Richardson Language Institute

Texas Teachers Are Students of Austin College Language Faculty

Soon they will be back at the front of their classrooms like teachers all over the state, but last week a group of 36 Texas high school language teachers were sitting in the student desks, participating in Austin College’s annual Richardson Summer Language Institute, July 18-22, presented by the College’s Department of Classical and Modern Languages.

Teachers came from all over the state for the program, representing schools from El Paso to Corpus Christi, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, as well as Brenham, Olney, Denton, Sherman, Denison, Waxahachie, the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, and cities and towns all around the state. The teachers of French, Latin, German, and Spanish participated in the week-long program that included speaking the languages at all times during the week.

“At all times” didn’t mean just in the classroom. The institute provided a residential immersion opportunity for the teachers, with workshops on culture, literature, and technology throughout the day and films, dance performances, meals, and musical programs during the evening. The participants stayed in Austin College’s Jordan Family Language House, where college students taking courses in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese may live, also speaking their target languages in all public areas of the house. During the academic year, native speakers live in the house to assist in the learning process for Austin College students and provide more information on the culture of their countries.

The Richardson Institute allows teachers to refresh language skills and to develop new cultural and technology resources for their students. The immersion in language also allows the teachers to speak the languages they teach, something many have few opportunities to do.

Elena Olivé, associate professor of Spanish was the director for this summer’s conference. Austin College faculty leading the conference were Robert Cape and James Johnson, Latin; Ruth Cape, German; Patrick Duffey and Julie Hempel, Spanish; and DeDe Hosek, French, along with Marie-Christine Jacquet, who has served as a visiting instructor for the institute for several years.

Michele Carpenter, a Spanish teacher at Olney High School found the experience very helpful. “This is a great opportunity to get a refresher while learning new strategies to enhance my teaching,” she said. “The total immersion in the language is exactly what every language teacher needs to strengthen confidence.”

The institute’s focus on culture also was a key to the success of the program, according to Mary Sweeten, Spanish teacher at Coldspring High School. “Integrating more culture into the classroom is crucial in encouraging students to learn Spanish,” she said. “This week has given me so many materials and ideas to expose both myself and my students to culture to provide a context in which they can learn the language.”

Selection for the institute was by application with required support from the teachers’ principals and assurance that foreign language students will have access to computers for language coursework.

All fees, including room and board, were provided by a grant from the Sid W. Richardson Foundation.

Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.