In 1994 Kathy White, then a French teacher at the Orchard School, and Kathy Hollander, a Spanish teacher at the Sycamore School, were talking about how neat it would be to get together with other teachers teaching languages to young children. Back then, there were not nearly as many resources available for songs, poems, projects, and fun activities for children learning French and Spanish. Our most valuable resource, then, as is true now, was each other.

Kathy White set a date, brought a wonderful baked brie appetizer, and we were off. We began meeting at various schools, getting acquainted with each other and swapping ideas like crazy. Claudia Nole and Molly Murphy joined us, as did Julie Berry, Nancy Morales, Mary Williams (Lappin), Olga Koorman, Mary Louise Cardwell, Louisa LaGrotto, and Karen Steves. We decided on topics to explore at our occasional gatherings, like: 1) fun ideas for celebrating holidays; 2) what works better- going to your students’ classrooms or having your own classroom?; 3) pros and cons of exploratory language programs in middle school, etc. We would explain our programs and projects. Barbara de Gortari explained her immersion program and Nancy Morales brought her students to perform “The Little Red Hen” in Spanish.

At an IFLTA conference, Mary Williams (Lappin) talked with Kathy Hollander about her work at the national level with NNELL (the National Network for Early Language Learning) and her vision of our casual group becoming a more formalized organization. Not one to sit back, Mary brought Rose Egan into the picture and we developed our group into IN-NELL (the Indiana Network for Early Language Learning). Others joined in, including Pamela Valdes (Gemmer). We had our first conference in March, 2000 at the Carmel Clay Administration Building. Charter membership was offered in 2001. By locating and inviting other early language educators throughout the State, we grew to a group of about thirty. Our fledgling IN-NELL group worked diligently, locating other teachers, inviting them to gatherings, and publishing a newsletter. Our 2004 conference set a record attendance of over 100. Everyone attending joined both IN-NELL and NNELL, making Indiana the state with the largest number of NNELL members in the United States that year.

Recently, Mary Louise Cardwell and Loic Andre joined IN-NELL’s board, which continues with the same goals as ever: to provide opportunities for language teachers to get acquainted and swap ideas like crazy.

Based on original story by Kathy Hollander

Ellen Shrager

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