Michele Whaley

I think it odd that two of the hot beds for comprehension based instruction are two of the coldest places in the United States: Maine and Alaska. Michele Whaley in Alaska has spearheaded efforts there now for some years. She is a real force, traveling everywhere for trainings, doing all kinds of exchanges with Russia, and organizing trainings and meetings all over her state and on the internet. Here is her bio:
In May of 2008, a student in her fourth year of high-school Russian pointed out to me that what her classmates had learned in their annual stint with that “boring storytelling unit” was the only language they really “owned.” I had written four month-long units based on a very structured synthesis of Melinda Forward’s and Blaine’s materials, and would bring those out in April, one for each level. I had abandoned any other use of the TPRS method because I didn’t have the personality of Blaine or the time to create all my own handouts (or to translate Melinda’s). But I realized the student was right because the vocabulary the students could actually use was directly from those units, and I started to research TPRS, which had undergone a sea of change in the years since I’d had two workshops. I found Ben’s materials, took them to Russia to teach English, and when I returned, embarked on an intensive study of TPRS with other local teachers. Now there is a cadre of TPRS teachers here in Alaska who are passionate about using TPRS, even though we have met our share of resistance.
I feel insanely lucky to have found Ben’s materials and his blog in that spring of 2008. I wish that we could somehow find a balance between starting these discussions on yahoo and tprstalk and continuing them here, because there are more people who need to hear them, and more who could contribute from other viewpoints, even while I want to protect privacy and security. It is very important to be able to share ideas for teaching at the same time that we discuss the philosophy underlying those ideas. What a gift we have in being able to share with one another!



4 thoughts on “Michele Whaley”

  1. Hi Michele! Will you be at NTPRS? I’m looking forward to meeting you someday. I’m thinking of starting a TPRS teacher group in Southern Vermont and would love to talk with you (and others who’ve done something like this!) about this. I, too am soooo grateful for what I’ve learned from Ben and this extended TPRS community!

  2. Hi Elissa!
    I will be there!! Maybe everyone in this bunch should wear a real flower on their Hawaiian shirts the first day so as to be able to find the “Ben bunch” at the conference. Seriously…I remember how many people were there two years ago, and I would love to be able to figure out who is who.
    The folks at NTPRS asked me to do a session on how our Alaska group came about. I have been putting together my Prezi and feeling a little abashed, so I’ll be glad to share it with you any time during the week.

  3. Michelle that’s the City by the Bay with the flower in the hair, although most wouldn’t remember that. And I am far from an old hippy, right? Don’t answer that. Maybe an option is this: I think it would be cool to not waste a minute of training time – that is just the way I am at these conferences. I say we meet Sunday night the 17th somewhere in the lobby around 6:30 . We could get to know each other, talk about choosing offerings for the week, hang out and maybe try to do some work. Of course, that is assuming some of us are not still traveling. I think what I will do is go down to the lobby or the bar area and hang around about then with Bryce if he wants to – we are both getting into St. Louis around noon, and then those of us who want to can group up and we can start the conference early.

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