The Journey Begins

I began teaching in 2008 in Minnesota.  I thought I knew what I was doing.  I had no idea.  In 2009, our world language coordinator read The Keys to Assessing Language Performance and gently, yet firmly, pushed us to begin implementing Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) into our curriculum.  I thought she was crazy – how could I really expect 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students to complete all of these intensive language assessments…without any resources?!?  I helped write them, because she made us, but I was doubtful the whole time.

Then came 2010 when we actually began teaching our units using the IPAs we wrote last year.  To my amazement, not only did my students complete interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational IPAs…they were overwhelmingly successful!  My students completely surpassed my expectations and produced incredible amounts of real and meaningful language.  In the previous year, students hardly ever spoke Spanish unless forced to during rote, memorized textbook activities.  Upon implementing IPAs, my students were speaking volumes of real Spanish, and having spontaneous conversations among themselves, often without any prompting from me!  My proudest moment was at the end of 6th grade, when I had student upon student write 1-2 pages about their school day in Spanish…without resources.

Student IPA Sample
A sample from a 6th grade student’s final presentational IPA

In the following years, having fully bought into the power of IPAs, my Spanish team wrote and implemented IPAs for every single unit we taught.  We continued to look to ACTFL for quality professional development and updated our work throughout the years.  We moved from using interpretive textbook readings to creating interpretive IPAs using authentic resources (materials produced by native speakers for native speakers) for every interpretive IPA.  We tirelessly tweaked our interpersonal IPAs to create more real and spontaneous conversations.  We refined the engaging situations on our presentational IPAs to have real-world tasks.

In 2012, the position for world language coordinator in our district became available.  I applied and was pleasantly surprised to be offered the job.  I served a three-year term as program coordinator and found that not only did I have a love for teaching students, but I had a passion for leading teachers and developing meaningful world language curriculum.  I attended my first ACTFL conference and went to session after session of incredibly high-quality professional development.  I attended a workshop with Helena Curtain and saw Paul Sandrock in person.  I returned to my district and threw myself full-force into leading our department and program in the newest directions.  We read and updated our assessment rubrics found in Implementing Integrated Performance Assessments.  We outlined unit plans for every single unit in every single course using resources from The Keys to Planning for Learning: Effective Curriculum, Unit, and Lesson Design and Languages and Learners: Making the Match.  We researched, read, discussed, and implemented the best standards-based grading practices we could use even when tied to a traditional grading program.  We proposed a high-quality elementary language program…and were denied, but there’s always next time.

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My sweet daughter

My role as district world language coordinator ended in the spring of 2016, and I returned to teaching full-time middle school Spanish.  I had a beautiful baby girl on Halloween, enjoyed maternity leave, and thought I would be perfectly content just teaching, implementing, and refining my classroom practice using all the wonderful resources we had worked with during my time as coordinator.  And as much as I truly loved being back in the classroom, I found that I missed working at the “big picture” level.  I missed researching, I missed leading colleagues, I missed program and curriculum design.  So when a group of world language coordinators asked who in Minnesota was using IPAs and could help their staff develop and implement IPAs in their own districts, I raised my hand.

I collaborated with the Minnesota Department of Education to produce the IP-Yay! professional development series for area world language teachers, and I fell in love with leading again.  I started presenting at our MCTLC conference.  I joined Twitter and found an entire network of world language professionals who were leading and sharing amazing ideas.  I led a summer IPA session for K-8 teachers.  I developed the 5-part Rate it! Assessing Student Performance in the World Language Classroom professional development series the following year, featuring a session with Paul Sandrock (who now knows my name – insert fangirl fainting here!).   I joined the MCTLC executive board.  I found that I had a lot to share, and that there were a lot of teachers and school districts who were interested in my work.

So here I am, ready to share on a global platform and give back because so very many  passionate language teachers have given to me.  I by no means have all the answers.  I’m still learning, I’m still exploring.  I will forever be tweaking.  I’ll be sharing my journey with you all along the way.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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