Alabama World Languages Association

The mission of the Alabama World Languages Association is to motivate educators to contribute to
   and to advocate for improved world language education for all students at all levels.

AWLA Board

AWLA Members may access Executive Board, Executive Staff and Affiliated Organizations representatives' information through our Member Directory.  

For all other inquiries please email us at

2024-2025 AWLA Board Slate of Nominees

Executive Board

Executive Staff

Affiliated Organizations

AWLA Executive Board Documents & Forms

AWLA Officers Terms

2024 Executive Board

President (2024-2026), Lisa Loyd

Lisa Loyd, MA, has taught for 22 years. She is a Spanish teacher and sponsor of the Spanish National Honor Society at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, a Spanish endorsement from Auburn University, and a MA in Spanish Education from the University of Alabama. She has studied abroad in Mexico and Spain, but the best experience abroad was leading two student tours to Spain, Italy, and France. Her leadership positions in language associations include serving as past editor for the AAFLT (AWLA) Newsletter, Past Parliamentarian for AWLA, and Past President for AATSP. She was the 2009 SCOLT Educator of Excellence nominee.

Vice President / Program Chair      Cody Rawlinson (2024-2026)

Cody Rawlinson is a native of Rockford, Alabama. He obtained his Bachelors of Arts in Spanish and Dance from the University of Alabama and continued his education at the University of South Alabama where he graduated with his Masters in Spanish Education. He taught Spanish and Dance classes at Fairhope High School for ten years where he was the Sponsor for National Spanish Honor Society, Diversity Club, and the school’s inaugural dance company, Fairhope Dance Collective.  Additionally, Cody has been an Instructor of Spanish at the University of South Alabama since 2023. He has had the pleasure of chaperoning students on an extended tour of Spain while also creating an Immersive experience in his classroom. In his free time, Cody enjoys traveling to Spanish-speaking countries and spending time anywhere near a body of water with his family and his dog.

Secretary, Sara Ahnell (2024-2026)

Sara Ahnell, Ed.D., has taught French and English in public schools in Alabama since 2012 and was named 2023 AWLA World Language Teacher of the Year. Currently she teaches all levels of French (I, II, III, IV, V/AP/IB) at Auburn High School, and she taught previously at Opelika High School and Sylacauga High School. In 2018, she achieved National Board Certification in World Language for Early Adolescence to Young Adulthood in French and maintained certification in 2023. 

Dr. Ahnell is also an instructor at Auburn University in the College of Education’s world language teacher preparation program and has served in this role teaching courses in classroom management mentoring both aspiring and veteran language teachers since 2013. Her areas of research interest include integrating high-leverage teaching practices for language acquisition, developing proficiency-based thematic curricula, and implementing effective classroom management strategies for secondary world language teaching. Dr. Ahnell’s work has been published in The French Review and The Language Educator. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three small children.

Treasurer, Chase Krebs (2024-2026)

Chase Krebs is originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After obtaining his B.A. in Spanish from the University of South Alabama in Mobile, he moved to the Midwest to pursue his M.A. in Spanish Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently living in Mobile, AL and teaching Spanish at Citronelle High School, where he is the sponsor of National Spanish Honor Society and teaches Spanish 1-4. Chase also teaches as an adjunct instructor at the University of South Alabama, and he gives ESL classes through online teaching companies. He has taught both language and content-based courses at the university and secondary levels. His research interests include instructional design and curriculum development. When Chase isn't teaching, he enjoys studying meteorology, traveling, and creating materials for world language teachers.

Membership Coordinator,              Bethany Powell (2023-2025)

Bethany Powell is originally from Brandon, Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi College with a B.A. in Elementary Education and from Belhaven University with a Master’s in Elementary Education. While in Mississippi, she taught kindergarten and 6th grade. She then started a Spanish program at the middle school where she taught 7th and 8th grade Spanish for 5 years. Bethany moved to Alabama in 2014 and began teaching elementary Spanish for Madison City Schools. Since then, she has taught pre-k through 5th grade Spanish. She has also taught ESL online.  Bethany lives in Cullman with her husband, Anthony, and son, Weston. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends and traveling.  

Parliamentarian, Mirna Deakle (2024-2026)

Mirna Deakle was born in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico and currently lives in Mobile, Alabama. She began her teaching career nine years ago as a middle and high school Spanish teacher. She currently teaches sixth and eigth grade at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile, AL. She has a Masters in Education from the University of South Alabama, along with a Law Degree from the Autonomous University of Yucatan in Mexico. In the past, she worked for the Mobile County Public Schools as a Migrant Liason, Parent Manager for ESL, and Immigrant families for twelve years, where she had the privilege to serve a variety of families from different nationalities and backgrounds. Also, she has taught beginner courses of Spanish at The University of South Alabama as an Adjunct Professor. She has been an active member and presenter at AWLA. During the summer time, she enjoys helping her husband in the garden, growing and canning vegetables.

2024 Executive Staff

  Executive Director, Kristy Britt    (2022-2025)

 Kristy Britt, MA, is Senior Instructor of Spanish at the   University of South Alabama.  She has held many   leadership positions including Treasurer of the   International Association for Language Learning   Technology, President of Southeast Association for Language Learning Technology, Director of the USA Language Resource Center, Coordinator of Introductory and Intermediate Spanish, Director of USA Study Abroad in Spain and Costa Rica, and Secretary of the USA Faculty Senate. She received her BA in Spanish and English from the University of South Alabama and her MA in Spanish from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has taught levels 4-16. She was the 2015 Teacher of the Year (post-secondary) for the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers. Languages: Spanish and English.

Professional Development Director, Krista Chambless (2023-2025)

Dr. Krista Chambless is an Associate Professor of Spanish, French and Foreign Language Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She holds a Master’s degree in Romance Languages (Spanish and French) and a PhD in Foreign Language Education. She is a frequent presenter at state, regional, national and international conferences. She is the President of SCOLT, Director of the Elementary Spanish Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Professional Development Director for the Alabama World Language Association. She has published articles in System, Foreign Language Annals and the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. She also co-hosts a podcast called Step Into Mondays about world language teaching. She was the Southern Conference on Language Teaching Educator of Excellence in 2013. In 2021 she received the Wilga Rivers Award for Leadership in World Language Education. In 2022 she was selected as the ACTFL/CALICO DL SIG Excellence in Online Education awardee and in 2023 she was name the AATSP Teacher of the Year for Four year colleges and Universities.

Registration Chair,              Christina Thurman (2023-2025) 

Christina Thurman joined the AWLA executive staff in 2017. She received her B.A. in Spanish, M.A. in Secondary Education and Ed.S. in TESOL from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.. Her instructional leadership certificate is from Auburn University at Montgomery. She taught Spanish 15 years in the K-12 setting, through ACCESS, and at the undergraduate level at UAB. She taught ESL and served as a district EL coordinator for five years before moving to the Alabama State Department of Education in 2022. In her role as an English learner specialist, she also creates the ALSDE’s World Languages, Latin, and American Sign Language newsletter. Christina is a lifelong learner who is passionate about languages, cultures, and volunteerism. 

Awards Director, Chelsea Lawrence (2023-2025)

Chelsea Lawrence is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Masters in the Teaching of Languages. Since completing her degree in 2015, she has taught Upper School Spanish at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile, Alabama. Alongside her colleagues, she has developed intermediate level curriculum with a focus on Central America and the Caribbean Basin. This expertise stems from her time abroad in Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica. Dedicated to her profession, Chelsea presents innovative teaching methods at education conferences at the local, state, and regional levels. When not in the classroom, you can find her working in the garden, spending time with family or enjoying a great cup of coffee!

Advocacy Director, Hamsa Mahafza (2024-2026)

DrHamsa Mahafza is a faculty member at the College of Education at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). From the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), she received multiple teacher certifications, including the Texas Certification to Teach Languages Other Than English (EC-12), and also earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Later, she received her Ph.D. in Culture, Literacy, and Language from the Department of Bicultural Bilingual Studies in the College of Education & Human Development at UTSA. While working on her doctoral degree, she taught different levels of Arabic Language at the Department of Modern Languages St. Mary’s University, specifically: Introduction to Arabic I & II, Second Year Arabic I & II, and topics in Language-Advanced I &II. Currently, her teaching specialization includes multiculturalism, foreign languages teaching methods, and differentiated Instruction. She has been selected as UAH 2022 Honors College Faculty Fellow.  In addition to service-learning in teacher education, her research interests focus on two interrelated areas, Heritage Language (HL) education and school choice. She was selected for the 2022 AWLA Friend of Languages Award. She served two terms as Chair of the HLs SIG at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). She is the sponsor and academic advisor of INCLUDE-Club, a UAH registered student organization. Her passion for multicultural children’s literature motivated her to write her first book "The Arabian Cinderella and the Secret of the Woven Threads" (in progress). In her spare time, she enjoys gardening with her husband and cooking multicultural foods from around the world. Her favorite pets are rabbits; she never gets bored of talking about them.  

Past President, Liza Heath   (2024-2026)

Liza Marilyn Heath teaches middle school Spanish and French at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile, Alabama. Born and raised in Puerto Rico she graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, where she received her B.A. in Special Education and Elementary Education. Her experience teaching languages includes teaching English, Spanish, Latin, and French to elementary, middle school, and high school students in Puerto Rico, Miami, Morocco, and Mobile, Alabama. Learning Moroccan Arabic as an adult and teaching students their core subjects in their L4 was not only a big eye opener for her, but has transformed her teaching style and provided her with tools she loves to share with other language educators. 

 Webmaster, Yohanna Jiménez   (2024-2026)

Yohanna Jiménez was born in Humacao, Puerto Rico and currently lives in Daphne, Alabama. She began her teaching career twenty two years ago in the state of Mississippi as an elementary (K-6) school Spanish teacher. She has taught Spanish to grades K-16 in both public and private schools. She currently teaches fifth and sixth grade at Bayside Academy in Daphne, AL. She has a B.A in Science from the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras, along with a Master of Arts in the Teaching of Languages from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Yohanna has served as webmaster, regional workshop coordinator, postcard contest coordinator, board member, vice-president, president, and past president of the Mississippi Foreign Language Association (MFLA). She has also served as the president and poster contest coordinator of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), Mississippi Chapter, and program director of the Southern Conference of Language Teaching (SCOLT). She served as the Mississippi state representative for the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL) from 2012-2014, and as the Southeast Regional Representative from 2014-2016. She has been an active member and presenter at State (Mississippi and Alabama), Regional (SCOLT) and National World Language conferences (AATSP and ACTFL).  

 Social Media Coordinator,               Cayla Baker (2023-2025)

Cayla Baker is originally from Montgomery, Alabama. She received her Bachelor's in Art History and Spanish from UAB. The experiences she had with excellent teachers and professors inspired her to get a Master's in Spanish Education from Auburn University. She had the opportunity to study abroad in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. Now in her third year of teaching, she serves as the Spanish and ESL teacher at Tallassee High School. She enjoys teaching language and culture and helping students discover and make connections to the Spanish-speaking world. When she is not teaching, she and her husband enjoy camping, backpacking and visiting state and national parks. 

Exhibits Chair

Conference Host

 AWLA Past Presidents: Liza Heath (2022-2024)                Jennifer Charles (2020-2022),  Kristy Britt (2018-2020),    Malinda O'Leary (2017-2018),  Krista Chambless (2015-2017)

Affiliated Organizations

AATSP President for Alabama, Brandon Cole

The Spanish language has always been intriguing to him, beginning with his first Spanish class in the ninth grade. Brandon has been blessed to have had several wonderful teachers throughout the years who have served as role models to him and inspired him to become an educator. He is passionate not only about Spanish but about sharing my knowledge with others as a teacher. He havs had several teaching experiences, mostly with college education classes, but also as volunteer positions. 

NNELL Liaison, Joelle Jones

Joelle Jones currently teaches Spanish to students in Kindergarten through 4th grades for Madison City Schools.  In her 18 year career she has taught French and Spanish to grades 7-12 in Michigan and Missouri.  She is passionate about early language learning. Her newest hobby is      learning how to be a better language teacher.  She loves attending language conferences and stalking world language teachers on Twitter and  Facebook. Learn more about NNELL.

SEALLT Liaison, Ari Gutman

Ari is from Jacksonville, FL originally but has lived in Auburn, AL since 1997. After receiving a Master of Hispanic Studies in 2002, he began teaching Elementary and Intermediate Spanish courses for Auburn University. He also served as the Elementary Spanish Coordinator for six years. Currently, he is a board member of SEALLT and FLAG serving as the Techspert (Technology Expert). He has a wonderful wife, two stepchildren and six-and-a-half-month-old twin girls. They are the light of his life! In his spare time, which is rare, he enjoys sculpting and watching Star Wars and horror movies.

AATG President, Dr. David Johnson

Dr. David Johnson, associate professor of Global Studies and German, serves as director of the Global Studies Program. His instructional duties include courses in Global Studies and all levels of German language, literature, and culture. Dr. Johnson has published in a number of areas of inquiry, including representations of urban spaces, migration and integration, masculinity, leisure, consumer culture, and German-Polish cultural exchanges. His current research project focuses on environmental representations of Silesia from the 1960s into the present.

ACA Delegate, Drew Lasater

Drew Lasater has taught all levels of Latin at Mountain Brook High School since 2007. He is a graduate of Samford University (2002 – BA, Classics & Religion) and the University of Georgia (2007 – MA, Classical Languages). This is his second time to serve as president of the Alabama Classical Association, and he is thankful for the opportunity to support Latin teachers and the teaching of ancient languages, literatures, and cultures in Alabama. He was part of the 2017-2018 Alabama World Languages State Course of Study Committee and Task Force, and currently co-chair of the CAMWS Latin Translation Exam, an international translation contest for secondary and post-secondary Latin students. Drew is an ardent, lifelong Atlanta Braves fan, and was unofficially declared their “Official Latin Teacher” in 2015 by the social media team (*declaration not legally binding).

AATF President, Heather West

Dr. Heather A. West is president of the Alabama chapter of American Association of teachers of French. She is Associate Professor of French and the Director of the Critical Languages Program at Samford University where sponsors the French Club

and the Delta Upsilon chapter of Dobro Slovo, the National Slavic Honor Society. She is a member of Pi Delta Phi National French Honor Society and Sigma Delta Pi National Spanish Honor Society. 

She serves as the campus representative for the David L. Boren Awards for International Study, the Critical Languages Scholarship, the College Language Association’s Carroll Mills Young Scholarship for study abroad, and the American Society of the French Academic Palms Summer Scholarship Program. She also servesas a non-certifying advisor for Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship Program. She is the president of the Samford University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and serves as the secretary of the National Association of Self-Instructional Language Programs. 

Her areas of research include the contemporary literature and culture of Quebec as well as literature in French, Spanish, and English from the Caribbean including that of the Haitian diaspora.

In 2015, the government of France named Dr. West Chevalier de l’ordre des Palmes académiques (Knight of the Order of Academic Palms). The honor, created by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808, recognizes those who have rendered eminent service to French education and have contributed actively to the prestige of French culture. Dr. West is a past president of the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers and the former executive director of the Alabama World Languages Association. She is currently serving as AWLA’s Historian.

ACLTA President, Rui Feng

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