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Vesna Dimitrieska awarded for advancing world language education in Indiana

Awards Mar 25, 2024

Vesna Dimitrieska, coordinator of global education initiatives at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies and School of Education, has received the 2024 Central States Paul Simon Award for her work advancing world language education in Indiana. The award is conferred annually by the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages on an individual or group outside of the language teaching profession that has demonstrated leadership in the promotion of language learning and international understanding.

Vesna Dimitrieska Dimitrieska’s work focuses on expanding world language programs and internationalizing curricula in K-12 and post-secondary institutions across Indiana, including rural and Minority Serving Institutions.

She says the work is deeply meaningful to her because of the gap in language education offerings she aims to fill. Because there is no national mandate for world language education, decisions about language courses often fall to states and school districts that may lack the resources to implement them.

“It’s more important than ever to connect schools with world language resources,” said Dimitrieska. “As a multilingual, I have recognized the urgency for more Americans to be bilingual and have worked actively towards changing the current issues with lack of access to early language learning for all. Although multiple recent employer and job market reports showcase the rising demand for bilinguals, simultaneously, we are facing decreasing enrollments in language classes among college students.”

As a graduate student, Dimitrieska coordinated the Bridges: Children, Languages, World project that introduces children to less commonly taught languages like Turkish, Swahili, and many others. The program has been offered to dozens of schools and after-school programs throughout Bloomington and Monroe County.

Since 2016, Dimitrieska has also supported and provided professional development programs for K-16 language educators. For the growing number of dual-language immersion programs throughout Indiana, she has organized 23 workshops and webinars, 8 week-long summer institutes, and carried out 133 school visits. Through her efforts, she has made an indirect impact on approximately 3,000 students.

Dimitrieska says that dual language immersion programs are increasing across the nation due to their benefits to both non-native English speakers, and native English-speaking students.

“On one hand, not every K-12 student has the opportunity to learn another language in school at an early age. This is especially true in rural areas that have been known to lack such opportunities due to lack of programmatic and human resources,” said Dimitrieska. “On the other hand, the students who already are bilingual — heritage speakers and English learners — are only perceived through how good their English is. This perception emphasizes the still predominant monolingual perspective in this country that perceives proficiency in other language(s) as a deficit, and not an asset.”

Dimitrieska’s service also extends to IU faculty and students through IU Global’s Global Classroom initiative. The program allows faculty to add an international component to their classes by collaborating with an educational partner abroad, giving students the chance to experience cross-cultural work to prepare for their future careers.

The number of global initiatives Dimitrieska builds or coordinates at IU continues to grow each year.

Currently, she is leading several additional programs that are supported through many schools and units at IU. The Global Literacy Invitations program offers professional development and cultural education to help educators identify and use globally-themed books in their classrooms. The Principals’ Academy on Internationalizing K-12 Schools helps principals and administrators internationalize their curricula and pedagogy and support globally focused professional development for their teachers. She also co-leads a program that guides K-12 teachers in incorporating United Nations sustainable development goals into their instruction. In addition, she leads the Global Deliberations Collaborative for high school teachers who integrate the use of global deliberations in their teaching.

These programs are supported by area studies centers and national resource centers that are funded by the U.S. Department of Education Title VI program: The IU Hamilton Lugar School’s African Studies Program, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Center for the Study of the Middle East, East Asian Studies Center, Institute of European Studies, Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center, and Robert F. Byrnes Russian and East European Institute; IU Global’s Center for the Study of Global Change; and the IU School of Education.

Dimitrieska says she is grateful for the continued growth and support for world language programs at IU.

“Languages and the life worlds they animate are bridges between and among a common human world,” said DImitrieska. “Learning and speaking a new language should not be an exceptional achievement but a fundamental one for all of our students. Receiving the Paul Simon Award inspires me to advocate for language learning and to continue to seek ways to access these kinds of programs.”


Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies

Sarah DeWeese

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