Pre-Conference Workshops
Thursday, October 26, 2023

Morning - 6-Hour Workshops

Workshop 1 - Creating Confident Communicators:  Building Interpersonal Skills
Presenter:  Leslie Grahn

During this workshop, participants will do a deep dive into the interpersonal mode. They will deepen their knowledge about their Generation Z and Alpha learners and how to engage them in interpersonal tasks. Participants will also explore ways to build student confidence to spontaneously communicate, practice designing interpersonal tasks, plan for interpersonal skill
building, and consider ways to give feedback to students that leads to growth in their interpersonal communication skills. Time will be allotted for “design time” during which participants will create and plan for interpersonal tasks for upcoming units.

Leslie Grahn has twenty-seven years of language teaching experience at the middle and high school levels and twelve years of experience at the central office level, most recently as Coordinator of World Languages for the Howard County Public School System in Maryland. Leslie has been a course instructor on foreign language teaching methods and differentiated instruction, has led both curriculum and assessment development teams, and is a frequent presenter at state, regional, and national conferences, specializing in best practices. She curates and creates resources to support language teaching and learning and shares them through her website ( and on Pinterest (grahnforlang). She has experience in teacher and leadership development and leads training on instructional coaching, mentoring, leadership, and communication skills. Leslie is the co-author of The Keys toStrategies for Language Instruction and has served on the boards of NECTFL, NADSFL and ACTFL.

Workshop 2 - Program Design and Collaboration:  World Languages in the Age of Proficiency
Presenters:  Timothy Eagan & Nicole Sherf

 World languages are the least understood content area and the least funded in districts. In order to align programming with state and national standards, world language departments need to be strong advocates and effective collaborators. This workshop will outline rationale and steps for this important work. Topics addressed include: Designing curriculum, cultivating essential departmental resources, managing, effective meetings, and using data to help the department develop a voice, action steps and tools to build a strong foundation or continue the work on the path to proficiency.

Nicole Sherf is Professor and Secondary Education Coordinator in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Salem State University.  She has more than 30 years of experience in teaching Spanish and in program coordination, first in K-12 and now to undergraduate and graduate students of Spanish and Spanish teachers in training.  She was a longtime Board member of the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) where she served in a number of capacities including Conference Chair, President and Advocacy Coordinator.  She is on the Steering Committee of the Language Opportunity Coalition which advocated for the passage of the LOOK Act in November of 2017, and has been co-leading the MA Seal of Biliteracy Workgroup and Pilot since 2014.  She writes articles at the state and national level and presents sessions, workshops and professional development on a variety of topics related to foreign language teaching, assessment and programming at the district, state, regional and national level.

Tim Eagan been a language educator for over 30 years. He currently serves as department head for World Languages in the Wellesley Public Schools, grades 6 to 12, with primary responsibility for curriculum, budget, supervision and evaluation of 25 teachers at the 6 - 12 level and secondary supervision and evaluation responsibility of 7 teachers at the K - 5 level. Prior to Wellesley, he taught French, Spanish, and sometimes Latin at both middle and high school levels in several districts in Massachusetts. He holds a B.A. in French and Spanish and an M.A. from UMass Boston in Critical and Creative Thinking with a concentration in content-based language instruction and second language acquisition. At UMass, he was awarded the Critical and Creative Thinking Award for Academic Excellence. He serves on the executive board of NADSFL and was a member of the MAFLA board of directors for 15 years, serving as president in 2017. He is a frequent presenter at MaFLA, NECTFL, and ACTFL, and has been published in The Language Educator.

Workshop 3 - Machismo and Masculinities:  A Testimony and a Workshop Around Vulnerability, Positionality, and Identity
Presenter:  Abelardo Almazán-Vázquez

This workshop is an invitation to explore themes and curriculum materials where elements of machismo and toxic masculinity continue to be the norm and accepted "in the name of the target culture." How do we challenge these ideas? How do we design and build new paradigms around identity, maleness, and masculinity? How can a WL educator be a role model in having vulnerable and honest conversations about gendered roles and stereotypes associated with masculinity in target language cultures?

Abelardo Almazán-Vázquez is in his 12th year teaching Spanish, coaching an all-gender soccer team, teaching Latin Dances, and is now World Language Department Head at The Putney School. He pursued his Licenciatura in Teaching Spanish as a Second Language at Universidad Internacional UNINTER and his Master's degree in Latin American Studies at Cleveland State University. Native from Cuernavaca México. He has presented at various WL conferences, including "Best of Massachusetts" for MaFLA2018, co-founder of the MCTLC (Minnesota Council of Teaching Languages and Cultures) 2020 "BIPOC/Immigrant" strand, featured session presenter at the NECTFL 2021 Conference, the Keynote speaker for the GWATFL (The Greater Washington Association of Teachers of Foreign Language)  2021 Spring Conference, and the Keynote speaker for VFLA (Vermont Foreign Language Association) 2023 Spring Conference.

Workshop 4 - Teaching Black Italy
Presenters:  Marialuisa Di Stefano & Joëlle Carota

What does it really mean to teach Black Italy and why should you pay attention? 

The objective of this hands-on workshop is presenting a wide array of resources and teaching materials focused on the polyhedric theme of “Black Italy” and discussing how to use them in the Italian L2 and heritage language classroom. Attendees will be presented with a conceptual framework along with practical applications to engage students in controversial conversations and critical thinking regarding Black Lives in Italy.


Born and raised in Italy, Joëlle Carota obtained a Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics from the University at Buffalo (SUNY) (international cotutelle agreement with University G. d’Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara). Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Italian in the World Languages and Cultures Department at Nazareth College and the director of Nazareth College Casa Italiana. Her research is focused on the outcomes of language contact in multilingual contexts. Therefore, some of her research interests include bilingualism, code-switching, as well as second and heritage language education



Marialuisa Di Stefano is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education. She is a multilingual and multicultural teacher educator and researcher. Her research interest lies in disciplinary biliteracies development that contribute to transforming educational opportunities for historically minoritized student population. Di Stefano is the MABE (Multistate Association for Bilingual Education, Northeast), past-president (2022-2024) and Conference Co-Director, and the AATI (American Association of Teachers of Italian) New England Co-Representative (2020-2023).


Thursday Evening - 4-Hour Workshops

Workshop 5 - Centering Indigenous Cultures and Anti-Racismo in Thematic Units
Presenter:  María Datel

In this interactive workshop, participants will explore how to plan standards-based, culturally contextualized thematic units by using indigenous cultural productions and anti-racist authentic resources to push students to think beyond the colonial framework. The presenter will provide attendees with the resources necessary to create theme-based instructional units that are constructed around the Integrated Performance Assessment. The participants will explore how to sequence learning tasks in ways that integrate the modes of communication and will leave the session with applicable, ready-to-use tools and resources.

María Datel is a Master Lecturer at Boston University, where she serves as the overall coordinator for the Spanish Language Program, is a fellow in the Designing Anti Racism Curricula Fellowship Program, and co-organizes the Second-Language Learning and Disabilities Conference. She teaches courses in Spanish language, Spanish for heritage learners, and second language pedagogy. With research interests centered around anti-colonial pedagogies, she has devoted the past few years to creating a more inclusive and equitable Spanish-language classroom that is attentive to marginalized cultures, particularly those of Latin America. María has presented nationally and internationally on decolonization, antiracist teaching, and


Workshop 6 - Make it Stretch!  Design Instruction by Getting the Most Out of Text Sets
Presenters:  Mike Farkas & Heidi Olson

Join us to learn how to build a rich text set that can be used for a unit of study at different proficiency levels! Presenters will share insights on how to leverage text sets to drive instruction at varying language proficiency levels and get learners communicating while at the same time fostering educator sustainability.

Michael Farkas is a Spanish teacher at Canton High School in Canton, MA. Since 2019, Mike has been a member of the MaFLA Board of Directors and serves as the Needs & Policy Committee Chair. During his tenure, Mike has facilitated various virtual webinars and workshops on pedagogy and DE&I. Most recently, Mike has co-designed, and co-implemented an additional MaFLA offering called MaFLA Meets, which aims to connect MaFLA members and create a social space for fellow world language educators to connect and collaborate.  In addition, Mike is an ACTFL LILL (Leadership Initiative for Language Learning) Advocate from Cohort 4. Mike has co-presented at MaFLA and ACTFL with his friend and colleague, Heidi Olson. Mike is excited to continue collaborating with Heidi through this pre-conference workshop. Furthermore, he looks forward to sharing how text sets are used to create units that empower learners to communicate meaningfully and support them in developing their intercultural proficiency. 

Heidi Olson is a Spanish teacher and the Pre-K-12 World Languages Coordinator for the Canton Public Schools in Canton, MA.  During her career, she has taught elementary, middle, and high school Spanish and English and has presented at MaFLA, RIFLA, NHAWLT, and ACTFL.  From 2019-2020, Heidi served as a review panelist for the 2021 Massachusetts World Languages Framework (Communities).  Since 2021, she has been on the DESE Elementary World Languages Volunteer Implementation Team as a Unit Planner and Webinar Facilitator.  Heidi is excited to share her passion for unit planning in this pre-conference workshop with her friend and colleague, Mike Farkas.

Workshop 7 - Level Up with Authentic Resources: Building a Growth-based Curriculum
Presenter:  Charlotte Gifford

Aiming for higher proficiency is key to growth, but how do we help students reach higher levels of functional ability? Consistent and effective use of authentic resources can be the means to the end! Too often, students stick at a given proficiency level, preferring to stay with the safe and easy. By focusing on students’ abilities, plus what they will need in order to perform at the next higher level, teachers and learners can leverage these motivating, high-interest resources to bridge that gap.
This interactive workshop offers concrete strategies to get students unstuck. Participants will analyze how to make best use of authentic resources, rendering them accessible at all proficiency levels. They will learn to build this target-and-support strategy into the curriculum, then brainstorm and develop a wide variety of techniques that move students up the proficiency scale. At the center of this approach is the wide variety of real-world texts (print, audio, video, and more) that are easily available. Moving beyond the use of purely interpretive tasks to demonstrate student comprehension of text, this approach engages learners in all three communicative modes with deepened cultural understanding. Participants will experience and learn concrete strategies for enhancing comprehensible input with authentic resources and for maintaining target language use at 90% plus, as well as assessment strategies that mirror instruction.

Charlotte Gifford is Professor of French and Spanish at Greenfield (MA) Community College. As dept. chair of WorldLanguages, she has worked extensively at GCC in curriculum and course (re)design, as well as student learning outcomes assessment. She holds a BA in French (Tufts), an MA in Spanish (Middlebury) and the DALF (Université Jean Monnet).
Charlotte is a Past President of the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) and a Past Chair of the Northeast Conference on Teaching of Foreign Languages (NECTFL). She presents regularly at state, regional and national language conferences, most recently on the use of teaching for proficiency, Backward Design, authentic materials, social justice themes, performance assessment, teaching with film and common departmental assessments.