Dual Language SchoolsDual Language Female Leaders: Lisa Dorner of MODLAN

01/2019

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In many states, the adoption of dual language programs is just now beginning to take hold. For newcomers in such programs, a solid foundation is key and can be built successfully through a network with other dual language programs allowing for the communication of shared techniques, resources and ideas. Dr. Kim Song and Dr. Lisa Dorner both realized the importance of this foundation in their work with the dual language programs in Missouri, where support networks were lacking. From these humble beginnings, MODLAN -- The Missouri Dual Language Network -- was founded and has since achieved remarkable success.

Dr. Lisa Dorner has been involved in the development of dual language programs since she left college. She got her initial start abroad, just shortly after graduating when she moved to Japan, beginning a career in language education by teaching English as a foreign language. After her time there as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, she moved to Chicago, continuing her teaching of English as a second language at a community college.

While Dr. Dorner was getting her graduate degree, her classwork and experiences led her to question what values our society might reap with more widespread bilingualism. Historically the United States mostly has focused on English education in public schools, but there are also strong traditions of communities creating and advocating for bilingual education. Through her work, Dr. Dorner saw the possibilities (and challenges), as she supported and researched the development of two-way dual language programs in the Chicago suburbs.

After her time in Chicago, she moved to Missouri where she became an Assistant Professor for the College of Education at the University of Missouri- St. Louis (UMSL). It was through her role there that she began to partner with a new network of one-way dual language schools, specifically the St. Louis Language Immersion Schools (sllis.org). As a direct result of this work, she became very involved in thinking about the development of dual language schools more broadly across the state. There were a few dual language schools in Kansas City that wanted to grow and many rural districts discussing the implementation of new programs.

In talking with a colleague who led the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) programs at UMSL, Dr. Kim Song, and other state-level educators, they realized that for programs to be successful, they had to connect dual language educators to allow them to communicate, share resources and work through problems of implementation and setup together.

As a result, they informally started the Missouri Dual Language Network otherwise known as MODLAN. Upon the creation of this community, Dr. Dorner says many parents supported the organization and liked the Facebook page online. The organization started working with the Cambio Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia (http://www.cambio.missouri.edu/) and attending their conference to gain more networks and continuously grow as an organization.

Dr. Dorner's advice for those looking to start an organization like this one is to not make it an overwhelming task. Start small and network with those you know would be interested. Find like-minded organizations and conferences that exist near you and network with people there. The dual language scene does not have to be extremely prevalent for there to be passionate people who want to help these programs succeed. Simply raising awareness for these types of projects is getting work done.

For a closer look at MODLAN's website click here.