Reminiscences of Earl Stevick

Earl Stevick, an educator with a long history with SIT, recently passed away. Below, his colleague Alvino Fantini reminisces about Earl’s life and work.

By Alvino E. Fantini, Professor Emeritus, SIT Graduate Institute

Professional, sensitive, creative, imaginative, a maverick, a great educator, and a wonderful human being — these are thoughts that come to mind when I think of my colleague, Earl Stevick.

Earl Stevick with founders of SIT's MAT TESOL Program

Earl is standing, second from left, in the rear; Alvino is sitting, first on the left, in the front row.]

I became acquainted with Earl in 1968 during a search for individuals to invite to a seminar at the School for International Training (now SIT Graduate Institute). As director of the Foreign Language Department, I was entrusted with the task of locating innovators in the field of language education. After several years of teaching a great variety of languages for the US Peace Corps (in Afghanistan, Brazil, Gabon, India, Iran, Korea, Pakistan, and other countries), we wanted to apply what we had learned through those experiences in the preparation of language educators.

Earl, along with John Rassias, Carl Pond, Caleb Gattegno, and myself, and 13 other prominent educators, secluded ourselves in an old “stone garage” for an entire week. With some of the best minds at that time, we discussed and designed a program to prepare language teachers. Our focus question was: what is an effective language teacher and how best to prepare them given the status of language teaching at that time?

Needless to say, it was an intense, stimulating, and exciting week during which we explored reconceptualization of language education. The result was the development of our MAT (MA in Teaching) program, launched in 1969, which continues to this day, nearly 45 years later. Many of the participants in that think tank were so invested in our efforts that they continued on the MAT Advisory Board and returned frequently as lecturers and workshop deliverers over many years. Earl Stevick was among them and enriched our program through his connection with this institution.

Earl had an important impact, not only on SIT’s program and our approach to language education, but on the field of language education in general. Perhaps his most distinctive contribution was his continued focus on the learner more than the teacher. As a result, unlike many others, he was not wedded to a particular methodology but rather to how teaching can best support learning. As a result, he influenced countless numbers of our students and probably thousands of others as well.

Today, of course, language education has moved in still expanding directions — where proficiency, communicative abilities, and developing intercultural competencies, are all important aspects of our work. In this post-methodological era, emphasis has shifted to helping educators to develop their own personal approach to language teaching, as appropriate to the needs of each context and situation, and teachers normally use a wide variety of activities that are based on multiple sources and methods. Looking back and looking forward, Earl’s contributions to our profession are important and profound and he remains an important educator whose efforts survive through their influence in the work of countless others.

Earl, you are missed but not gone!


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One Response to Reminiscences of Earl Stevick

  1. Marian Walton August 21, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Thank you for your kind words about my father. He was flashing responses and connected with those around him even to the end. Marian