Former Blugolds shine in state-level foreign language education conference

Chippewa Falls foreign language department wins best in state at WAFLT

More stories from Stephanie Kuski



Bottom left row: Jeannine Geiger, Brianna Hemauer, Katy Wolner, Emily Lamusga Top left: Kris Kolinski, Angie Oplinger, Rachel Arendt, Lisa Zondlo, Michele Nuttelman

A group of Chippewa Falls teachers recently won Best in Wisconsin at the Wisconsin Association of Foreign Language Teachers, a state-level conference for preparatory language education.

Seven of the eight foreign language teachers are former Blugolds, many of whom attribute their success to both their UW-Eau Claire education as well as the dedication and collaboration within the Chippewa Falls foreign language department.

Among the seven Blugold alumni are Brianna Hemauer, Rachel Arendt, Angie Oplinger, Katy Wolner, Michele Nuttelman, Lisa Zondlo and Emily Lamusga.

Oplinger, a high school Spanish teacher and 1999 graduate, said her Eau Claire education enabled her to incorporate strong reading strategies into her teaching style.

Collaboration is key to the success of the foreign language department, Oplinger said.

“Most of what I have learned [as a teacher] has been through professional development within my department,” Oplinger said.

Hemauer, a middle school French teacher and 2011 graduate, said WAFLT connects foreign language teachers statewide, where professionals can discuss how to incorporate culture, literature and grammar into the curriculum.

“Every year we become better teachers,” Hemauer said. “This award has reassured me that we really are teaching our students the skills and tools that they need to learn a language.”

In November, Hemauer, Arendt, Wolner and Nuttelman delivered a presentation at WAFLT about how to acquire language and make texts comprehensible. This year Wolner, Arendt, Lamusga, Zondlo and Hemauer are presenting novelty-engaging strategies for comprehensive input.

Their presentation was nominated Best in Wisconsin. The group will present the same material at the central state conference in Fall 2017.

Dr. Carter Smith, Eau Claire’s department chair of languages, said faculty have frequent discussions with the foreign language teachers at the Chippewa Falls school district to ensure that when students come to the university and test into higher level foreign language classes, their grammar and thematic concepts meet the university’s expectations.

“[We are] creating relationships and opportunities to discuss articulation between the middle and high school programs and the university,” Carter said. “We have a good history of producing top-notch educators in languages. We try to support them as much as possible so that they can send their students our way.”

Carter also said Chippewa Falls has a unique program with philosophies that many of the teachers were exposed to in the foreign language program at the university.

“All of our classes, especially the classes for the students who are going to become teachers,” Carter said, “provide them with more and more practice and different ideas on how they can best get students to increase their language proficiency and get them excited about the language.”