Foreign Language Teachers Join Annual Professional Development Academy
Catherine Ritz, a clinical assistant professor at BU Wheelock, led the most recent edition of the Proficiency Academy, an annual professional development event for modern foreign language teachers hosted by the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA). Ritz created the Academy five years ago in her role as a member of MaFLA’s board of directors, and has served as its director each year.
“One of my favorite parts of Proficiency Academy is what we call the ‘Proficiency in My District’ presentation,” says Ritz. “We highlight three different school districts each year, and ask them to present their journey on the path to teaching for proficiency.”
This year’s attendees included BU alum and modern foreign language educator Beckie Bray Rankin (Wheelock’07, CAS’07). “Taking the time in a different setting to network with people who are similar to you in so many ways yet with diverse experiences and voices allows you to reflect in new ways on your practice,” she says. “The unique blend of learning, processing, creating, and brainstorming with colleagues from other districts pushes you to apply the concept right away rather than a more traditional PD approach which focuses purely on learning and overwhelms you a week later when looking through your notes.”
The sessions also give Ritz an opportunity to see how past Academies have helped attendees refine their practice. “I can see the impact of this event in these presentations, and the excitement that the teachers experience when they focus on getting their students to speak and communicate, rather than doing verb conjugations and memorize vocabulary lists,” she says. “What’s even better, though, is that this approach to language education actually works for students. We see incredible results in student learning outcomes, and students are more engaged in their learning.”