Authors of Safe Spaces Article win NECTFL Award

Awards, Community,

On February 23, 2024, the Board of Directors of the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (NECTFL) announced the recipients of its Stephen A. Freeman Award for best published article on language teaching for 2024, Creating Safe Spaces: Diverse Instructional Materials for World Language Learners.

The authors of the award-winning essay (with their present academic affiliations) are:

Lucian Rothe, Ph.D., (University of Louisville) Chiann Karen Tsui, Ph.D., (German International School of Portland, Oregon) Paul A. García, Ph.D., University of Kansas (Retired), Michael B. McCloskey, M.Sci., Bunker Hill Middle School, Washington Township, NJ

Each co-author is a long-time member of the AATG, the American Association of Teachers of German. In 2020/21 and 2021/22, Michael Shaughnessy, AATG’s Executive Director, brought the Safe Spaces Task Force into existence. During that period, over 20 teachers of German from all levels came together to produce instructional materials such as those the authors created and explained in their article published in March 2023, in The NECTFL Review. Their curricular units (including four lessons about life in contemporary Berlin and Vienna by Dr. García and Mr. McCloskey containing over 70 activities) and those of other task force colleagues feature the often “invisible in textbook” but clearly present diverse citizens and their contribution to the multilingual, multinational communities that unite natives and immigrants in German-speaking Europe.

In nominating the article for the prestigious award that is bestowed annually since 1968, a member of the jury noted,

“…this article has a clearly defined objective of ensuring cultural diversity and inclusivity in language learning curricula through the specific lens of a German language classroom. The push to promote diversity and social justice has become integral to current best practices. The article addresses the need to recognize and support linguistic, cultural and sexual identities while supporting our most invisible and marginalized communities in the German language world. The authors recognize their inherent biases and clearly delineate a scientific approach to change curricula. They give credence to extensive data collection from their research and offer specific strategies to use within ALL language classrooms.”

The author’s other instructional materials to the AATG initiative and those of other colleagues from the Task Force, are available free of charge at

Biographical information about the award recipients is below.

Lucian Rothe (Ph.D., U. of Wisconsin—Madison) is an assistant professor of German at the University of Louisville. His scholarship explores learners’ stereotypical perceptions of teachers and native speakers and strategies to make the study of German a more diverse, inclusive, and socially just teaching, research, and learning endeavor. He has published articles in Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German, the Journal of Language, Identity & Education, and NECTFL Review. He has taught in Germany and the United States and worked as mentor for world-language teaching assistants. He currently serves as book and software review editor of Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German.

Chiann Karen Tsui (Ph.D., Stanford University) is the PYP Coordinator at the German International School of Portland in Oregon, where she coordinates the International Baccalaureate program. She also serves as the inaugural Equity Officer for the American Association of Teachers of German. Her research interests include the dynamics of cross-cultural transfer, particularly between German- and Chinese-speaking regions. She has published articles in The German Quarterly and the European Review.

Paul A. García (Ph.D., U. of Illinois), a Charter Member of ACTFL, retired from the Kansas City, Missouri, Schools in 1998, where he taught German and Spanish at Southwest HS (1973-1987), before becoming district supervisor of foreign languages, creating 8 immersion schools for French, German, and Spanish (K-8). He then taught ESL/WL methods at the University of Kansas School of Education, winning a major federal grant for professional development of ESL instructors (1998-2006) and subsequently served as director of the doctoral program for language acquisition at the U. of South Florida (2008-2010). His research interests include listening comprehension, teacher education methods, curriculum development, and LGBTQIA+/ Diversity challenges for language programs. He has published 35+ articles (Foreign Language Annals, NECTFL Review, Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German, Hispania) and given over 150 presentations. Paul A. García has also served as president of FLAM, NADSFL, ALL, and ACTFL in the past and is a member of ACTFL’s national committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Michael B. McCloskey (M.Sc., Purdue University) is a German teacher at Bunker Hill Middle School in Washington Township, NJ. His professional pursuits over the past ten years have focused on locating and providing authentic language materials for novice level learners as well as providing professional development on tools to increase student voice in the classroom. He has participated in and presented on AATG’s Creating Safe Spaces initiative, where he authored materials related to more diverse family structures and culturally representative food in the German-speaking world.