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Center for Economic and Community Development

 

November 29, 2008

 

Dr. James J. Tomek, Professor of French

Delta State University

DSU Box 3215

Cleveland, MS  38732

 

Dear Dr. Tomek:

 

This letter is written as a public statement of appreciation of your scholarship and professional service for a workshop of foreign language teachers at Delta State University, April 20, 2004.  The workshop was one of a series of professional development offerings for teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools in the State of Mississippi. 

 

Under a three year Standards-Based Teacher Education Program (STEP) funded by the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education and a Title II Mississippi Teacher Quality Education Enhancement Partnership grant, Delta State University faculty initiated professional development offerings designed to improve (a) “standards-based education” in schools, (b) preparation of teachers through alignment of university curriculum with national and state standards, and (c) interaction and personal relations among K-12 teachers and university faculty.  The professional development efforts for foreign languages were directed by Dr. Tomek.

 

            Because foreign languages in K-12 schools are exempt under standardized testing requirements and meeting national and state standards for accountability by the Mississippi Department of Education, Dr. Tomek recognized the perception that “languages are not important” and the importance of maintaining a dialogue among K-12 teachers and university faculty members to assure quality programs meet high standards.  In addition, he was aware that state sponsored meetings were typically not well attended and foreign language teachers were reported to feel “left out” of the mainstream of curriculum design for schools.  In preparation to address the issues of foreign language teaching and learning, Dr. Tomek partnered with Christine Brown, an associate with the American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), to sponsor a full-day workshop for preparing teachers to infuse national standards established by the ACTFL into their school curriculum.

 

            With great success, the ACTFL workshop served 21 teachers of foreign languages, 4 Delta State University students, and 3 University faculty members.  The results were most impressive.  A selected list of outcomes to show the scope of influence follows.  Participant statements seem most appropriate to capture the enthusiasm of this most productive meeting:

 

  • Meeting with other foreign language teachers and university professors is great!!!
  • Knowledge of the breakdown of grade levels to foreign languages. . .
  • Access to and understanding of ACTFL standards and how to interweave foreign languages into other areas of curriculum.
  • Specific ideas how to incorporate the 5 Cs (Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities) into the curriculum.
  • Now the groundwork is laid, we need to work on specific ways to integrate the grammar and structure of languages into the structure of real life and other helping disciplines.
  • Learned how to assess with a product-based approach.
  • Learned how access the web for lesson plans and use of ACTFL materials and standards.

 

These most impressive outcome distinguishing this workshop as the “best” professional development effort was a strong commitment on part of all participants to continue the dialogue, form an informal group of University and K-12 teachers for additional work, install a functional network for teachers of foreign languages, and sponsor additional workshops in the future on specific subjects. 

 

Without the strong, committed leadership of Dr. Tomek, foreign language teachers would not have had the opportunity to address ACTFL standards-for teaching and learning, create an interactive relationship with the University’s foreign language faculty members, and personal connections with Christine Brown, ACTFL representative. 

 

Through this new relationship of foreign language teachers with Dr. Tomek, challenges of teaching foreign languages in all grade levels and curriculum aligned with national and state standards are now considered a responsibility of the community of foreign language teachers.  Coupled with this new goal to increase language offerings in the schools is a strong commitment by the teachers to meet state and national standards, continue professional development efforts, and build a strong partnership with the foreign language professors at Delta State University.

 

Clearly, this letter is a strong statement of appreciation to Dr. Tomek for his leadership and influence on the K-12 schools in Mississippi.

 

                                                                  Sincerely,

 

 

                                                                  C. Hines Cronin, Director

                                                                  STEP Project

                                                                  Professor of Curriculum and Instruction