By Katelyn McBride
Two University of Iowa faculty members in the Division of World Languages, Literatures & Cultures (DWLLC) have been awarded $75,000 from the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad competition.
Irina Kostina, Ph.D., lecturer in Russian, and Anna Kolesnikova, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of Russian language, were selected for their project proposal "Russian Teachers for the 21st Century: Maximizing Teaching Effectiveness by Immersing into Language, Culture and Standard-Based Teaching."
The grant will be used to provide intensive professional development to K-12 and college-level Russian teachers to give them a boost in their Russian language proficiency and knowledge of contemporary Russian life. The teachers will not only improve their language proficiency but also their expertise with standard-based teaching and testing used in the U.S. and Russia. They will receive a pre-departure training seminar, followed by a month of language and testing training in Moscow, Russia. Upon the program completion, the participants will receive the TORFL (Test of Russian as Foreign Language) or tester certificates.
In the last two years, Kostina and Kolesnikova – along with their colleague Marina Kostina, Ph.D., Independent consultant, CEO and founder of Wired@Heart , and best-selling author on Amazon – carried out two intensive professional development programs for Russian teachers in the U.S. These projects received nearly $100,000 in federal funding from STARTALK, a National Security Language Initiative that supports the teaching and learning less commonly taught languages.
Irina Kostina says the idea for this new project was inspired by the work she and her colleagues did educating teachers in standard-based teaching, technology, and distance learning through the STARTALK initiative.
“By working with them, we realized that many of them – especially those at the K-12 level –need to immerse themselves into language and culture again,” said Kostina. “For some of them, opportunities to go to Russia or communicate with native Russians or Russian-speaking colleagues are extremely limited.”
After the teachers return from their training in Russia, they will complete a final orientation to help them translate their new knowledge into multimedia teaching materials for the classroom.
Kostina’s ultimate goal is to maintain contact with this group of teachers so that they can continue working together to create materials for Russian language learning and culture.
“We are certain that these language teachers will use their expertise and unique knowledge to educate new generations of Russian language learners by passing on their knowledge and enthusiasm for studying foreign language and cultures,” said Kolesnikova.
The Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad  competition provides grants to support overseas projects in training, research, and curriculum development in modern foreign languages and area studies for teachers, students, and faculty engaged in a common endeavor. Projects must focus on the humanities, social sciences, and languages, and must focus on a world region other than Canada or Western Europe.
Kostina and Kolesnikova’s application was supported by DWLLC and International Program. DWLLC is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the UI.
Kostina and Kolesnikova wish to express their gratitude to people who supported them in their work.