Past Leaders & People
Growing up in a small rural community in Eastern Newfoundland one could only read about and dream of far-away places where people spoke other languages and experienced different traditions and lifestyles. Having always been fascinated by other places, other people, and their language and culture, it just seemed natural that I would study another language and become a teacher. And what a journey it has been! I have had the privilege to live and work in most regions of this wonderful province.
I have also been most fortunate to travel across this country on numerous occasions. Some years ago, Wayne Penney (Gander, Newfoundland), a dedicated and long-time member of the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers and good friend, colleague a nd mentor, introduced me to this association. Some of my most memorable journeys I associate with CASLT. Memories of Yellowknife, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Regina, St. John's, Ottawa, Halifax, Edmonton. Memories of Canada! A vast land of welcome, great diversity, and optimism! As a Provincial Council representative, Executive Member and President of CASLT/ACPLS (1989-1990) I have other memories that remain with me in a very special way--memories of people, projects, initiatives and studies. Most importantly, I have memories of second language teachers and educators who by virtue of their personal and professional enthusiasm strived to make a difference in language education for the students and teachers of this country. The eighties and early nineties were exciting times for this association. Times during which people like David (H.H.) Stern, Robert Roy, Raymond Leblanc, Roger Tremblay, Peter Heffernan, Gisèle Painchaud and so many others were instrumental in contributing to a body of research and knowledge that would change why and how young Canadians study languages other than their first language. Initiatives like the National Core French Study, Multi-Cultural Education Projects and the CASLT Bulletin were vital in laying the groundwork for universities and colleges to provide quality programs and teacher training to many second language teachers in Canada.
I spent five years working on behalf of CASLT at the national level. I was indeed privileged to have such close involvement with this Association. In the past ten years, my professional career path has changed immensely from CASLT President and Program Specialist to School Administrator to Superintendent of Education to my current position of Associate Assistant Director, Programs, for the Avalon East School Board in St. John's, Newfoundland. In my present position I oversee the district's language programs, English as a second language, student assessment and evaluation, as well as a multitude of other responsibilities in curriculum and instructional leadership.
Through my involvement with CASLT I believe I acquired great knowledge and strength of character that enables me today to provide vision and leadership within my school district and province. As a district level administrator, I endeavor to ensure that parents are well informed as to the choices available to their children in second language instruction in our school system and I strive to provide opportunities so that our young people can have a choice to learn French as a second language in Core French, Intensive Core French, Expanded Core French, Early French Immersion, and Late French Immersion Programs. I strive to provide opportunities, too, so that our youth can learn other languages like German and Spanish in our schools. I strive to work with my colleagues to improve the depth and breadth of language programs, to improve instruction, to ensure our language teachers have access to high quality and meaningful professional development opportunities. And I endeavor to guide and enable policy makers to make informed decisions about effective program articulation in our schools. And back to my beginnings as a young teacher, I continue to ensure that our students are building the c apacity to be at least bilingual in this great country. And today, I realize I cannot stop here !!! Now my challenge, our challenge, is to continue to build on the work of CASLT, the work of the past thirty years, and to continue to prepare and support our language teachers as they move forward to teach our young Canadians other languages.
Some twenty-five years ago I realized a dream and began a career as a naive young teacher of French in a small high school in Western Newfoundland. I began my career wanting to share my knowledge and enthusiasm, wanting to motivate my students to learn another language and wanting to share with them a little piece of our Canadian heritage and culture. Today, twenty-five years later I have another dream, one that extends beyond our students' growing level of bilingualism in Canada's two official languages. It's a dream to expose our students to other languages and to the world and in an era of rapid technological and economic change. It's a dream to bring the world to our students through the teaching and learning of third and fourth languages. It seems the challenge for CASLT is shifting more and more towards the international scene and towards enabling Canadian students to be competent, competitive and compassionate communicators in the global village.
I wish CASLT/ACPLS well as it enters its fourth decade of existence. Let us not forget the vital role that language teachers will continue to play in shaping the linguistic abilities of young Canadians for the future. Our country's teachers will need the support of an organization with a strong vision to enhance their growth and development. For my part, I have been most appreciative to experience and learn from an organization which is dedicated to enabling Canada's language teachers to be the best they can be.
Published in the November 2000 Anniversary Issue of Réflexions