Mark W. Himmelein, OFLA President
Professor of German, University of Mount Union
Although we are already several weeks into the new school year, allow me to welcome all OFLA members back and to extend my best wishes for this academic year to each of you! By now I suspect that most of us are well into the swing of teaching our classes, grading, advising our language clubs, and attending meetings. The relaxing days of last summer seem like a distant memory to me, and the holiday break in December is just too far off to even imagine. But we are language educators, and we persevere. Let’s make this new school year a productive one for ourselves, for our students, and for OFLA!
It was indeed wonderful this past July to gather for the annual conference once again. Although later than usual and smaller in size, it was nonetheless an enormous success! Getting together with colleagues face to face was much welcomed after two-plus years of doing nearly everything virtual. The OFLA board also benefited as well from the opportunity to come together for an in-person meeting where we could share ideas and discuss plans for the future. I should add that this year for the first time in perhaps twenty years, the annual conference was organized entirely by the OFLA President, Richard Emch, with assistance from several board members and volunteers. In order to economize, the OFLA board opted to not use a meeting planning company to manage the conference. This change resulted in considerable savings for OFLA, but it also required a substantial amount of time from our board members and volunteers. I am incredibly grateful to all of you who rallied to make this long-delayed conference a reality.
As you might expect, OFLA was also very deeply impacted by the pandemic shutdowns and restrictions. Our annual conferences planned for 2020 and 2021 had to be postponed, resulting in lost deposits and a decline in membership as our colleagues focused on their personal situations. Our conferences were traditionally the venue for members to renew and for new colleagues to join our organization. Without that opportunity, membership declined. After much effort on the part of the OFLA Board to economize operations, our financial health is once again improving. Membership renewals are steady, and we continue to welcome new colleagues to OFLA because of the exceptional professional development opportunities OFLA has provided for the past two and a half years. And speaking of membership – why not renew now at www.ofla-online.org (That was subtle, wasn’t it!). I must also acknowledge the contributions of so many OFLA members, as well as the outstanding work by our dedicated state world language consultants, Ryan Wertz and Kathy Shelton, who quickly went to work to deliver meaningful professional development opportunities to Ohio language educators via new media. This collaborative work was indeed nothing short of extraordinary.
In the coming year, OFLA will continue its excellent professional development opportunities both virtually and in person. Members are encouraged to check www.ofla-online.org for future professional development opportunities. Please remember to circle March 9-11, 2023, on your calendar for the 2023 CSCTFL/OFLA joint conference at the Downtown Hilton in Columbus, Ohio. We are excited to have a large Ohio contingent as we always have in the past. The conference will be held in person and will have many excellent sessions, workshops, speakers, and vendors. Those familiar with previous Central States/OFLA conferences will be pleased to know that the Hilton Hotel on High Street has expanded to include a new property directly across the street. This will enable attendees to avoid the convention center entirely and to have all conference activities under one roof. Information regarding scholarships, awards, and registration can be found at https://www.csctfl.org Please register early to get the best rates. If you would like to assist OFLA with the local duties such as the hospitality desk, please contact me directly.
By now all members should have received a survey regarding options for future annual conferences and professional development opportunities. The OFLA board is looking forward to analyzing your responses as it makes plans for the future. We welcome your continued input and feel free to contact me or any board member. Our contact information can be found on the OFLA website. In preparation for our annual convention with CSCTFL in March 2023, we will be soliciting nominees for various OFLA and CSCTFL awards. Please consider nominating deserving colleagues for these awards. Winners will be recognized in March at our conference.
And, related to membership, remember that OFLA welcomes participation by all members from every language taught across Ohio at any level. We have a number of committees and officer positions available where every member can contribute. Board experience is not needed, and new talent is much appreciated! The only requirements are OFLA membership and the willingness to work collaboratively. Most meetings are virtual, so there is far less traveling than has been the case in the past. Please watch for coming announcements about elections and volunteer opportunities!
Once again, please accept my best wishes for this academic year. As president, I am excited to be a part of OFLA as we move beyond restrictions on professional gatherings. I look forward to visiting with as many of our members as possible when we gather at our next conference together with CSCTFL in March 2023. Bis bald, und alles Gute! See you soon, and best wishes!