Celebration of Maria Torres-Guzman’s Scholarship ☆

On Friday, May 3rd and Saturday, May 4th the Program in Bilingual/Bicultural Education invited current students, graduates, faculty and colleagues from across Teachers College to join in celebrating the career and legacy of Professor Maria Torres-Guzman on the occasion of her retirement. A two-day conference sponsored by the Blue Sky Asian-American Research Foundation along with the Arts & Humanities Department honored Professor Torres-Guzman and her incalculable contributions to the field of multilingual education.

The conference began with a reception Friday evening including many current and former students of the Program in Bilingual/Bicultural Education. On Saturday conference sessions were introduced by Professor Torres-Guzman’s current students, and were presented by her former mentees, many of whom have faculty or administrative positions in the field. Session topics included immigration and education, teacher and administrator leadership, the politics of bilingual/bicultural education, and accounting for bilingual learners, among others. As evidenced by her recent edited volume Imagining Multilingual Schools: Languages in Education and Globalization, Professor Torres-Guzman clearly follows her own advice, revealed by a graduate, to “set the path, don’t just follow.”

But beyond the academic presentations there were so many heartfelt testimonials from presenters and audience members alike honoring the spirit with which Professor Torres-Guzman worked, and her tireless advocacy for both her field in general and those fortunate enough to work with her. All who knew her well could not seem to believe that it would be possible for her to retire; as one former student put it, “Maria won’t be playing golf.”

During a break for lunch the festivities continued when Professor Torres-Guzman officially received the Lifetime Commitment to Education award. Friends and colleagues from Teachers College joined others from across New York City, the country, and as far as the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba in honoring the unique work and legacy of Professor Torres-Guzman. Excerpts from an interview conducted by a current graduate student were read to give the audience a sense of the community building advocated and modeled by Professor Torres-Guzman. In keeping with the metaphor of collage touched upon by so many throughout the conference, a Uighur dance was performed by graduate student Jiayi Xu that delighted all present.

By the close of the conference it was clear that these retirement celebrations were as much about making new connections as celebrating established ones. If there was one salient bit of wisdom that came through all the celebrations and presentations, and indeed through Professor Torres-Guzman’s concluding remarks, it was that “Yes, you can.”  The work continues, both through her own efforts and through the community of which she remains an indispensable part.