2019 OFLA Award Winners
Beth Hanlon, OFLA Immediate Past President
Spanish Teacher, Oberlin High School
As the OFLA immediate past president this school year, I was responsible for serving as the 2019 OFLA Awards Selection Committee chair. I would like to thank the 2019 OFLA Awards Selection Committee for all of their hard work vetting and selecting award winners: Mary Goodwin, Kathy Shelton, Roz Terez, , Teri Wiechart, and Lee Wilberscheid.
It was my privilege to present winners with their awards in front of the keynote crowd at the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (CSCTFL) in March. Friday night of the conference, a reception was held for CSCTFL and OFLA award winners. It was a privilege to meet and spend time with these phenomenal Ohio world language educators and supporters!
Here are this year’s OFLA award winners! Congratulations again to them all!
Distinguished Career Award: Martha Halemba
Martha taught for 35 years. She was a Spanish teacher, department head, and Senior Lead Mentor for Hudson City Schools in Hudson, Ohio. She currently serves as Chair on the CSCTFL Board. Her other roles have included CSCTFL Teacher of the year and ACTFL finalist, Professional Development Chair for OFLA, President of OFLA (2008-09), and LILL collaborator. She has been a leader in Ohio for transforming the state to proficiency based teaching and assessing, and was instrumental in passing legislation adopting the Seal of Biliteracy. She has been recognized for many of her presentations in Ohio as well as CSCTFL. She has garnered several awards including the Harvard University Award for Excellence in Education, the Ohio Governor’s Award for Leadership, the OFLA Professional Service Award, and most recently the Martha Holden Jennings Master Teacher Award.
Distinguished Career Award: Paula Sondej
Paula Sondej graduated from the Ohio State University in 1974 with degrees in Spanish Education and Theater and Speech Education. She later received her master’s in World Language Education from OSU. She first taught at Linden McKinley High School and later at Beechcroft High School and Columbus Alternative High School. She capped off her 35 in Columbus by mentoring first-year teachers and serving as Curriculum Coordinator for World Languages. She helped secure a FLAP grant to continue Columbus K-8 immersion programs through high school. After retiring, she co-managed the grant, and also taught and supervised student teachers at Otterbein University. Paula also worked with OSU to help Spanish education candidates become alternatively licensed. In 2012, she began working part time as an Educational consultant in World Languages at the Ohio Department of Education. She retired in 2018.
Ed Allen Award: Dr. Jennifer Behney
Dr. Behney is Associate Professor at Youngstown State University, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Italian language and linguistics, World Language teaching methods, language acquisition, and sociolinguistics. She is also the University Supervisor of student teachers of Spanish and Italian and program coordinator of Foreign Language Education in the Beeghly College of Education (BCOE). She is active in the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Ohio Foreign Language Association (OFLA), where she serves on the Teacher Education and Licensure Committee. Her research interests lie in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and World Language teacher training. In SLA, she researches second language processing and has conducted research on grammatical gender processing and eye-tracking. In World Language teacher education, she researches teacher candidate performance and perceptions on the World Language edTPA. She is co-author of an introductory SLA textbook (with Susan Gass and Luke Plonsky) and co-editor of a volume on salience in SLA (with Susan Gass and Patti Spinner). Her work has appeared in Foreign Language Annals, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, and several book chapters.
Outstanding Technology Award: Kasumi Yamazaki
Kasumi Yamazaki is Assistant Professor of Japanese in the Department of World Languages & Cultures, where she teaches advanced level courses of Japanese as a Foreign Language (JFL) and culture. Dr. Yamazaki’s research focuses on a wide range of contemporary Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) pedagogy and integration, namely, the use of 3D simulation games and virtual realities (VRs), the development of intelligent CALL (ICALL) systems, and the effectiveness of hybrid teaching curricula. Dr. Yamazaki currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Technology in Language Teaching & Learning by Castledown Publishers; Dr. Yamazaki’s research also garnered attention through her series of publications at international and regional conferences such as CALICO, EuroCALL, AATJ, ACTFL, JALT-CALL, CSCTFL.
Less Commonly Taught Languages: Gaby Semaan
Dr. Semaan is communication specialist and an expert on Middle East politics, languages and cultures. He holds a Ph.D from BGSU in Communication with a specialization in Intercultural Communication and cognates in Organizational Communication, Education and Language Teaching. He is an associate professor and the Director of Middle East Studies and the coordinator of the Arabic program at the University of Toledo. Dr. Semaan has numerous publications in national and international journals and is an active presenter at regional, national and international conferences. His areas of research include cultural identity of Arab Americans and Arab diaspora in the U.S. and Europe. Dr. Semaan also researches, presents and publishes in the field of global competence and language teaching pedagogy.
Outstanding Administrator Award: Kenton Lee
Mr. Kenton (Kenny) Lee has been in education for 18 years. After graduating from Miami University in 2000, Mr. Lee began teaching high school social studies in the Westerville City School District at Westerville North and Westerville Central High Schools. As a teacher, Mr. Lee served in various teacher leader positions including Department Chair and Site Based Council Member, and received the Great Educator Mentor Award for the District and WEA Teacher of the Year in 2007. In 2010, he transitioned into a dual role as Assistant Principal of Blendon Middle School and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator for Middle and High Schools. After two years, Mr. Lee served as the Facilitator for Innovative Learning Systems where he coordinated technology integration and Credit Flex programming in addition to expanding his Social Studies Curriculum role to include elementary grades. In 2014, Mr. Lee moved from Westerville City Schools to Columbus City Schools where he began his current tenure as Principal of Columbus North International School. During his time at CNIS, Mr. Lee has supported a World Language department that provides students with the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Korean, Spanish, French, and Japanese. Mr. Lee credits his amazing World Language department for growing student interest and creating rigorous learning environments where students have fun, but also see the relevance and application of what they are learning. In addition, the growth and sustainability of these languages could not be possible without strong partnerships with The Ohio State University and local community organizations and business that continue to provide hands on world language learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
Please remember that if you know an outstanding Ohio world language educator, a call for the nominations for the 2020 OFLA awards will come out late fall. You can preview the award descriptions here: https://ofla-online.org/awards/