ACTFL Reflection

by Amy Liermann

 I recently had the opportunity to attend the Annual ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.  This convention brings together over 7,000 language educators from various backgrounds, languages, and levels.  One of my favorite parts of walking through a language conference is hearing Mandarin, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and other languages being spoken among colleagues as if each step were a walk around the globe.  It is a reminder of the great diversity represented in my field of language education and unity among these educators that comes from a common purpose of teaching our PK-16 students how to communicate in a foreign language and, at the same time, respecting, understanding, and navigating through the target culture.  There were four workshops that both reminded me of the excellence of our Westtown Lower School education and Spanish program and inspired me to further explore and refine the language experience for our students. Continue reading

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When Roman Letters Meet Chinese “Characters”

By Bei Zhang and Jean Marí Hernández López

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) hosts an Annual Convention and World Languages Expo. This international event brings together more than 7,000 language educators from all languages, levels, and assignments. Its annual conventions are one of the best professional development experiences for language professionals since educators from all over the globe get the chance to share and learn from each other.

This year Westtown language teachers, Bei Zhang and Jean Marí Hernández López successfully presented a conference session called “Using Authentic Materials: A Teachers’ Guide” in Nashville, TN. ACTFLThe session explored the use of authentic materials in the language classroom in order to provide opportunities for learners to interact with the language as it is used by native speakers. They explored the benefits of authentic materials in support of the three modes of communication while connecting language with culture. They demonstrated a student-centered approach in the use of authentic media to facilitate active student participation and engagement.       Continue reading

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Inspiration at AAR and CSEE

By Brian Blackmore
Each fall, for the past 8 years, I have attended the American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) annual gathering, the largest conference of Religious Studies and Theology scholars in the world. This is a special time for me to find inspiration and new resources for my work, network with premiere thinkers in my field, reconnect with close friends and colleagues who teach at a distance in various institutions across the U.S., and hear about new findings in cutting edge research and scholarship. I feel like a kid in a candy shop at the AAR. This year, I attended sessions about Hindu-Christian inter-religious dialogue, the value of the Puranas (a collection of sacred texts about Hindu Gods) as teaching tools, conservative claims for “religious freedom” and the politics of LGBT rights, best practices for introduction to religion courses sponsored by the Wabash Center, the limits of Anthony Benezet’s (Quaker) abolitionism, decolonization in Kenyan Quaker meetings, a panel about my friend Heather White’s book “Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights,” and believe it or not, much much more.

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2017 NAIS Equity Design Lab: Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Teacher’s Experience

By Jeanne Watson-Smith

IMG_2502I attended the NAIS Equity Lab with a knowledge and love of brain research. Zaretta Hammond, Design Lab leader, connected my past professional development with what we know about best practices for fostering the learning of students of color. Hammond made it quite clear that micro aggressions and  teacher inability to grasp a student’s cultural frame of reference affected the student’s success in school. In essence, when a student of color is not fully understood, is marginalized, or is made to feel uncomfortable, their brain shuts down and no learning takes place.  From neuroscience studies we know that under stress the amygdala sends out cortisol which freezes the learning processes of the brain and puts it in a defensive mode. No learning can take place when the brain is in fight-or-flight mode.

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Blu Seeds: Explorations and Reflections from the Adirondacks, Summer 2017

By Jeff Waring, Art Teacher at Westtown School 


For the past 15 years or so, I’ve traveled to the northern Adirondack park, usually in mid July. Our family meets for a week at an old Great Camp just west of Saranac Lake, once used by Cal Coolidge as his Summer Whitehouse. Here among the history and the beauty we intentionally unwind and unplug. Perched on a ridge overlooking Osgood Pond, our setting offers access to pristine paddling, meandering trails, and solitude. The fragrance of pine, the softness of the forest floor, the towering trees, the moss, the fungi, the deadwood, the loons’ laughter, and the flow of water all refresh and reinvigorate my soul. There’s a lean-to close by where I usually set up an impromptu studio, and daily visits offer me the time and mental space to paint. My annual one week visit always feels right, yet always too short. Continue reading

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Where does beauty fit in?

As a member of the Mastery Transcript Consortium, Westtown is exploring what we value and how to assess it. Yesterday, the faculty team focused on these discussions had its first meeting. Towards the end, as we were discussing how one assesses skills and whether or not our own list of Global Competencies was the complete list of content, skills and habits of minds we want for our graduates, a colleague asked, “yes but where is the place for beauty?” Continue reading

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