The 2017 ALA Latvian diaspora teachers’ conference, organized by the American Latvian Association Office of Education, was held September 9-10 at the Denver Latvian Church and Society Center. Teachers from Latvian schools across the country, from California to New York participated, including Kursa director Indra Ekmanis.
Conference participants introduced attendees to their schools, and discussed the successes and challenges facing Latvian education in the diaspora. Three Daces and one Kristina were the source of much inspiration, leading the primary conference lectures. Kristina Putene (New Jersey Latvian School) discussed strategies for teaching language at diversified levels, Dace Copeland (former ALA Director of Education) introduced a new Latvian literature readability project using LIX methodology, and Dace Mažeika (World Federation of Free Latvians Education Committee) introduced teachers to the wide array of language learning materials available through internet resources. Pedagogical expert Dace Anstrate flew in from Jelgava, Latvia, to share methodological techniques for teaching Latvian as a second language, as well as add excitement to the conference proceedings, engaging attendees in practical activities, educational games, and “fizminūtes” (mini-exercise breaks).
The conference was also an opportunity to learn more about the Denver Latvian community and school, which saw to it that conference attendees were well housed and well fed. After the conference concluded, several lucky teachers headed beyond the Mile High City to quickly see the mountains, guided by Rev. Mārtiņš Rubenis — a Kursa graduate. In fact, several Kursieši were in Denver, including Rev. Helēna Godiņa and Andra Zommers — the director of the ALA Office of Education and the conference organizer.
The conference was an overall success, participants went home with new educational materials and contacts, not to mention new inspiration and energy. We will see the influences of the conference next summer at Kursa, but until then, we wish all of the Latvian schools just beginning class a successful new school year!