1991 Metcalf Cup & Prize
Maria Brisk, SED
Maria Brisk is a teacher of teachers, her influence many times multiplied as her students enter classrooms across the country. Her specialty is crucial and controversial: bilingual education. Too often, bilingual education has served to trap non-English-speaking children in their native tongues, depriving them of full participation first in their schools and later in American society.
Fully bilingual herself, Professor Brisk propagates a bilingualism that produces children genuinely at home in two languages. Her classroom really is bilingual: children speaking different native languages learn by using them both.
Professor Brisk is putting her method to work in the demanding environment of the Chelsea public schools. Spanish-speaking children are learning English, and English-speaking children are learning Spanish. America is becoming a little less tongue-tied.
Professor Brisk’s program in Chelsea is a model for the nation. Recently a bilingual education official visited a Chelsea classroom to observe Maria Brisk’s methods. His reaction was immediate and clear: “This is the best way to do it. ”
Maria Brisk’s students in the School of Education are unanimous in praising her rigorous intellectual standards and the endless energy she devotes to assessing and improving their work. The character and pervasiveness of her influence is perhaps best captured by a bilingual teacher—a native speaker of Spanish—trained in a program Professor Brisk designed and for which she obtained funding: “Maria Brisk believed in my dream of being educated in this country, and because of her help, today I educate children in Boston.”