Celebrating our ACTFL team diversity

ACTFL honors our team members' backgrounds and identity

ACTFL takes pride in our diverse staff and honors the background and identities of all our team members. We are thrilled to feature selected team members who wish to share more about their cultural identity and how it shapes their work for ACTFL and world language teaching. Thank you!

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month:

Celia Chomón Zamora, PhD, CAE

What significance does your cultural identity hold for you?

Celia Chamón Zamora

My cultural identity is much more than a label; it's a profound connection to my Venezuelan-Cuban heritage and my American present. Being a first-generation immigrant, this identity serves as a crucial bridge between my family's past and my own future. It's a living tribute to my ancestors, who sacrificed a lot to give me the opportunities I have today. This identity is essentially the only part of my family’s 'home' I have left, making it a cornerstone of who I am. It is not just about where I come from, but also how I navigate the world around me. Language, for instance, is not merely a communication tool for me, but also a repository of culture, experiences, and ways of thinking. Holding onto my first language of Spanish while learning English (and other languages) is akin to holding onto my cultural identity — it's a part of me that I continuously honor and cherish.

How does it play into your role at ACTFL?

Being a part of ACTFL, an organization deeply rooted in language education and cultural competency, my cultural identity plays a vital role. My background allows me to bring a unique lens to our offerings, resources, and community engagement. I am not only sensitive to what we already offer but am proactive in finding ways to broaden our horizons to include non-stereotypical cultures and diverse voices. I understand firsthand the transformative power of language education, making me passionate about its advocacy. My experience also sharpens my focus on representation and outreach; I know what it feels like not to see yourself represented, and I'm committed to changing that. I take immense pride in contributing to ACTFL's mission, knowing that my cultural perspective enriches our collective effort to break barriers in language education and beyond.

Tell us something interesting that others wouldn’t know about you.

I am an avid runner! I completed a 48.6-mile run in Disney World in January 2023 and am training to do it all over again in 2024. I also have a couple of half- and full-marathon races with my husband coming up in 2023-2024. The irony is that the entire time I was at West Point, I loathed running. But it’s fun to challenge yourself and do what you thought was once impossible!

Joe Vallina, CAE, MBA, MSM

What significance does your cultural identity hold for you?

Joe Vallina - HHM

I am a typical American mix...which is why a lot of people are surprised when they discover I am also Hispanic (and even more think I'm Italian! Sorry, my paisano friends!). In actuality, my roots go back to Asturias, a wonderful mountainous region of northern Spain. My last name is actually Asturian, not Spanish, and to be honest I really identify more as an Asturian-American than anything else. I have lived in Úvieu (Oviedo), and still have family in Gozón and Castrillón, on the Asturian coast. My family keeps up many traditions brought to the States by my ancestors, most notably the food! Pote Asturianu, Tortilla Española, and grapes at midnight on when the bells chime on NYE are all a big part of my family's history...and present.

How does it play into your role at ACTFL?

Since Spanish is not my first language, I know the critical importance of second-language acquisition. Learning Spanish has brought me closer to my heritage, enabled me to become close with my Asturian cousins, and most of all, opened my world to different cultural horizons. Working at ACTFL and supporting the language educators making this incredible journey possible is an immense source of pride for me.

Tell us something interesting that others wouldn’t know about you.

I have played pickup soccer on Sundays for the last 27 years, and still average 1.8 goals/game! Go Gen X!