Beatriz Fantini: Language learning and teaching enthusiast

March 26, 2024

This Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting some of the impactful women of World Learning, School for International Training, and The Experiment in International Living. This series seeks to showcase their extraordinary journeys and indelible contributions to our more than 90-year history. Each of them, in their own way, has helped us create a more sustainable, peaceful, and just world.

A black and white side profile of a woman against a green circle background.

Beatriz Céspedes de Fantini was already a committed internationalist when she came to School for International Training in 1966 to teach Spanish. The daughter of a Bolivian diplomat, Beatriz was born in Italy and had lived in Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and Argentina before coming to the United States. She speaks Spanish, Italian, English, and Portuguese.

In 1968, Beatriz joined SIT’s faculty in the Master of Arts Teaching program, making her the first woman from outside the United States to serve on the faculty. Over the next five decades, she promoted proficient language learning, teaching methodologies, and intercultural understanding in various positions at the school. Students and co-workers always appreciated Beatriz, not only for her high degree of professionalism, especially in language training, but also for her perpetual optimism and upbeat energy when performing and teaching folk dancing and Latin music.

She contributed tirelessly to all branches of World Learning as a Language and Culture department director, a teacher trainer, and a language teacher and advisor for academic study abroad programs, among other roles. She directed summer language and orientation programs in Oaxtepec, Mexico, for 15 summers with The Experiment in International Living. She also developed training and implementation material for diverse activities including African language courses and the World Learning program Salaam-Shalom, which used Arabic and Hebrew language training and cultural studies to build understanding of the Middle East.

In 2004, Beatriz was awarded the World Learning Presidential Medal in recognition of her contributions and commitment to the mission of the organization. In 2016, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters by the World Learning Board of Trustees.

Retirement in 2016 did not stop Professor Emerita Fantini from actively furthering the mission of the organization. She had an essential role in welcoming and orienting refugees to Brattleboro, VT, as part of the New Vermonter Education Program, helping develop and deliver the initial language classes for refugees. Today, she continues as a cultural orientation teacher in community-based activities for the program, as well as she contributes articles to the media about World Learning initiatives.

Engaging and warm, Beatriz exemplifies the values of World Learning by always fostering a sense of community and furthering intercultural understanding among all.

We wish to thank Lou Witherite and Maisie Crowther from World Learning’s Alvino E. Fantini Institutional Archives who generously volunteered their time to provide the research and photo for this story.