Mark. W. Himmelein, OFLA President
Professor of German, University of Mount Union
The end of another academic year is just around the corner for most of us. Some at the post-secondary level might well be done by the time our outstanding editor and her team publishes this newsletter. Regardless, I am certain that all of us are looking forward to warmer weather and also to time to relax, recharge, and enjoy some downtime. OFLA, of course, continues with its mission and programming. In this edition of The Cardinal you will read about our upcoming summer mini conferences and professional development opportunities. Over the summer OFLA will also welcome its newly elected officers and committee chairs. They will bring to OFLA new ideas from which we all will benefit. At the same time, some board members, myself included, will be transitioning into new roles or leaving the board altogether. To these incredibly talented and dedicated colleagues I thank you for all you have done for OFLA during your term(s). Clearly, your leadership guided us through a very troubled period with cancellations, postponements, and the pivot to online delivery of professional development activities, not to mention the financial challenges that ensued from the unforeseeable events of the last few years. With the return of our annual spring conference this past March with the Central States Conference, we took yet another big step toward returning to the OFLA we knew before 2020. It was certainly very enjoyable to meet again face to face with other Ohio colleagues and to welcome guests from across the nation to the Buckeye State! Since this will be my final letter to the membership as OFLA president, allow me to offer a little advice and some food for thought.
KEEP OFLA GROWING. We as a profession are facing a severe labor shortage. Many of you have felt the acute shortage of competent language instructors when you have tried to replace a retiring colleague or when you needed a substitute. We would all agree that educators who are active professionally in organizations such as OFLA, ACTFL or the AAT’s are very often our best teachers. Bringing more colleagues to OFLA not only benefits our organization, it also advances our profession. I think this is especially true for new teachers who too frequently leave the profession after just a few years. Let’s try to find new ways of outreach to our colleagues who are not OFLA members.
KEEP OFLA AFFORDABLE. As my undergraduate advisor once told me, “Don’t go into teaching if you want to be rich!” While salaries have improved, funds for professional development have declined considerably. Additionally, most students leave college with significant debt, and balancing loan repayment with rent, transportation and perhaps a family stretches any budget. If anything good came from the Covid pandemic, it’s that OFLA’s leadership found new ways to economize and to reach out to the membership. It is critical that we keep our membership fees and our conference costs as affordable as possible so that we might attract more colleagues. While our joint conference with Central States was excellent, we as an organization must examine how frequently we meet jointly with other organizations so as to keep registration fees, accommodations, and dining affordable. This edition of The Cardinal contains information on the plans OFLA has for addressing these concerns during the coming academic year.
BE SUPPORTIVE. One issue I have had to deal with at various times in my career is the lack of support for language programs by other language instructors. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Perhaps it is due in part to the lack of respect for language education in so much of this country. This unhealthy competition that pits language against language becomes especially destructive when “numbers” become the principal basis for decisions on program continuation. For much of my career, I have been fortunate to work with colleagues who realized that language programs that lack language choice are programs that are doomed to fail. As language educators, we need to stress the importance of keeping as much breadth in our language curricula as possible so as to best serve our students. Remember the proverb “A rising tide floats all boats,” and work with OFLA to ensure that our programming, leadership, and advocacy efforts support colleagues who teach languages other than the one(s) we personally teach.
With that I will conclude this letter by thanking my fellow OFLA board members and our entire membership for your support during my year as president. I look forward to working together with you to preserve OFLA as the premier language association it has been for decades now.
I wish you all a safe, relaxing, and pleasant summer!