Avant Newsletter – October 2017
IN THIS EDITION:
A Message from Avant’s CEO
Interview with Marzanna Owinski
Interview with James Lin
Interview with Dawn Samples
Where You’ll Find Us!
A MESSAGE FROM AVANT’S CEO, DAVID BONG
Fall is here at last. I am excited to announce two new partnerships for Avant.
On September 1, Avant announced its partnership with the Polish Mission in
Michigan to develop the Avant STAMP 4S assessment for Polish. This initiative
was generously supported by the Polish Consulate in Chicago and the Polish
Teachers Association, among others. We are thrilled to be able to offer STAMP
4S for Polish in the spring of 2018 for use in awarding the Seal of Biliteracy. See
our interview with Marzanna Owinski of the Polish Mission and the
press release from the Polish Mission.
I am also very pleased to announce a partnership with Better Chinese of Palo
Alto, CA to pair Avant STAMP with its extensive offerings of Chinese learning
methods and materials for a wide range of traditional and online programs for
kindergarten through college. See our interview with Better Chinese CEO,
We have also included an interview with Dawn Samples who has built one of the
country’s finest proficiency-based language programs for ALL of the students in
her Lexington, South Carolina district.
Avant has always worked hard to support language teacher associations at the
state and local level. This month alone Avant will demonstrate its support by
exhibiting at eleven state conferences: Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts,
Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. Please
let us know if you would like Avant to exhibit at your state or local conference.
See you in November.
INTERVIEW WITH MARZANNA OWINSKI OF THE POLISH MISSION
“My kids are in Poland now, using their Polish to communicate with family, make friends, really connect with people there.”
The proud mother, Marzanna Owinski, is also a language educator leading efforts to improve and expand Polish language education in America. Her organization, The Polish Mission, has worked for 130 years to preserve and promote Polish culture among Michigan’s abundant Polish-American population. The next step towards that goal is establishing a Seal of Biliteracy in Michigan.
“If a child’s heritage language is recognized and rewarded, they are more likely to maintain and develop it,” says Owinski. Her campaign started with a pitch to the Michigan Department of Education. Now she is part of a multi-language task force establishing criteria and standards for a Michigan Seal of Biliteracy. But Polish lacks a key piece of the puzzle: a reliable, accessible measure of proficiency to certify student literacy.
INTERVIEW WITH BETTER CHINESE’S JAMES LIN
James Lin’s first ACTFL Conference in 2005 was a lonely time. The foot traffic to his booth for his company, Better Chinese was light. 11 years later, over 1100 ACTFL attendees are offering Chinese to their students. Better Chinese is thriving.
I catch up with Lin —where else?— on a California highway near his office.
“We are inquiry-based and student-centered,” he says. “Connecting language learning with Chinese learners’ lives and concerns. That’s the magic sauce that keeps us successful.”
Engaging pedagogy is baked into the company’s DNA. Lin’s in-laws founded Better Chinese in Hong Kong in 1997 to help children of expatriate families learn Chinese. Better Chinese learning centers helped children acquire and use the Chinese language through fun and engaging activities and stories, unlike traditional rote memorization.
INTERVIEW WITH DAWN SAMPLES OF LEXINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT
Imagine that your dream came true.
Your district superintendent reads deeply and thoughtfully about World Languages and says, “OK, let’s provide proficiency-based language learning to every student in the district. Let’s make sure that at least 75% of graduates achieve at least Intermediate proficiency. Then World Languages can be a model for other content areas.”
This is just what Dawn Samples’ superintendent in Lexington, S.C. told her in 2009.
Be careful what you wish for. Dawn can tell that a dream can turn into a nightmare. As District World Language Coordinator, it was Dawn’s job to make the vision of World Language proficiency for all in the Lexington Schools District’s “Schools of the Future” initiative a reality.
“It was not fun at first,” she says. “Everything needed to change. Everything.”