QFI and ACTFL – How it All Began and What’s Happening This Week!

QFI booth at ACTFL

By Jillian Lomanno*

Ever since QFI was founded in 2009, we recognized that the key to supporting the learning of Arabic in schools was to help the people doing the really hard work – the teachers. In most school districts there is only one Arabic teacher, which in the past had left many of them feeling a little isolated and lacking the support groups available to nearly all other instructors.

We asked ourselves: how could we help them create a community? The annual convention held by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) was an excellent opportunity to bring Arabic teachers together, but teachers didn’t have widespread access to funding for the conference registration and travel expenses. Beginning in 2010, QFI became a regular presence and focus for Arabic teachers at the convention, and we held events including a reception that has become a highlight of the year.

Teachers exploring QFI’s latest resources during ACTFL last year

As QFI’s Arabic language programs and support grew, so did the presence of Arabic teachers at ACTFL. When QFI held a dinner at the 2012 ACTFL in Boston, 80 guests were expected: in fact, 150 showed up. In a further effort to increase the number of Arabic teachers attending, and in memory of one of the original and key advisors to QFI from the start, we developed the Dora Johnson Awards, which typically provide up to $1500 to help cover registration and travel expenses. As recipients of the award, more than 100 Arabic teachers have benefited as first-time attendees or presenters at ACTFL in the years since then.

The challenges this year for schools and teachers have been unique, and conferences cannot proceed as normal. So this year’s ACTFL, which starts on Friday, November 20th, has gone online. While we will miss the camaraderie that comes from being together in person, QFI is proud to be bringing over 30 teachers together for a crucial weekend of professional development. And in some ways, going virtual will mean that the convention will be even more “global” than usual – as QFI supported teachers will be attending ACTFL from more than six countries and presenting from four.

It’s appropriate that QFI will be hosting four exhibitor workshops on digital storytelling, virtual exchange, assessments, and online learning tools because we have been connecting communities online for years. Long ago we were helping students in the US and the Middle East build bridges remotely, and we have partnered for many years with NaTakallam, an inspirational organization that connects Arabic learners with displaced persons for language practice via skype.

We may not be able to be there this year with our booth or for our dinner – an occasion that often ends in song and laughter – but we look forward to participating in ACTFL’s first online convention and are excited to share this year’s online collateral. Here you can download a zoom background that QFI has designed especially for ACTFL and a digital teacher planner.

Please tune in to QFI’s exhibitor workshops at the following times:

Learning Goals First, Technology Second

  • Friday, November 20, 2020, at 1:45 pm – 2:30 pm

Familiarizing yourself with the STAMP 4Se

  • Friday, November 20, 2020, at 3:35 pm – 4:20 pm

Language Learning through Multilingual Digital Storytelling

  • Saturday, November 21, 2020, at 11:05 am – 11:50 am

Cross-Cultural Learning and Language Acquisition Via Virtual Exchange

  • Saturday, November 21, 2020, at 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm

*Jillian Lomanno is a Senior Program Associate.