Elizabeth Lee Roby is recipient of the 2021 REEI Distinguished Alumni Award. Established in 1988, the award recognizes IU alumni for outstanding contributions to the field of Russian and East European Studies. Lee is the eleventh recipient and the first pre-college teacher to be so honored.
As a graduate student in the Department of Slavic and East European Language and Cultures, Elizabeth Lee Roby received an MA in Russian Literature in 1996 and was admitted to Ph.D candidacy in 1999. In 2002, she discontinued her graduate studies to take up a position as a teacher of Russian language at Friends School of Baltimore (FSB), home to one of the oldest pre-college Russian programs in the United States. Throughout her nearly two decades of service as a teacher of Russian, Lee has trained hundreds of students, and many have attained high distinction in their study of the language under her guidance, including more than 40 US State Department National Security Language Initiative for Youth participants (summer in-country study of Russian program), six American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR) Olympiada of Spoken Russian finalist participants in study trips to Vladimir (Russia), five International Russian Olympiada participants (four of whom secured top honors at the event in Moscow), and numerous participants in summer intensive Russian study programs throughout the US (Beloit, IU, Bryn Mawr, U of Wisconsin). She regularly coordinates, oversees curriculum, and chaperones 18-day spring break intensive homestay/study trips to Saint Petersburg for juniors and seniors and has introduced numerous extracurricular enhancements to the Russian program at her school: Russian for Fun, an after-school exploratory Russian language and culture program for FSB and Tunbridge Elementary School fourth and fifth graders (enrollment feeder and community outreach program) in which her students serve as assistant teachers; monthly Russian film viewings and discussions; a weekly Russian lunch table; as well as enrichment and service projects that engage her students with the local Russophone community. In addition to Russian, she has also served FSB as a teacher of Russian literature and French. Lee’s manifold contributions to FSB in an administrative and leadership capacity include service as Chair of the Upper School Language Department from 2020 to the present and as Peer Group Leader for STRIDE (Strategic Transition to Remote Instruction Designed for Excellence, an eight-week professional development program) in summer 2020.
She also spearheaded the Upper School Modern Language Department curriculum review and development to seek greater alignment with American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages proficiency guidelines in 2011-2015.
Apart from her stellar accomplishments at FSB, Lee’s career has been distinguished by her steady rise to prominence among her pre-college Russian teacher peers across the United States. She has co-chaired the ACTR Olympiada of Spoken Russian for Maryland since 2006 and has sat on the ACTR Board of Directors since 2014, serving on numerous committees and the editorial board of Russian Language Journal. She currently sits on the Executive Council of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) as Vice-President for Pre-College Russian. She regularly shares her insights and experiences as a Russian-language educator on panels at the AATSEEL national convention, as a presenter at ACTR webinars, and in articles for Russian Language Journal, ACTR Newsletter, and other publications.
Since 2019, Lee has assumed a key role in REEI’s engagement with the pre-college Russian community, a mainstay of REEI’s outreach effort as a Title VI National Resource Center for Russian and Eastern Europe. In the summer of 2019, she co-designed and co-executed an REEI-sponsored three-day professional development workshop for pre-college teachers, the first phase in REEI’s multi-year project to diversify pre-college Russian curriculum while providing state-of-the-art training in teaching for proficiency. As a follow-up to that engagement, Lee has conceived a new initiative, the AATSEEL K-12 Teaching Excellence Program, a two-year sequence of professional development activities for in-service pre-college teachers of Russian to be launched this year under her co-directorship with the logistical and funding support of REEI (as well as its counterpart Title VI NRCs at U of Pittsburgh, U of Wisconsin, and Ohio State University).
REEI Director Sarah Phillips and REEI Associate Director Mark Trotter presented Lee with the award at the IU Alumni Reception during the ASEEES Annual Convention in New Orleans in November. In accepting the award, Lee expressed gratitude to REEI for its prominent role in her development as a teacher of Russian, from her days as a graduate student instructor of Russian in the Language Workshop (formerly SWSEEL) up till the present: “I am profoundly aware of the fact that if it were not for the REEI’s initiative in taking a leading role in the field in the ground-breaking work of promoting and supporting the development of instructional language materials intended to expand and diversify cultural representations of the Russophone world, I myself, would not have found my way to this needed work this quickly. I thank the REEI for its ‘push’ in this direction for both myself and the field and for the support that it continues to provide me.”