OBITUARY

Anna Uhl Chamot

November 29, 1934November 2, 2017
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Anna Uhl Chamot, an internationally recognized scholar and contributor to the improvement of foreign language education, died on November 2, 2017, after a brief but intense fight against pancreatic cancer. She was 82 years old. A Professor Emerita from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University (GW), Dr. Chamot taught teachers how to unlock the personal learning styles of students so they could become better speakers of foreign languages. She was highly sought after around the world for conferences, workshops, courses, and consulting. Dr. Chamot was born in Idabel, OK, the first daughter of Ben Forrest Uhl, a geologist, and Gladys Jones Uhl, an educator. At an early age, she moved with her parents to Bogota, Colombia, where her father had taken a job as a field geologist. Later in life, she would reflect back on this move to a Spanish-speaking country as the catalyst for her interest in strategies for language acquisition. For her high school years, she was sent to Washington, D.C., where she graduated from the National Cathedral School (NCS) at sixteen. While at NCS, Dr. Chamot starred in plays, beginning her love affair with the stage. She attended Vassar College and then the George Washington University, studying Spanish literature and graduating with her bachelor’s degree at nineteen. She studied acting in New York while completing her master’s at Teachers College, Columbia University, and she earned a doctorate from the University of Texas, Austin. Her university teaching appointments included the University of Texas, American University, Georgetown University, and GW, where she eventually rose to full Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy in English as a Second Language and Foreign Language Education. She received the honorific title of emerita upon her retirement from GW in 2015. Dr. Chamot approached everything she did with a fierce sense of discipline—starting first with ballet and piano, later with acting and writing, and ultimately in her true vocation of teaching. As a teenager, Dr. Chamot began submitting short stories and poetry to popular magazines, and in her twenties she completed “NOVEL NAME”, an unpublished novel. Dr. Chamot studied Spanish literature for a term at Oxford, after which she headed back to Bogota to teach. She continued to be active in theater during the early years of her teaching career, even starring in a weekly telenovela that was broadcast live from Bogota. She moved to Venezuela, teaching at a school in Maracaibo for the children of Creole Petroleum employees, and again got involved in theater, playing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Dr. Chamot claimed that throughout her career she would draw on these skills from the theater in the classroom and lecture hall. Eventually, Dr. Chamot became Director of the Colegio Estados Unidos (CEU), a school founded by her mother in Bogota. Colombia’s first bilingual school, CEU’s curriculum combined U.S. college preparatory classes with the Colombian national educational curriculum. Students graduated from CEU fluent in English, French, and Spanish, and many went on to study at U.S. universities. Seeking more challenges, Dr. Chamot moved to London to take on the role of Lower School Administrator of the American School in London. She met her future husband, geologist Guy Andre Chamot, at a dinner party hosted by a mutual friend, which she liked to say was Providence as he was living and working in Bogota. After they married, the couple moved almost every year, living around the world in places like Bogota, Colombia; Austin, Texas; Kinshasa, Congo; Ankara, Turkey; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Houston, Texas. She began her doctoral studies at the University of Texas, Austin, managing to work on her dissertation while caring for their infant son Alain, who was born in Johannesburg during their posting in Congo. In the 1970’s, Dr. Chamot completed her PhD while caring for Alain and the home when Guy was posted in Saudi Arabia for 16 months. In 1979, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Anna and Guy continued to raise Alain. Professional Dr. Chamot had a long and distinguished career in applied linguistics, focusing on critical processes that underlie language learning and, in particular, on the strategies used by learners. While a common assumption was that some people are gifted in language learning and some are not, Dr. Chamot was convinced that understanding how students go about learning was the key to improving their language learning. In order to better understand what strategies expert learners used, she conducted studies to identify the learning strategies of both expert and novice language learners, and then researched the impact on novice learners of using strategies to improve their language learning. These studies influenced considerable research both in the United States and abroad, and her work is frequently cited in books and journals around the world. Along with Dr. Michael O’Malley, her co-investigator and co-researcher, Dr. Chamot developed a model for instruction called the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA). The underlying proposition of CALLA is the integration of learning strategies into the regular educational curriculum. CALLA provided teachers with insights into how to adapt their teaching of subject matter to non-native speakers by including suggestions of strategies learners could use to understand and remember both the language and the concepts. This approach allowed English as a Second Language (ESL) students to remain in regular classes with native speakers at the same time that they were improving their English. CALLA has been widely adapted in many states and some foreign countries. From 1980 to 1990, Dr. Chamot was a Senior Associate at InterAmerica Research Associates. As Project Director for several research studies, she focused on learning strategies in foreign language instruction and served as an Associate Director on two studies of learning strategies for learners of English as a Second Language. In 1988 she also became Project Specialist for the Arlington Public Schools, managing two U.S. government-funded projects on teaching English as a Second Language using the CALLA approach and instructional method. In 1995, Dr. James Alatis, Chair of the Linguistics Department at Georgetown University and Director of the newly created National Foreign Language Resource Center, asked Dr. Chamot to serve with him as Associate Director of the Center. The first of four language resource centers in the U.S., the Center was dedicated to improving and expanding the teaching of foreign languages in the U.S. through research and teacher education. In 1996, the George Washington University joined the Center’s sponsoring institutions, and the center moved to GW’s campus under the name National Capital Language Resource Center. Dr. Chamot served as Associate Director, then Co-Director and Principal Investigator for the Center until 2014. Under Dr. Chamot’s leadership, the Center conducted a number of research studies, including a study of the learning strategies of children in language immersion programs in French, Spanish and Japanese, as well as research on learning strategies of university students of less commonly taught languages, such as Japanese, Chinese and Arabic. In 2001, after giving an invited talk on teaching learning strategies in Dearborn, Michigan, Dr. Chamot met with local teachers of Arabic and was surprised to learn that they had never met each other and had not shared instructional approaches with each other. This experience led Dr. Chamot, along with Dora Johnson of the Center for Applied Linguistics, to carry out demographic research studying teachers of Arabic in K-12 schools, where Arabic was taught in the U.S., and what kinds of instruction and materials were being used. The Center followed this work with similar research on the teaching of South Asian languages to school children in the U.S. In addition to her work in foreign language education, Dr. Chamot was dedicated to the Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESOL) and Foreign Language (TEFL), with much of her teaching focused on preparing public school TESOL educators. Around 1996, she became particularly concerned with the plight of high school students who arrived in the U.S. both illiterate in their first language and unable to speak English. She obtained a grant from the Department of Education to conduct research from 1997-2001 to determine the most effective curriculum for these students. This work resulted in a text developed for low-literacy high school TESOL students in the U.S., Keys to Learning: Skills and strategies for newcomers. Dr. Chamot’s immense impact on research and teaching in the field of language education gave her international recognition. She delivered over 150 keynote addresses and more than 600 presentations at conferences around the world, and led lecture tours for the United States Information Agency in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy and Argentina. The State Department called on her frequently to speak to groups of visiting education officials from other countries. She was an active member of the International Association for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, TESOL, ACTFL, and NABE. For many summers she taught teacher education courses in Japan, Spain and China as well. She authored or co-authored 17 textbook series for Foreign Language, English as a Second Language, or English as a Foreign Language education, including Land, People, Nations with Katherine Steeves (2009); Corner Stone Books series with Jim Cummins and S. Hollie (2009); Keys to Learning with Keatley and Angstrom (2009); Shining Star series with Hartman and Huizenga (2004); Up Close series with Rainey de Diaz and Baker de Gonzolez (2002); Scott Foresman ESL: Accelerating English Development series with Cummins, Fillmore, Kessler and O’Malley (1997); and more. Her books include The CALLA handbook: Implementing the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach, second edition (2009); The learning strategies handbook with Barnhardt, El-Dinary and Robbins (1999); The CALLA handbook: Implementing the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach, first edition with J.M. O’Malley (1994); and Learning strategies in second language acquisition with J. M. O’Malley (1990). Dr. Chamot published over 70 articles, book chapters and monographs on language instruction, wrote numerous research reports, and was an editor for the series Studies in Second and Foreign Language Education 2011- 2015. At the time of her death, she was a co-editor of a new book about learning strategies, Learning Strategies Instruction in the Language Classroom: Issues and Implementation, and was working on a chapter Differentiation in LLSI. This book will be published in 2018 by Multilingual Matters, Bristol, UK. The Final Years In the last 20 years of her life, Dr. Chamot was in great demand to instruct, inspire, and help teachers from almost every nation to be better educators. She taught and traveled constantly, presenting via webcam when she was too ill to travel. In her free time, she had season tickets to the Washington National Opera and was a confirmed animal lover, especially of her beloved Himalayan cats. She picked up playing the piano again in the years since her husband Guy died in 1995. At both Georgetown and the George Washington University, she taught thousands of graduate students who are now valued teachers throughout the nation.

Dr. Chamot’s funeral will be at 11 am, November 29, 2017 at the Bethlehem Chapel of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. A small reception will follow at St. Albans Parish, concluding with a private, family-only interment service at Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, DC. The family is receiving friends from 1-3pm and 5-8:30pm on November 28 at the Chamot family home at 5316 MacArthur Blvd, NW.

Email condolences can be sent to goodbye@annachamot.com Mail can be sent to Chamot, 5316 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington, DC 20016

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to help her beloved elephants and African wildlife to the African Wildlife Foundation (www.awf.org).

Throughout her cancer treatment, her goal was to be strong enough to enjoy a glass of wine on her birthday. Please enjoy one for her!

Services

PREVIOUS SERVICES:

  • The Chamot family will be receiving friends Tuesday, November 28, 2017
  • Funeral Service Wednesday, November 29, 2017

PREVIOUS SERVICES:

  • Reception following the service, Private, family-only Interment, Email condolences can be sent to goodbye@annachamot.com, In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to help her beloved elephants and African wildlife to the African Wildlife Foundation (www.awf.org).
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Anna Uhl Chamot

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