Natrona County Educator Receives International Affairs Citizen Award from UW

April 9, 2008

Longtime Natrona County educator Ann Tollefson is the recipient of the Wyoming Citizen for Outstanding Achievement in International Affairs award. She will be honored at a dinner and reception Thursday, April 9, at the new Laramie Hilton Garden Inn.

Tollefson is the sixth Wyoming citizen to receive the award, which is sponsored by the International Board of Advisors of the University of Wyoming. She will be awarded a specially designed gold medal.

Winners of the award are recognized for demonstrating internationally focused work that brings awareness to Wyoming in the areas of global affairs and business, educational exchanges or cultural interchange. The award winner is selected on accomplishments that have measurable impacts on the community or state's awareness of international issues and international educational or cultural exchange, says Anne Alexander, director of UW International Programs.

Tollefson, a Wyoming native, is a UW alumna, earning a B.A. (1963) degree in French and an M.A. (1969) degree in French literature. She is a founding member of UW's International Board of Advisors.

"Ann is an educator with a long and distinguished record as a foreign language teacher and administrator," Alexander says.

In 1983, Tollefson was named Wyoming's foreign language teacher of the year and in 1984 she was named Wyoming's Teacher of the Year. She was appointed to the Presidential Scholar Program in 1987 and was recognized by President Reagan at a White House ceremony. Tollefson also served in 1997 as president of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and in 1992 and 2002 held the same position in the Pacific Northwest Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Tollefson has directed several international education projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She also directed a Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad project in West Africa for Natrona County School District teachers and had numerous foreign language assistance projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Tollefson has published many diverse articles such as offering Russian through interactive video and language programs for rural schools.

"One of her most significant contributions to internationalizing Wyoming is her tireless advocacy before the Wyoming Legislature for a state foreign language pilot program," Alexander says.

Because of those efforts, the 2004 legislature established a pilot project to expand foreign language instruction in kindergarten through sixth grade. The program now offers the opportunity to learn another language to more than 9,000 Wyoming children. Tollefson served as the program's project director from 2004-2008.

Her role in expanding foreign language instruction at the elementary level has been recognized nationally. In 2002, she received ACTFL's Florence Steiner Award for leadership in K-12 education. The Department of Defense spotlighted Wyoming's elementary-level foreign language efforts by inviting her to address a national symposium in 2004 on meeting the nation's critical languages needs.

Previous Wyoming Citizen for Outstanding Achievement in International Affairs award recipients are former Wyoming Gov. Michael Sullivan, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland; Thomas Stroock, former U.S. ambassador to Guatemala; the late David Nicolas, former OSCE's (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) ambassador to the Ukraine; Francois Dickman, former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait; and Lew Bagby, former UW International Programs director.

For more information about the award, contact Alexander at (307) 766-3677 or e-mail

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