The visit was brief but jam packed with activity and the reviews so far have all been great. On Sunday, March 31, a multi-regional group of two dozen English teachers and administrators from 23 countries visiting the US through the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) arrived in Springfield. The visit was organized by World Learning in Washington, DC.
The trip began with a stop at the home of American poet Emily Dickinson in Amherst. A mix of business and pleasure, everyone in the group was at least somewhat familiar with Emily Dickinson’s work and delighted to see her home. One visitor from Bangladesh said, “From now on whenever I teach her work I will feel like Emily Dickinson is in the classroom with me.”
Monday was all business although still a lot of fun. Editor at Large Peter Sokolowski at Merriam-Webster, Inc. put together a full day of workshops on a variety of relevant topics. The day began with a welcome and brief history of Merriam-Webster from President and Publisher John Morse. Mr. Morse and Mr. Sokolowksi then lead a tour of the building.
After the tour and a delicious coffee break, Peter Sokolowski presented “Idioms and Usage in a Learner’s Dictionary”. (Every member of the group was given a copy of Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Essential Learner’s English Dictionary to take home with them.) Director of ELL Publishing Jane Mairs then offered tips on “Teaching Vocabulary”.
Following lunch, the group learned about how to run a spelling bee both in a classroom and on a larger scale. The members of the group then participated in a spelling bee among themselves. There was even a sudden death tie breaker between two Visitors before a winner emerged with the word “nausea”.
In the afternoon Associate Editor Kory Stamper presented more classroom activities using a learner’s dictionary and an astonishingly thorough and entertaining history of English in 45 minutes! (Did you know the first recorded use of the acronym OMG for Oh, My God! was in a letter from British Navy Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher to Winston Churchill in 1917?)
A very special moment happened early on in the proceedings when Mr. Hachime Athie, an English teacher from Mauritania, showed off his copy of a Merriam-Webster French-English Dictionary, which Peter Sokolowski wrote, that was given to Mr. Athie by the African Education Initiative of the US Agency for International Development ten years ago. “I carry it with me always!” said Mr. Athie.