History of Coach


We are a community of professional language teacher leaders committed to improving foreign language teaching and learning.  Our collaboration provides teachers with creative, standards-based lessons and classroom resources for a variety of World Languages, and promotes teachers’ professional growth through hands-on workshops, institutes and travel study programs.


Team History

The early history of COACH is connected to so many acronyms that it sounds like alphabet soup.  Named in this spirit, COACH – Curriculum Organization for Active Communication and Heterogeneity – began in 1986 as a regional site of the California Foreign Language Project (CFLP), which itself was, at that time, an extension of the California International Studies Project (CISP). This came at a time when the state was funding subject matter projects in major disciplines throughout the state to support in-service for teachers and develop teacher leaders, following the “trainer of trainers” model of the California Writing Project (CWP). Subject Matter Projects (SMPs) were established in universities that partnered with surrounding school districts to provide teachers with professional development workshops and summer leadership institutes in specific disciplines. COACH was initially located in the Center for International Education (CIE) at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), as an extension of its CISP project, the Global Education Program of Southern California (GEPSCA). Suzanne Charlton was the director of both projects and their traveling global resource library, the Southcoast International Resource Center (SIRC).

COACH prospered at CSULB, developing community support, an Advisory Board, and active Leadership Teams of classroom leaders who, in turn, provided in-service training for teachers in their districts. Partnership districts involved then included Long Beach Unified, Los Alamitos Unified, Huntington Beach High School District, ABC Unified, Saddleback Valley Unified, Tustin Unified, and Garden Grove Unified. COACH offered 3-4 professional development days during the academic year open to all foreign language teachers in the region and 1-2 week summer institutes for teacher leader development.

Changing political priorities at the state withdrew support from the CISP in 1991 and COACH, with the help of Carol Booth Olson and the CWA center at UCI, moved to the University of California, Irvine, Department of Education. After the move to UCI, COACH also sponsored two travel study institutes in Costa Rica. Directed by Suzanne Charlton and led by Leadership Team teachers Lloyd Emshoff, Joan Kirschenbaum, Polly Hodge, Cynthia Leathers, Gayle Trager and David Schlick, these institutes provided in depth language and cultural studies for scores of California teachers and were highlighted by special visits to literary and political icons as well as excursions to explore the historical, urban and natural wonders of Costa Rica.

The project continued to offer its services under the aegis of the CFLP there until, in 1997, politics again created a situation where further state CFLP funding was denied to COACH. At that point, rather than folding, the Leadership Team resolved to continue its services to local foreign language teachers as long as possible, relying solely on its registration fees and its leaders’ good will. The Team also began work on a number of classroom resources for foreign language teachers that they could sell to help support the project. The first team-authored book, Todo lo mío (All About Me) was a collaboration that linked team member’s best practices and lesson plans with standards, multiple intelligences, and authentic assessments organized around the subjects taught in first and second level language texts. Its French and German versions, Moi-même and Alles über mich, were subsequently published, all with great success. COACH’s motto “Teachers COACHing Teachers” was now providing practical, teacher-generated materials foreign language teachers could readily use to enhance student learning. Soon PowerPoints on cultural, grammar and vocabulary topics or literacy review games were also developed by the Team, and its original books were followed by comprehensive books for upper levels in Spanish and French: Lenguaje para la vida I, II (Language for Life) and Le Français pour la Vie. These resources provide the project with additional funds to continue offering professional development to regional foreign language teachers and allow COACH leaders to pursue new dimensions of language teaching and learning in their own careers. In 2014 COACH resources include even more books and cultural lessons as well as our first short story written collaboratively and developed into individual Spanish, French and German units involving students in a mystery that involves art specific to the target culture. The COACH Team continues to embrace new best practices and in 2010 hosted the first International Forum on Language Teaching (IFLT) which brought together teachers and experts in TPRS methodology. Pushing for stronger comprehensible input in world language classrooms has become a focal point of the current COACH Team.

With the retirement of our founder, Dr. Suzanne Charlton, the Team bid a fond farewell to our home at UCI and in 2009 created a non-profit organization with its own Board of Directors. Cynthia Leathers, current director, along with Shari Kaulig, co-director and Rick Shuelke, treasurer lead a team of two dozen teacher leaders who continue to provide workshops, products and inspiration for California’s world language community.

COACH is a professional home for its leaders and participants alike, and the flexibility and autonomy it enjoys as an independent project have encouraged individual creativity, new language learning venues, and innovation. Many team leaders travel with their students or encourage their students’ extracurricular learning through Cultural Participation and Research (CPR) projects. In 2000, COACH co-sponsored a five-week Fulbright Institute on Chilean culture and language for 35 teachers, led by Suzanne Charlton and Polly Hodge, and virtual travel has become a favorite theme in many of the project’s workshops exploring technology.

Our team is dedicated to creating classroom-ready materials that support comprehensible input and language acquisition. After 28 years, the COACH project continues to inspire us to learn and grow together, so that learning foreign language is better for our students and teaching foreign language is better for our community.