Cortney Bird, Spanish Teacher, Olentangy Liberty High School
Past President of AATSP-Buckeye Chapter 2014-2016
What is an Ohio OWLer?
Ohio OWLers is a group of enthusiasts who utilize Organic World Language, or OWL, which is a revolutionary teaching methodology that focuses on student-empowerment, kinesthetic engagement, and community to fuel second language acquisition.
Why this Bird became an OWL?
During my teaching career I have been afforded the opportunity to see professional development at various levels. From AATSP National, the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, OFLA, and AP College Board, to local district professional development, they have shaped me into the teacher I am today. This past spring while at the OFLA 2014 conference, I choose to attend a Thursday workshop that was presented by Dr. Kim Faber (Oberlin College) and Darcy Grytness Rogers, founder of Organic World Language. It was entitled SITES+OWL. SITES is Dr. Kim Faber’s Spanish in the Elementary Schools (see link below for more information) program in which Oberlin college students teach Oberlin City School K-5 students. Dr. Faber and Darcy Rogers have been working together for a few years and I have a previous tie with Dr. Kim Faber’s husband Dr. Sebastiaan Faber. In 2012, I attended his Ohio and the Spanish Civil War seminar (see link below). Having seen Dr. Sebastiaan Faber’s expertise creating an integrated unit with Spanish, Language Arts, and History, I knew that Dr. Kim Faber’s presentation at OFLA 2014 would be top notch.
I attended the OWL workshop with Debbie Varga (Revere HS), Andrew McDonie (Chillicothe HS), Amber Loomis (Elgin HS), Lisa Nicol (University of Akron/Camp OFLA), Maureen Conroy (Miami Valley School) and a group of four Spaniards from the ODE Teacher exchange at the OFLA workshop. It tired me out, but something sparked inside me. I needed to see more. Then I asked Dr. Kim Faber if it was possible to see Darcy Rogers at Oberlin College during her SITES training the next day.
Lisa Nicol and I were the only two non-Oberlin students there. It was interesting to see a Mentor-Mentee team teaching in a K-5 environment. We were able to see how Dr. Faber prepares her Education 101 students with tools to get the students to interact and acquire proficiency. Beth Hanlon was hired in June at Oberlin High School and that has connected our Ohio OWLer group even more.
We need to fast forward to August 2014. I found out on Facebook that Debbie Varga (Revere HS) drove all the way to Massachusetts for the OWL East Coast Boot Camp (see her article in this issue of the Cardinal). I started school on the 11th of August so I was not able to attend. It piqued my interest so much that I decided to host an OWL1 workshop at Olentangy Liberty HS September 19-20th. I talked with my Department Chair Lisa Baehr (Olentangy Liberty HS) and she suggested that we bring Darcy in for a department meeting on the 19th. We had a total of nine participants: Debbie MacKay (Worthington Christian HS), Andy McDonie (Chillicothe HS), Paulina Velez (Community of Saints School) Jing Yi Zhang (Chillicothe HS), Debbie Varga (Revere HS), Tony Pereira (Lincoln West HS), Beth Hanlon (Oberlin HS), Maureen Conroy (Miami Valley HS) and Marisol Green (Olentangy Berkshire Middle School). On day one Darcy, Jing Yi, Andy, Tony and I led my classes in Chinese, French and Spanish circles. We debriefed aspects of the methodology and participated in a department meeting with my colleagues at Olentangy Liberty High school. That evening we enjoyed Somali food at Solay Bistro. On day two we looked at assessments, literacy, and ACTFL proficiency levels. At the AATSP-Buckeye immersion weekend on October 10th Jennifer Pike (Oak Hills High school) and I completed a plenary session for part of our OWL2 workshop.
This spring we will be having our OWL2 workshop and OPI familiarization during the last full week of March 2015. We have submitted a fifty minute share out session at OFLA 2015 at Kalahari. It seems that our group is very supportive and encouraging. This has energized me and my AP kids have loved it! I encourage you to give a HOOT and attend or host your own OWL1 workshop in order to find out more.
SITES article in ACTFL’s Language Educator 2010
Organic World Language(OWL)
OWL article in ACTFL’s Language Educator 2013