World Languages Teachers Make Virtual Conference Rewarding for All
NOVEMBER 17, 2020 – Leslie Baldwin is the World Languages Program Manager for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
As she has done in previous years, Baldwin presented at the annual conference of the Foreign Language Association of North Carolina (FLANC). Her topic for the 2020 Annual Fall Conference was “Low Prep, High Engagement,” which focused on creating engaging activities for students.
After the conference, Baldwin learned that her presentation was voted one of the Top 10 Best of FLANC.
In announcing the recognition, Jeff Pageau, the organization’s 1st Vice President, wrote, “We had over 100 sessions at this year’s conference, and the participants in Leslie’s session rated it as one of the best in terms of topic, expertise, delivery, usefulness, audience response, and overall quality. Please join me in congratulating Leslie!”
Baldwin enjoys making presentations.
“In my heart, I’m a teacher,” she said.
Because of the coronavirus, she was not able to meet everyone in person this year. This conference was held virtually Oct. 9-11.
Originally, it had been planned to be held in person in Winston-Salem. Making the switch to virtual brought many challenges for everyone associated with the conference. A number of people with WS/FC Schools who serve on the organization’s board worked really hard to make it all work, Baldwin said.
“It’s a really big job,” Baldwin said. “I want to highlight the work that teachers on the board do.”
“It went very, very well. I was really pleased.”
One of the WS/FCS teachers who made it all happen was Robbie Richwine, who, as president, was responsible for organizing the conference.
Richwine teaches French at Reagan High. Richwine was already working with students remotely last spring when he learned that the FLANC conference would become virtual.
He began participating in FLANC when he was in graduate school at Wake Forest and became a member of its board six years ago. After becoming an officer, he learned three years ago that he would be in charge of organizing this year’s conference.
“I had lots of ideas for what I wanted to do,” he said.
When the decision was made to go virtual, he said, “I had to change a lot of things.”
Making those changes required a lot of additional work.
“It was quite a busy time,” he said. “In the three weeks leading up to it, I was working all the time.”
Between teaching his classes or preparing for the conference, he said, “there was really a time I wasn’t working.”
He wasn’t complaining. He was simply answering a question about how much time he invested.
“I think, overall, it turned out very well,” Richwine said.
Richwine grew up in Virginia Beach. Several people in his family spoke French. When he was in elementary school, his mother came to his school as a volunteer to teach French to the students. He visited France for the first time when he was 10, and, along with the language, enjoyed the culture.
Richwine knew he wanted to be a teacher. He also enjoys grammar and other aspects of language, and becoming a French teacher seemed a natural choice of subject. He came to North Carolina to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel. He earned his master’s degree at Wake Forest University.
He knew Baldwin through FLANC and began teaching for WS/FCS 11 years ago. After teaching at such schools as the Career Center, Mount Tabor High and Reynolds High, he found his home at Reagan 9 years ago.
Richwine said that, when it came to the organizing and overseeing the conference by no means did he do it alone.
One of those working with him was Greg Williams, who teaches Spanish at Mount Tabor High. As the webmaster for the FLANC board, Williams had to deal with many of the challenges presented by the virtual conference.
“We are used to having a conference where many of the sessions and workshops include hands-on activities with quick transitions,” Williams said.
“Also, many of the attendees come for the networking and comradery in addition to the pedagogy. We needed to try to recreate that online. Also, all of our educators are used to using a wide range of technological tools and have various levels of comfort with technology, so we had to work to make sure that everyone felt at ease.”
Williams, who is in his 12th year with WS/FCS, has served on FLANC board for a couple of years.
“I’m proud to be a part of such a worthwhile volunteer organization<” Williams said.
“I serve on the board because I believe FLANC is an important organization that provides networking, professional development opportunities, and fellowship to teachers of world languages at all levels at all types of schools across North Carolina.”
Serving on the board and working the fall conference, I get to work with a fantastic group of educators, which helps me, in turn, become a better teacher.”
“The fall conference is our biggest event of the year. When we are in person, we often get 500 to 600 attendees, making it one of the larger conferences for world languages teachers in our region of the country.”
“It is a lot of work to put on successfully, but we all get so much out of it. I am happy to say that while it was a lot of work to convert our in-person conference into a virtual one, it went very smoothly. We received plenty of positive feedback from our attendees, presenters, and exhibitors.”
Jennifer Solis, who teaches Spanish at Hanes Magnet Middle, also serves on the FLANC board.
“I have been teaching 27 years – six years teaching English in Costa Rica and 21 years teaching Spanish in North Carolina,” Solis said. “This is my sixth year in the WS/FCS District.”
“I officially joined the board as Northern Regional Representative after this year's Fall conference and will serve in this role through October 2022. I did previously serve on the board from 2012-2016 as a Regional Representative and 2016-2018 as Secretary.
“I serve on the FLANC board because I am passionate about language learning and teaching and FLANC is a professional organization that allows me to share this passion with others. As a board member, I am given the opportunity to help organize language conferences and other events to share best practices in World Languages (WL) throughout our state. I also get to meet many outstanding WL teachers who have become part of my own collaboration team.”
“At FLANC, we call many of these teachers our PFF's – Personal Friends of FLANC. We met at FLANC and continue to meet there.”
“I was not on the board for planning this year's virtual conference but did attend. The conference was fantastic. There were many different languages represented in presentations for all levels of language teaching and learning as well. The technology ran smoothly, and the presenters could be seen and heard with little difficulty.”
“I know it took a lot of time and communication between our Executive board, webmasters, presenters, and conference volunteers to put this together. In addition to the conference sessions, chatrooms were set up to meet with your PFF's and other colleagues. An exhibitor's hall was also set up where vendors shared videos and other information about their products.”
Baldwin was one of six World Languages teachers with WS/FCS who presented at the conference.
“It was great to see our teachers showing that kind of leadership and sharing with the conference attendees,” Baldwin said.