Maria Antonieta Abla Celani
Prof. Antonieta Celani

Editor’s Note: In this piece, two current and one former TIRF Board members share memories of TIRF Trustee Emerita Professor Antonieta Celani. Lorraine de Matos, General Manager of Cultura Inglesa in São Paulo, Brazil and TIRF Trustee, as well as a close personal friend of Prof. Celani, has shared the following text with TIRF Today newsletter readers.

We are sorry to announce that Dr. Maria Antonieta Alba Celani, Trustee Emerita and former TIRF Board member, and one of Brazil´s renowned specialists in Applied Linguistics and Teacher Education, passed away on November 16th in São Paulo, Brazil, just before her 95th birthday.

Antonieta – or Nieta as her very close friends called her – had a distinguished career at the Catholic University of São Paulo, PUC-SP, where she founded the first Programme for Post Graduate Studies in Applied Linguistics in Brazil, in 1970. She was also the Founder and Coordinator of a Scholarship Programme in Continuing Education for Public School English Language Teachers, in partnership with Cultura Inglesa – São Paulo, PUC-SP and the State Secretariat of Education for São Paulo, which she started 23 years ago. She was a constant presence on the programme and a source of inspiration for these public school teachers, many of whom went on to MA programmes.

Antonieta was an editorial board member of several important journals in her areas of expertise, such as Teaching English in Brazilian Public Schools and Teacher Development and Reflective Practice. A revered yet humble person, deceptively low key in manner but with never-ending energy, she spoke with a contagious passion about the teaching profession and the classroom, affecting the careers and lives of thousands of public school teachers in Brazil.

Lorraine had this personal reflection about Prof. Celani: “Antonieta has set a very high standard and a strong legacy for future generations of scholars who seek to cause a positive impact on Brazilian students learning the English Language in the challenging conditions of public schools.”


Remembrance of Antonieta Celani, By Donald Freeman

Editor’s note: Dr. Donald Freeman, Professor at the University of Michigan, is a former President of TIRF.

I first got to know Antonieta when my family and I moved to São Paulo in 1995. I remember an early lunch we had at which she arrived in her signature red high-top sneakers and we talked about the early days of applied linguistics in Brazil. Later, I would visit her at the university, where everyone I’d run into – from faculty colleagues to students to cleaners – would show such affection and care for her. “Profesora Celani? Her office is this way.” Or at the Cultura Inglesa, where teachers would gather around to greet her and talk about their work. She once told me she’d played pretty much every role in the organization – from language student, to teacher, to supervisor and trainer, to board member. To me, that was what was so characteristic of Antonieta: her unique ability to connect people around common interests and issues.

Antonieta was one of a singular community of scholars who established the field of applied linguistics around the world. She was in at the beginning when she did her MA at the University of Michigan as the field was being formulated, and her name and work became emblematic of the field in Brazil and more widely. She invited Noam Chomsky to Brazil, established the program at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC), and taught and mentored literally generations of scholars and teachers. For all these reasons, Antonieta was precisely the type of person we were hoping to involve as a Board member when TIRF began to expand its focus.

Intrepid, committed, smart, with a wonderfully inclusive sense of humor and warmth, Antonieta contributed perspectives on ELT from her part of the world. But more fundamentally, she would remind us with a quiet insistence of the people – teachers and students – that the Foundation was organized to serve. Her presence is sorely missed, but her contributions undergird what we hope to do.


Memories of Antonieta Celani, By Kathi Bailey

Editor’s note: TIRF President Kathi Bailey shares the following text with TIRF Today readers.

Antonieta Celani was an amazing TIRF Trustee. She was in her late 70s or perhaps even her 80s when she joined our Board. She had amazing energy and clarity of thought, and her discourse style was to listen carefully and then share thoughtful insights, from which we all benefitted.

My favorite memory of Antonieta is from September of 2003, when we had our September Board meeting in Baltimore, just after the city was struck by Hurricane Isabel. Antonieta had arrived a day early to get over the long trip and had witnessed the brunt of the storm. We seriously considered cancelling the Board meeting because of the power outages and consequent disruption of services – especially near the harbor, including the lack of power in the hotel where we were to meet.

When I finally got to the hotel (the taxi dropped me several blocks away due to all the debris and road closures), I found Antonieta sitting primly and patiently in an upstairs parlor, above the level of the flooding. Because there was no power, there was no food in the hotel. Someone on the hotel staff had driven miles inland to stock up on sandwiches and beverages. The neighborhood was a mess, puddles and debris and downed power lines everywhere, but Antonieta was calm and cheerful and unfailingly pleasant to the staff, whom she had clearly charmed.

Some Trustees, wanting to avoid the inconveniences caused by the hurricane, decided to forego the trip to Baltimore, but not Antonieta. She was there, patiently waiting for the rest of the Trustees to arrive Indeed, she was a scholar, a leader, an outstanding Board member, and a very classy person.