Exciting news out of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development as Sara Wilshaw has been named the Consul General for the Dallas region. Wilshaw, who succeeds the outgoing Paula Caldwell, will represent Canada in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

“The ties that bind 35 million Canadians to the 39 million people in this region are strong and growing,” wrote Wilshaw in an announcement on the consul general’s website. “And I’m eagerly anticipating being part of that.”

Wilshaw noted the strong Canadian-American partnerships in the energy sector as well as Canada’s ties to Oklahoma in her post.

“We defend North America together,” she wrote. “At Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, for example, 43 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army form the Canadian Component.”

The new consul general promised business and government leaders in her jurisdiction that her office would also focus on sectors that are growing between the North American neighbors.

“Our team at the Consulate General engages local leaders on issues that affect North Americans, helps Canadians living and traveling in our region, and assists in building business relationships,” wrote Wilshaw.

Wilshaw worked for Customs and Revenue Canada and Statistics Canada prior to joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 1996.

She has served as Canada’s first secretary in Tokyo and counsellor at the country’s Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Wuksgaw has also served as a trade commissioner in the North Asia Commercial Relations Division, senior policy officer in the Multilateral Trade Policy Division, assignment officer in the Assignments and Pool Management Division, executive director of the Strategic Policy Division, director of the Innovation Science and Technology Division and of the Trade Commissioner Service Support Division, and director general of the Office of the Chief Trade Commissioner. Most recently she was a commercial minister at the Canadian high commission in India.

Kicking off the 2014 school year, public schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa boasted a few new faces amongst its staff. Several certified teachers from Spain began their American-based teaching careers thanks to a three year visa program that aims to bring more bilingual teachers, specifically Spanish speakers, to serve the districts’ students. In Oklahoma City, 31 percent of the student population is English language learners, while in Tulsa the figure is near 20 percent.

Assistance in connecting those teachers in Spain with districts in Oklahoma came through a partnership between the Oklahoma State Department of Education and foreign embassies and academies. Overseeing much of this cooperation is the OSDE’s Desa Dawson, director of the world language education program. Dawson elaborated on her office’s efforts at promoting a different kind of foreign investment in Oklahoma.

What is the exchange program between Oklahoma and schools in Spain and France?

“The students who come to Oklahoma from Spain and France are involved in school partnership exchanges where the students can experience our educational programs while visiting our state. In return our students do the same with their partner schools in France and Spain.

“Some students from the schools in France choose to study specific aspects of our culture, history and education such as fashion, Native American tribes, race relations, math instruction. Others simply come to experience our way of life, and our students do the same in France.

“Our school partnerships with Spain are just beginning. The two Tulsa immersion schools’ students even attend classes in France and Spain along with the students there, and their counterparts travel to Oklahoma to attend school here for weeks at a time.”

Why is it necessary to bring teachers from Spain, with the memoranda of understanding with the embassy and Académie d’Amiens, to Oklahoma?

“Due to a critical shortage of teachers here in Oklahoma, we have been fortunate to utilize teachers from France and Spain to accomplish our desire to give Oklahoma students a beneficial international experience in culture and language.

“Our nation has promoted visiting guest teacher programs for a number of years to take advantage of transnational educational offerings for students and support global competency.

“These programs take place more often at the university level, but are now being seen in PK-12 schools too.”

How does one go about searching out teachers who are fluent in Spanish and English?

“The visiting guest teacher program has been offered by the Embassy of Spain in recent years and now is well established with an interview system to select teachers to meet the needs of school districts in the U.S.

“Representatives from both Tulsa and Oklahoma City public school districts went to Madrid, Spain to interview prospective applicants to the program after candidates were pre-selected by officials there for the specific positions that were needed. We have an education advisor from Spain assigned to Oklahoma and Texas who visited with the two districts prior to last year’s selection process. That same person then oversees the teacher orientation process in Spain prior to the departure and visits with the teachers in the school setting when they are assigned to positions in Oklahoma.”

Why is having these teachers, and MOU like the one that brought them here, important to Oklahoma in economic terms? What practical impact does it have on the state?

“Oklahoma is utilizing these teachers in two different ways at present. The first is to internationalize our curriculum to some extent by learning about other counties and sharing educational methods and expertise. Preparing students to enter into an international workforce is of utmost importance.

“The second benefit is to utilize the language skills of these educators to serve our English language learners as well as to bolster our language immersion programs. The only additional cost is for the J-1 Visa expense for each candidate. The visiting guest teachers are paid the same as Oklahoma teachers with similar education and experience.”

Why is the teaching and learning of languages other than English important to a landlocked state like Oklahoma?

“With the technological advances of today, no state is landlocked anymore! We cannot afford to be left behind in a world that is evolving ever more rapidly. The changes that have been made in language instruction reflect how we interact in the world today. Ultimately, it’s a long term investment in Oklahoma.

“We used to teach students to read and interpret the literature of other cultures in order to understand them. We now must teach students to communicate with the people face-to-face and concentrate on the listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in a culturally authentic perspective. This is vital in order to conduct business, settle diplomatic issues, solve problems and advance civilization for peace and prosperity while carefully avoiding misinterpretation. This requires much more time and expertise as well as finding opportunities to interact.

“We welcome these teachers and the unique experience they bring to our students with open arms.”

Though focused on business, investment and education, members of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team come from a wide range of professional backgrounds. Assistant Attorney General Grant Moak is one of those individuals, who in addition to his work for the attorney general’s office, also serves as the French Republic’s Honorary Consul in Oklahoma.

Moak recently presented that country’s highest decoration, the Medal of Chevalier (Knight) of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor, to WWII veteran and Oklahoma City resident Major General Stanley Newman (ret.). Newman received the honor for his service as a P-51 pilot in 51 combat missions in the European theater.

Read more about Major General Newman’s service at www.NewsOK.com.

For a full list of honorary foreign consuls in Oklahoma, please visit our Oklahoma Governor’s International Team members’ section.


Photo: Retired Maj. Gen. Stanley Newman receives the Medal of Chevalier of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor from Grant Moak, Honorary French Consul for Oklahoma, as friends and family watch inside his daughter’s Oklahoma City home, Saturday, March 16, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Andreas Maager, Consul General of Switzerland for Atlanta, which oversees the country’s interests in Oklahoma, travelled to the Sooner State in May 2014. Along with OK Governor’s International Team member Rico Buchli, Honorary Consul for Switzerland in Oklahoma, Maager visited Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, an OKGIT reception at the OKC Museum of Art and visits to the OKC Memorial Bombing Museum and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

In Dec. 2013, the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team hosted then-Director of U.S. State Dept. Office Missions Allen S. Greenberg in his trip to Oklahoma. Since Aug. 2013, Greenberg has served as the U.S. Consul General for Osaka-Kobe in Japan.