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Meet Our Trainers
ACTFL Workshop Trainers are a select group of nationally recognized experts who specialize in the specific content areas and regularly conduct workshops in the U.S. and abroad. ACTFL trainers all have demonstrated special talent and skill in OPI testing and rating, and they are successful in leading training sessions that provide content knowledge and practical, on-the-spot instruction in interviewing and rating of speaking competence in second languages. The corps of ACTFL Trainers is a small, carefully chosen group. ACTFL is extremely proud of its members' work and dedication.
Here are profiles of just a few of our current trainers:
Mahdi Alosh is currently the Research Chair Professor in the Arabic Language Institute at King Saud University and served as Professor of Arabic and Applied Linguistics and Associate Dean at the United States Military Academy at West Point from 2006-2009. He was Associate Professor at the Ohio State University 1987-2006, where he also served as director of the Arabic Language Program.
My role as an ACTFL trainer constantly puts me in contact with young professionals in the field, who want to make a difference. With ACTFL training, many of them have been able to assert themselves and contribute to the field positively, which is highly gratifying personally.
I took my first OPI workshop back in 1986. It was pivotal in my professional growth. I used the proficiency principles imparted during the training to overhaul the Arabic Language Program at Ohio State and to author a series of textbooks over the years based on these principles. Recently, I have finished a major project to develop a suite of proficiency tests for Arabic, all based on the ACTFL Guidelines. The opportunities made possible by ACTFL training are almost limitless.
In 2005, I was invited to conduct an OPI workshop at the American University in Cairo. The director of the Arabic Language Institute at the time Professor Al-Said Badawi mentioned to me that he was not particularly eager to have the participants obtain certification. He just wanted them to go through the workshop that he believed to be an excellent teacher development opportunity. Ironically, all the participants went all the way and became certified, an unprecedented feat.
Karen E. Breiner-Sanders is Associate Professor Emerita of Spanish and Hispanic Studies in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Georgetown University. Over her 34-year career at Georgetown, she taught a variety of courses including all levels of Spanish language, Hispanic film, and seminars on violence, human rights, and colliding images in Latin America. An ACTFL-certified oral proficiency tester and trainer and a certified rater of writing proficiency in Spanish and English, Professor Breiner-Sanders has conducted numerous workshops throughout the country and internationally on proficiency testing and proficiency-oriented instructional design. She is also a certified tester and trainer on the Government (ILR) scale in both Spanish and English. Her publications include "La Familia de Pascual Duarte" a través de su imaginería, The ACTFL Revised Proficiency Guidelines-Writing (2001, co-author), The ACTFL Revised Proficiency Guidelines -Speaking and Explanatory Appendix (1999, co-editor and co-author), The ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners (1998, co-author), as well as chapters and articles on Hispanic literature and film, and on language testing, instruction and acquisition. For the period 1999-2001, Dr. Breiner-Sanders served as Director of the Spanish School at Middlebury College in Vermont. She is founder and past chair of the ACTFL Cinema SIG (Special Interest Group), and she serves on a variety of boards in education and government.
I conducted my very first training in 1986, a mere 4 months after I became certified as an ACTFL trainer. I was to give the first plenary – which included the “functional trisection” -- at a mega-workshop in California that was the kick-off for a state-wide proficiency initiative on the university level. When I asked the organizer about the overhead projector, she told me that it wasn’t available for the first day, that I should just wing it. Small wonder that I broke out in hives and vowed never to conduct another training. That was 133 workshops ago and counting.
To this day, the organizer does not know that I had never trained before. Had she known, she might not have wanted me to be the first presenter before a large audience that included state officials and powerful sponsors. The California Project continued for quite a few years, and I never again suffered from hives.
I was the first in my family to attend college. When I returned home for a visit after my first semester, my father said to me “Okay, so talk to me in college”. After some 27 years as an ACTFL certified tester and 26 years as an ACTFL trainer, I can confidently say to the vast number of colleagues in the field “So, talk to me in OPI.” We now all speak the same language!
Sahie Kang (PhD in Linguistics, University of Florida 1990) is a Professor of Korean and Dean of School of Resident Education for Advanced Studies of Languages at the Defense Language Institute. She is the founding chair of the Korean Special Interest Group at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (2006-2009) and has served as Vice President of the International Association of Korean Language Education (2005-2007). She has been a Master Trainer and tester for the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview since 2002 and conducted numerous OPI Assessment workshops in major universities in the US as well as in Korea. She has also been an ILR tester since 1993. Her publications include “Implementing and Assessing Portfolio Projects” (with J. Shannon in TESOL PAIS, 2008) and “History of Korean Language Education” (with K. Minn, Hangukmunwhasa, 2005).
As an ACTFL Trainer, I value the tremendous opportunities not only to help teachers evaluate their students’ language proficiency more objectively but also to help them become a better teacher with realistic teaching and learning goals.
Conducting OPI workshops is one of my most favorite academic activities. It is interesting that I never get tired during the four day workshops that I conduct, even when they require me to travel on my own to places beyond American soil. Because of all the international workshops I conduct, the trainees often call me “OPI Missionary,” and I consider OPI training as my life mission.
The most recent group I trained in Sept 2012 commented a lot about their own teaching as not being very meaningful in terms of helping students to gain language proficiency throughout the four day workshop. On the final day, one of them commented “this OPI workshop is truly a life altering experience for me!” The rest of the trainees agreed that they became better teachers although they didn’t become testers instantly.
Flavia Laviosa is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Italian Studies and in the Cinema and Media Studies Program at Wellesley College. Her primary expertise is in Foreign Language Education and she trains teachers all over the world. Her teaching methodology is inspired to the Multiple Intelligences Theory. In her teaching she implements inclusive learning of all cognitive styles and needs. She is a certified ACTFL Italian OPI trainer and tester and has extensive experience as teacher trainer. Her principal area of research is Italian cinema and she has published extensively on several contemporary filmmakers. She has edited the volume Visions of Struggle in Women’s Filmmaking in the Mediterranean (Palgrave Macmillan 2010) and she is the founder and editor of the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, published by Intellect.
As an ACTFL trainer I value the productive exchange of experiences with colleagues from different institutions, states and nations. The interactive nature of Italian OPI workshops fosters constructive discussions and dynamic evaluations of the ACTFL oral assessment criteria, aims and scopes.
Assessment training has radically changed my way of teaching and evaluating my students of Italian in all kinds of learning settings. ACTFL OPI training has also allowed me to make a significant pedagogical difference in the careers of many teachers who have acquired this skill and have implemented these assessment criteria in their courses.
My senior ACTFL OPI colleagues' plenaries have always been highly inspirational and have contributed to my growth as trainer, tester and instructor. I owe my knowledge and expertise to all of them.
Ali Miano holds a PhD in education from the University of California, Berkeley, and coordinates the Spanish language program at Stanford University, where she has taught Spanish language courses at all levels since 1991. In 1997, she received the Gores Award, Stanford's highest honor in recognition of excellence in teaching. Ali's research efforts have focused on Latino parents' participation in their children's schooling and native language literacy among Spanish speakers in the U.S. In addition, she has conducted research on heritage and second-language learners' acquisition of presentational language, that is, language for academic and professional purposes. She also explores the use of technology in language teaching.
My first ACTFL OPI training in 1995 brought to life for me the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. I came away from that 4-day training with renewed confidence in my teaching and a firmer understanding of my role in the classroom. Taking what I'd learned back to the classroom, my ACTFL training allowed me to efficiently assess students' proficiency and calculate next steps, whether for individual students or general curricular planning. In short, the role of ACTFL training in my professional development has been indispensable. As a trainer, I am grateful for the opportunity to share it with others from a variety of language backgrounds.
Chantal Thompson is a native of Brittany, France. She is a teaching professor of French at Brigham Young University in Utah where she is also a coordinator of first-year courses. Chantal is also the founder of the African Studies Program at BYU and has directed 4 study abroad programs in Senegal, West Africa. She has received many awards at the Department, College, and University levels. Chantal has been an ACTFL Certified Tester and Trainer (in French and English) since 1986. Since then, she has also been very involved in revising the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines; she contributed to the 1999 revision of the ACTFL Speaking Guidelines and the 2001 revision of the ACTFL Writing Guidelines. In addition, Chantal has written three French text books, Mais oui!, a first-year program based on higher-order learning, Moments littéraires, an anthology for intermediate courses, and Ensuite, a second-year College text. Chantal is also a national long jump champion of France!
I have gained so much through my experience working as an ACTFL trainer, but above all, I value the friendships I have developed over the last 26 years with the trainers. Some of them are like family to me. We share so many memories of crazy hotels, wonderful meals, therapeutic laughter (there were times when we were so tired, everything made us laugh!), improvisations when logistical difficulties arose, and most of all, the team spirit.
Assessment training has impacted my career in many ways. The initial OPI workshop I attended in Boston in 1985 and the intense trainers’ workshop in Sewickley, PA literally changed my life. I started listening to language and seeing language teaching differently. As the coordinator of first and second year language instruction at BYU, I was able to make radical changes to our programs, and as I became known as an ACTFL trainer and conference presenter, publishers approached me, first McGraw-Hill, then Houghton Mifflin. As the circles of my professional reach kept expanding, I had to keep learning and experimenting. With the support of my Department and of the ACTFL community at large, I created new courses and chartered new paths in my textbook writing. It has been an exciting adventure. I can’t imagine any of this happening without my ACTFL training.
As a trainer, I’ve also had the opportunity to impact the careers of those who I trained. Since I started as a trainer in 1986, I’ve conducted so many workshops I’ve lost count – OPI, MOPI, Familiarization, Crossing Borders, etc. Each one was a unique positive experience with people who wanted to learn new ways of seeing language teaching and, thanks to Assessment Training, did. The transformation was palpable, and very rewarding. Several of my trainees have become trainers themselves, or have made a difference in our profession. Each year at ACTFL, I get comments such as “Do you remember me? I took a workshop from you in (year/place.) It changed my life!”
Maureen Weissenrieder, Ph.D, Penn State University, is professor emerita of Modern Languages at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where she teaches language and language description courses in Spanish. She was trained as an Oral Proficiency tester in the 1980s and has been conducting workshops for the ACTFL OPI since that time. She is the co-author of a first year text book and text book ancillaries and has published articles in Foreign Language Annals, Hispania and the Modern Language Journal. She is interested in Foreign Language pedagogy and testing, as well as language description.
The most memorable aspect of working for ACTFL as an OPI trainer has been the people I have had the privilege to meet. I continue to learn so much from them. The interviewees are always of interest as they tell us of their rich experiences during the interview. The colleagues who attend the workshops are also always willing to share the innovative ways they apply the OPI and its principles to their institutions, programs and classes. My professional life has been truly enriched by my involvement with ACTFL. I am blessed to be part of this professional family.