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Conference Aims to Bridge Gap in Teaching Culture, Modern Languages

By Tonya Malinowski / Staff Editor

The Bridging Cultural Identities Conference filled the normally quiet Student Center with a symphony of foreign languages on Saturday.

The third annual conference was held at CCSU and was sponsored by the department of modern languages and the Office of Continuing Education. Together they brought more than 200 modern language teachers and professors from around the state to see 42 registered speakers.

“We are trying to offer professional development that integrates teaching of language and the importance of culture,” said Carmela Pesca, chair of the organization committee.

The event, with sessions offered in seven different languages, strove to educate state language teachers on how to use language and culture as one unit to enlighten students on world civilizations.

“World language is expressed through culture, and culture through language,” Pesca said. “The connection of the two is very important.”

Through a series of sessions on world travel, art, music and project ideas, teachers were encouraged to use innovative teaching techniques in the classroom and help keep modern language a core subject in American schools.

Steven Strange, a Spanish teacher at Rocky Hill High School whose session was on the use of music in the work of Miguel de Cervantes, believes that culture and modern languages need to be more prominent in public education.

“Language teachers need to be more proactive in helping keep language education in schools,” Strange said.

The “Connecticut Plan” for middle and high school reform, passed in November, encourages teachers to seek professional development and calls for staffing for additional sections of modern languages.

“We’ve taken a much more aggressive approach with community outreach and workforce development,” said Richard Cheney, associate director of continuing education. “It’s still just the beginning.”

With some presenters in traditional dress, and all with pictures and stories of travel to share, the conference brought a huge turnout. The registration fee of $25 before Feb. 15 or $40 after prevented the conference from being affected by budget cuts.

“The world is getting smaller all the time,” Strange said. “It’s more imperative than ever that students be able to communicate.”