The Foundation of Our Courses: Meet Our Academic Team
Middlebury Interactive's In-House Doctoral Staff
We recently had a visitor to Middlebury Interactive Languages office which, after getting a quick introduction to our staff, said, “Wow, you sure have a lot of Ph.D.s around here.” Come to think of it, we do. Some of this can be attributed to our relationship with Middlebury College; our courses utilize principles of the language pedagogy of the Middlebury College Language Schools, considered by many to be the best world language programs in the country. Our Chief Learning Officer, Aline Germain-Rutherford, is also Director of the Middlebury French School (you can check out Aline’s blog on Connecting Communities with Place-Based Language Education here). Aline oversees our own in-house academic team, a diverse and accomplished group of academics who develop, enhance and perfect our interactive K-12 courses and teacher support programs.
Here is a snapshot of Ph.D. academics currently working at Middlebury Interactive Languages:
Sonja Burrows, Ph.D. – Project Manager, English Language Learning and Assessment
Sonja was an English major at the University of Pennsylvania before teaching English in Italy, Korea and Mexico. She followed up her experiences abroad by attending the University of Oregon, where she earned her M.A. in Spanish Literature and then a Ph.D. in Romance Languages (Spanish). A specialist in Spanish Heritage Language pedagogy, Sonja also has proficiency in French and Italian, as well as a second Master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Last year, Sonja taught Spanish at Middlebury College and recently presented some of her research on English-Spanish bilingualism at the Bilingualism Colloquium hosted by the College’s Linguistics Department. If she was not busy enough, while pursuing her doctorate Sonja had three children in three years during her studies.
As part of our team, Sonja develops the curriculum for our new ELL summer academies and digital courses, and also is developing our portfolios and pre- and post-assessments for monitoring student performance for the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy.
Dana Laursen, Ph.D. – Senior Director, Curriculum and Program Effectiveness
Dana has more than three decades of experience as a teacher, school administrator and curriculum developer. She started with Middlebury Interactive in 2011 after spending 11 years at PLATO Learning, one of our key strategic partners. A Spanish major in college, she earned her M.A. in Journalism from Iowa State. She went on to earn another M.A. and her Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University. For seven years, she was a teacher in Spanish, ELL and Journalism before moving to the administrative side, working in human resources and community relations in schools, in California and Colorado. She was Assistant Superintendent of the Brighton Public Schools in Colorado before joining PLATO. Dana and her husband enjoy international travel to explore language and culture and play a little golf.
At Middlebury Interactive, Dana directs our curriculum teams and makes sure all of our courses are in compliance with state and national standards. She also oversees the curriculum development for our new ELL summer academies, which will be held in June in three Massachusetts cities.
Barbara Sicot, Ph.D. – Manager of Content and Curriculum
Born in France, Barbara attended the Sorbonne in Paris where she earned her Ph.D. in American History. She then came to the United States and taught French at Yale, Mount Holyoke College and the Middlebury French School. She returned to the Sorbonne for her Ph.D., a study of John F. Kennedy that earned her Summa Cum Laude recognition. Crossing the Atlantic again, Barbara settled in Virginia, where she taught high school French. She maintained her connection to Middlebury at the summer Language Schools and joined Middlebury Interactive at the launch of the business. If she did not have enough French credentials, she is also an accomplished ballerina and Cancan dancer.
Barbara supervises the content and curriculum for all of our courses and takes the lead on writing the French courses. She also speaks German and opines on French culture. Check out Barbara’s blogs on Cooking in Language and Improving Language Acquisition and Learning via Music.
We are very proud of the rock-star academic team we have here at Middlebury Interactive. While the work they do every day certainly benefits world language students and teachers, their perspectives and wisdom also contribute significantly to our rich company culture.A Day in the Life of an Online Teacher Improving Language Acquistion & Learning via Music Connecting Communities with Place-Based Language Education The Pros and Cons of Digital Badging