By Lucas Gravitt
President-elect, Kentucky World Languages Association
The Kentucky World Language Association (KWLA) is a network of individuals who support, promote and advocate the teaching and learning of a variety of world languages and cultures. It also serves as a clearinghouse for data, information and research relevant to effective programs and practices in the learning and teaching of world languages and cultures, and is a provider of professional development for P-16+ teachers of world languages and cultures.
With almost 500 active members, KWLA is the largest organization for world language educators, professionals and supporters in Kentucky. The annual conference in September is the single-largest event offered by KWLA, which draws in about 400 attendees each year. With more than 60 one-hour sessions and a variety of three-hour workshops, the KWLA Fall Conference offers professional development specifically tailored for teachers and professors of languages other than English.
In response to the state’s economic needs, one recent focus of the association has been to bridge language education and the workforce, making obvious connections with local businesses so Kentucky’s students can be better prepared for the global workforce.
While the fall KWLA conference is a highlight, the association also provides many professional development opportunities. The association’s professional development committee, in conjunction with KWLA’s Outreach Clearinghouse, have partnered with the University of Kentucky to produce monthly podcasts on topics ranging from language acquisition research and global competency/world language program review, to specialty and immersion programs. Language Talk Podcasts are available at no cost at www.kwla.org/podcast/.
KWLA also offers regional professional development sessions, as well as on-demand webinars. These events allow teachers, from the comfort of their home or school, to come together to collaborate, learn and grow professionally.
KWLA not only focuses on teacher support and development, but also provides opportunities for students to show what they can do with languages through the association’s annual World Language Showcase and Competition. Formerly called the State Festival, the showcase invites students from across Kentucky to demonstrate through a series of assessments and project presentations that they, indeed, are proficient in a language other than English.
Students are assessed in the morning in interpretive reading and listening comprehension, and in the afternoon on their presentational speaking and interpersonal communication skills. Once a student’s proficiency ratings are determined, they are given the opportunity to competitively participate in real-life activities that allow them to use their language skills.