools Project incorporated participation from every province and territory across Canada. While David's team produced, Janet's team piloted and provided feedback for the writing teams to refine. David Stern died before the NCFS was completed. Raymond LeBlanc was asked to bring the project to conclusion. Pierre Trescases of the Culture Syllabus team was killed in a car accident shortly after arriving in France on holiday. And by the end of the NCFS, Robert Roy was already ill with cancer.
In 1990 the NCFS was completed, printed and presented in workshops at the national conference in Vancouver. Heike Ferguson, now Sasaki, was co-chairing the conference where the NCFS saw its ending and its new beginning. Beginning because in 1994, the NCFS spawned the NCFS: A model for Implementation manual describing how the theory and research of the NCFS was to be put into practice. This project was the collaboration of five provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Several people have said to me that I have served on the CASLT executive several times. I respond by saying that that statement is incorrect, since there never was a Board or National Council when I was president in 1981-82. I helped create both but I never served on them until the mid 1990's when I came on as the Manitoba representative and later assumed the role of member-at-large and then national secretary on the Board.
In whatever capacity I have assumed with CASLT, I have always done so with pleasure. I have met professionals that have become lifelong friends. CASLT has been like a warm extended family with its challenges, with its sorrows but always with friendship and pride of belonging. In the name of those Manitobans who have preceded me, I hope to continue serving this wonderful association for a long time to come. Happy Anniversary CASLT -you've come a long way.
Published in the November 2000 Anniversary Issue of Réflexions