Chicagoland Community-Based Heritage Language Schools: Learning and Moving Forward Together

Harper 140

Chicagoland Community-Based Heritage Language Schools: Learning and Moving Forward Together
Thursday, June 2 2022
Harper Memorial Library, Room 140
1116 E 59th St, Chicago IL 60637

Register to attend at

This half-day event is designed to bring together Chicagoland’s community-based heritage language teachers, of all languages, to share their experiences, discuss their challenges, learn from each other, and move forward together.



3:00 pm – Joy Kreeft Peyton – Community-Based Heritage Language Schools as Part of the National Language Landscape: An Emerging Visibility

3:30 pm – Linda Egnatz – Seal of Biliteracy

4:30-4:45 pm – coffee break

4:45-5:15 pm – Lucie Slavíková-Boucher – Czech Schools Without Borders: A Lifelong Project

5:15-6:00 pm – Katya Fay, Vera TkachHow to Launch a School in… 1 Month

6:00-6:15 pm – break

6:15-6:40 pm – Izolda Wolski-Moskoff – The North American Association of Teachers of Polish

6:40-7:00 pm – Erik Houle – Olympiada of Spoken Russian

7 pm – reception and opening of Comenius exhibition (Social Sciences Tea Room)



Keynote: Community-Based Heritage Language Schools as Part of the National Language Landscape: An Emerging Visibility

Community-based heritage language schools have been in this country since its founding, but they have been largely invisible. This presentation describes ways that they are emerging, in visibility and importance, and the creative ways that school leaders are bringing students to high levels of proficiency in their heritage language, recognizing their accomplishments, and learning from similar schools in other countries.


Joy Kreeft Peyton, PhD

is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). She has been working on issues of heritage language and mother tongue education for over 30 years. She was a founding member of the Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages, hosted at CAL, and is now president of the Coalition for Community-Based Heritage Language Schools. She is co-editor of Heritage Languages in America: Preserving a National Resource and Handbook of Heritage, Community, and Native American Languages in the United States: Research, Educational Practice, and Policy. She has worked in Ethiopia, Nepal, and The Gambia (on projects funded by USAID and the World Bank) to develop educational materials, including leveled readers, in children’s mother tongues, for individual and group reading.


Linda Egnatz, PhD

is the Executive Director of the Global Seal of Biliteracy, a program designed to fill in the opportunity gap for those bilinguals of any age who don’t qualify for a state seal but want to celebrate and certify their language skills. Her support for the movement began in our own state of Illinois where she testified on its behalf as a 2013 Golden Apple Teacher of Excellence Award Winner. When ACTFL named her the 2014 National Language Teacher of the Year, she used the title to expand her advocacy for language learners and supported other states working to adopt a State Seal.

Lucie Slavíková-Boucher, MD

is the founder and chairwoman of the Czech Schools without Borders (CSWB) organization. She co-created CSWB’s educational program and initiated a number of legislative changes to gain official recognition for education provided by community language schools, which were successfully incorporated into the Education Act in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.  Despite the demands of her medical career, Dr. Slavíková-Boucher has been devoting most of her free time and energy to bilingual education and the Czech School Without Borders project for more than 20 years. As the mother of two now multilingual children, she hopes to motivate parents to support Czech language learning in their own children. She provides counseling in the field of multilingual education and training and cooperates with professional institutions in the Czech Republic on this topic.

Izolda Wolski-Moskoff, PhD

is a lecturer and language coordinator in Polish, Russian, and Lithuanian Studies at UIC. She holds a PhD in Slavic linguistics with a specialization in Second Language Acquisition. Dr. Wolski-Moskoff’s research is focused on the Polish heritage language in the United States. In her dissertation on case in heritage Polish, she studied the language of college-age Polish heritage speakers, gaining invaluable and unique insights into the language skills of a population that still makes up a considerable portion of Polish enrollments in the US. Part of her research was published in the book Dwujęzyczni i dwukulturowi. Bilingual and Bicultural. Speaking Polish in North America (2017), aimed at serving the Polish community by promoting bilingualism among parents of heritage speakers.

Erik Houle, PhD

is a Senior Lecturer of Russian and Polish and coordinator of the Russian Language Program at the University of Chicago. He earned his Ph.D. in Slavic Linguistics from the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago in 2013. His academic interests include historical and comparative Slavic morphology and syntax, language contact, language and culture, foreign language pedagogy, and second language acquisition.

Katya Fay and Vera Tkach 

in 2017 founded and operate a 501(c)(3) non-profit Russian language school for Russian-speaking families of all origins (Ukrainian, Belarusian, Russian, Kazakh, etc.) in downtown Chicago. Scaled to 18-person teaching and administrative team, 120 students, 52 Sunday classes and full financial viability within two weeks post school launch in March 2019. Among the first who adapted to the on-line format at the pandemic onset, and later refocused the school on a more targeted in person operating model. Katya and Vera each have 10+ years of professional experience working at a top management/strategy consulting firm, focusing on all aspect of business growth, development and operations. Additional information can be found at