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Page history last edited by Teresa Almeida d'Eca 12 years, 9 months ago


6sep1961: The first day of my new life

(my tribute to this very special day in my life)

Fifty years ago today my life changed forever. I wouldn't have been who I became if something very special hadn't happened that day.

On 6 September 1961, my parents, older brother Paulo and I crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a Pan Am flight to New York and then went on to Washington, D.C. to start a new life. My father had been appointed Naval Attaché to the Portuguese Embassy. Little did I know that my future would start to be shaped that day, a future that would bring about unpredictable and unimaginable change in my short life of eleven years.

This move would come to influence my life in many ways and forever connect me to the United States.

By the time I moved to America, I had already studied in two British schools for five years. However, surprising though it may sound, the change was huge!

Bear in mind that we were moving from a very provincial country and a closed society to an open and booming society. Not to mention the humongous difference in size between both countries, which became totally obvious from the moment we landed in NY and then entered the airport terminal.


At school I had to get used to a totally different accent, which initially demanded much more attention and concentration, as well as extra effort, on my part. The change to a light and informal atmosphere in class and in school was extremely welcome. I never liked the strict and formal atmosphere of the British schools.

Frank Lyman, my 6th grade teacher, tried very hard to make me feel at home from day one and to catch up on about 6 weeks of schoolwork I had missed. He succeeded 100%. His relationship with students was close, warm and very supportive. I reestablished contact with Frank about 3 years ago with the help of Nina Liakos, a dear Webhead friend in Maryland.


I related to the American learning system at once and worked hard with great pleasure. Totally new to me was project work, group work and regular sessions in the school library. In the British schools we only had a reading corner in class. It was at this point in my life that I became a great fan of reading and started buying my own books. This influenced me so much that to this day I prefer reading in English rather than Portuguese.


Marcia Perlmutter is a former Math teacher-turned-friend to this day. She had a great sense of humor, always started each lesson with a joke or a funny story to get us in the mood to work. And work we did. I loved Algebra because of her. She was very knowledgeable and taught in a very clear way that totally motivated everyone of us. Marcia and Buddy were in Lisbon for a few hours in 1992 and met Joao (my husband), Pedro and Miguel (my 5 & 6 year old sons then). We showed them a little bit of Lisbon. Then I stayed with them in LA for a few days in 1996 during my trip to the U.S. do research for my Mastre's thesis. We met again in LA in 1999 when I attended a conference in San Diego. We email regularly. The most curious note of all: Marcia is the only friend from that distant past that has always kept in touch with me. This is very special to me.


During my four-year stay in the States I completed the 9th grade and was very honored when I became a member of the National Junior Honor Society.

On returning to Portugal, I studied one more year at St Julian's, the British school, but didn't like the change. From then on I studied in Portuguese. My bilingualism dictated my future. I would major in English in 1975 and become an English teacher in January 1976.

In my mid-forties I felt a need to get my grey cells working differently and embarked on a Master's program. What else could it be but American Studies?! I ended up doing my thesis on the Internet in Education. Then I started carrying out projects on the Internet with students to put into practice what I had learned. It was a fascinating new world that opened up to them and me. This was the 97-98 school year. I never stopped till I retired two and a half years ago.


My attachment to the States is also related to having a half-American half-Portuguese nephew and niece. My mother and I visited them once and then they started spending summers with us in the 70s and 80s.


Claire Bradin Siskin, aka Clarinha (for me), is another very special friend who has had Portugal and the Poruguese in her heart since the sixties when she sudied in Coimbra. We met through a mailing list in 1999 and emailed privately for over a year. She invited me to stay with her and Marc in Pittsburgh to do research for a sabbatical project in October 2000. I was going through a difficult period in my life, recovering from a burnout and depression. This made no difference to her. How special is that?! Those three weeks did me a world of good psychologically. I felt at home immediately. Academically speaking, I brought back fabulous material to carry out my project with great success. At the personal and most meaningful level of all, Clarinha and I became very good friends. She encouraged me to join TESOL and start attending conferences. And so I did.

In March 2001 I attended my first TESOL conference in St. Louis. As a result, in October I took my first-ever online course with TESOLer Michael Krauss about the use of Internet tools in learning. We had met at the conference. Such was my enthusiasm for this new world that in January 2002 I joined the Webheads in Action for an 8-week online workshop for EFL/ESL teachers, coordinated by Vance Stevens, about Web-based communication tools for language learning. I made friends all over the world and started taking part in many online projects and presentations.


In January 2004 Dafne Gonzalez (from Venezuela) and I started our own online workshop, Becoming a Webhead (BaW), which is the longest running Tesol EVO workshop. We have also co-taught a module of TESOL's Principles and Practices of Online Teaching Certificate Program since 2004.

What I learned with the Webheads and then with BaW motivated me to start blended learning projects with my students based on blogging and the use of Web 2.0 communication skills. It was the most motivating time of my career!

Larissa Olesova is one of the many special friends I made in the f2f world of TESOL conferences. She's a native of Yakutsk, Siberia, turned doctoral student at Purdue University. At the TESOL 2008 conference in NY she saw my presentation about blogging with my students (5th and 6th graders) and asked me to present online about it for the Yakutsk TESOL conference that summer. And so it was. The same happened in 2009. All of a sudden an invitation to travel to Yakutsk for a 5-day workshop arrived in my Inbox. I couldn't believe what I was reading! I'd never imagined traveling to Moscow, much less to remote Siberia. The fact that it would be in March, with negative temperatures in the twenties, really appealed to me. What an unforgettable experience! The people are warm and very hospitable and the snow-covered landscape is awesome. This experience would be repeated in February of this year. I'm considered "the brave Portuguese lady" who traveled 9,000 kilometers on her own to a remote place of the world.

These are a few of my life and career experiences that I wanted to talk about on this very special day, because their root is in a move from one side of the Atlantic to the other that took place 50 years ago today.

My life was absolutely enriched in many respects by this move and what became my career started to take shape on this day 50 years ago, practically a lifetime.

I didn't want this day to go by without sharing this with my very special friends and extended family.

On a final note I'll add that my older brother Paulo is in D.C. today celebrating the event. Hope you're enjoying every minute, Paulo. I enjoyed my afternoon in sunny Vilamoura beach partly writing this text.

Hope this shows how significant our move to the States was for both of us.


Vilamoura, 6Sep2011

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