ACTFL Conference

I was lucky enough to go to my very first ACTFL conference last week in San Antonio. It was the result of an interesting chain of events.

In 2012, I had taken a class taught by Dr. Ali Moeller and Carolina Bustamante. It was a technology class taught in Spanish focusing on the books Cajas de carton and Senderos fronterizos by Francisco Jimenez. I learned more in that class than I have in any other. I worked hard, but I feel very competent with technology.

The best part about the tech class was that the participants took the it free due to a grant! At our first face-to-face meeting, we were told the funds would be disbursed to keep us from having to pay for it and then receiving a check back. That was the greatest gift of all because I had no idea how I was going to come up with $1200 up front. I cried all the way home. I didn’t know it then, but that tech class was the first step toward my Master’s degree. I got the news today that I passed my comps, so I am on track to graduate next month!

I sent a thank-you email to both Dr. M. and Carolina to let them know what the tech class meant to me. I received a gracious response from Dr. M. followed by a an invitation from Carolina. She asked me to be a co-presenter at the ACTFL conference. She wrote an amazing proposal, and it was accepted! That was my path to my first ACTFL experience. For those who are not aware, it is the largest gathering of foreign language teachers in the United States (that I know of). There were approximately 6000 teachers in attendance in San Antonio. The icing on the cake was the mariachi band competition in the same place! The group of students from Roma, Texas won. I know that because the abuela (grandma) of one of the students was at our hotel.

Carolina and I met up at the airport and took a taxi to the hotel she had booked. Red Roof Plus was a better deal than other hotels closer to the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center. It was about a 10-minute walk. Denny’s was the mid-point, so I had a couple of meals there. 🙂 The prices were reasonable, and I could rest my poor feet. My feet were killing me Saturday, but I’ll get to that later.

The exhibitor’s section was huge. I spent all evening and part of a day there just getting free products and making contacts. I picked up a French book for Ysabela and some candies to share with her as well. The attendees are expected to get a lot of samples because when we all checked in we received a large red bag for all the loot! We also got our official badge that could be scanned at vendor booths for more free stuff. The badge had ribbons that we had to attach. I got three for mine: pink, red and blue. Carolina had two on hers.

We got to the convention center right at 6 p. m. when registration was about to close for the day. Getting checked in at closing time was not so easy! Carolina made sure the harried clerk took care of us, but it took some persuading. Two other women got in line behind us. The clerk wasn’t going to check me in until we promised to make sure others knew the line was officially closed after those last two ladies behind me. More came, but we told them the line had already been closed, so they would have to come back in the morning. I think they were staying at the hotel next to the conference center, so it wasn’t such a big deal.

The scene outside the exhibitor's hall....

The scene outside the exhibitor’s hall….

The Texas CANdelier at the convention center....

The Texas CANdelier at the convention center….

To be continued….


Berty Segal Cook, a phenomenal teacher

Berty Segal Cook, a phenomenal teacher

If I had to describe Berty Segal Cook with just one word, it would be….DYNAMIC. She is, however, so much more! Inspirational, dedicated, magnificent and amazing are all words that easily describe her. Honestly, you may not understand just how amazing she is unless you attend one of her workshops and experience language learning with her. That’s how several language teachers spent the day. I had been looking forward to it for weeks! Many of my colleagues drove hours for the privilege if that tells you how respected she is in the field of second language acquisition. Berty flew in from California last night to conduct the training. She has presented workshops in 22 countries. Jan Coone organized everything, including breakfast and a wonderful lunch! It doesn’t get any better than that! Words can’t describe how rejuvenated and refreshed I am. I feel like I can make it to the end of the year! (Excuse me while I happy dance.)

We began the day with coffee and donuts, always a good move when you’re dealing with teachers. Berty started promptly at nine because she had a full day of activities for us. She explained the differences between the left brain and the right brain. My preferences lean strongly toward the left brain, meaning I am more “linear” in my thinking, and I see details that make up the big picture. I need to take notes and figure out verbs! In many cases, this causes a lot of stress, especially for language leaners. Those “right brain” people can take in the whole of something and use the senses to absorb what is happening around them. I learned that by using right brain activities, intelligence is actually increased! Activating the right brain also determines long-term retention. Berty was able to prove that without a doubt. She indulged our left brains and cited the work of Asher, Krashen and Terrell. She allowed us to make a few notations in our handout, but not many. That was hard for me as a left brain thinker. When she started our lesson by teaching commands in Yiddish, I thought my left brain was going to have a seizure!

Yes, you read correctly—Yiddish (her first language). Berty would take breaks from the commands and let us stretch our legs and get coffee, discuss other aspects of language learning and come back to the commands. After three or four hours, all of us remembered what to do even without her modeling the command for us! She expected all of us to get immersed and involved, so we took turns throughout the day being examples for her lessons. I was chosen (along with four others) for the clothing description activity. I was first in line, so she started by describing my long hair, glasses and blue Cinco de Mayo shirt. Then things got exciting. She lifted my foot about 18 inches off the floor. I quickly grabbed the shoulder of Emily (to my left). My other hand landed on Berty’s back. She paused and asked if I had problems with my legs. My response: Not until today! She went down the line describing each of us. Then she asked the “class” to point out who was being described as she listed characteristics she had mentioned. All the participants were able to understand and be successful! Now we have to change our methods to reflect what we learned.

We were lucky enough to be able to order Berty’s books, and she was kind enough to have Jan copy lessons we can use as resources while we wait for our books. I don’t know about my colleagues, but I will be putting our text books on the shelf as of tomorrow. My kids and I need to have some fun with learning again.

To find out more, see Berty’s website (below). If you have the chance to sit in while she demonstrates her lessons, do yourself and your students a favor and GO! We need Berty in teacher prep classes at the college level! Jan Coone also has a great website for teachers. You can find it below as well. This was a day well spent.
Weekend Bloggy Reading