2014–2015: A Collaborative, Productive, Visionary Year

The TESOL President’s Blog

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed.  At the TESOL 2014 convention in Portland, Oregon, USA, I was giving my acceptance speech as president, and at TESOL 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I delivered the TESOL Annual Report as your president.  I’m proud to say that this year has been one of collaboration, productivity, and vision.

When I was running for the president’s position, I made three promises to our members. The first was my commitment to making TESOL accountable to its members and the global community by listening to and representing diverse voices to address critical issues of “TESOL-international,” and to affect positive changes. The second was to work closely with the Board of Directors, tirelessly advocating for our association locally, nationally, and internationally. My third promise was to further strengthen TESOL’s research and professional development agenda. I am pleased to say that by working collaboratively with the TESOL Board of Directors and the TESOL staff team, I have kept my promises to our members. Without the Board and staff team working together, without the support and trust of our members, it would have been impossible for us to accomplish so much this year. 

Here are a few highlights of our achievements this year:

  • TESOL is going more global. This year, we have welcomed four new affiliates into the TESOL family: New Mexico TESOL, the Nicaraguan Association of English Teachers, English Teachers’ Association of India, and Bulgarian English Teachers’ Association. Now TESOL has 117 affiliates and close to 13,000 members representing 156 countries. The retention rate remains steady at close to 69%. I personally helped TESOL recruit about 100 new members.The TESOL 2015 convention was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is the first time since 2000 that the TESOL international convention has been held outside the United States, crossing the borders between the United States and Canada.In addition to the major convention, this year TESOL has also planned a regional conference in Singapore, titled “Excellence in Language Instruction: Supporting Classroom Teaching & Learning” (3–5 Dec 2015), to bring a conference closer to our global members (who may not be able to attend the annual convention in North America). We have also planned four more global events in 2015: “Changing Classrooms, Supporting Teachers,” an academy in Chandigarh, India (24 April 2015); TESOL Academy 2015 in Galloway, New Jersey, USA (19–20 June 2015); “English Language Innovation, Implementation, and Sustainability,” a symposium in Danang, Vietnam (28 July 2015); and “Innovations and Breakthroughs in English Language Teaching,” a symposium in Cancún, Quintana Roo, México (4 Nov 2015).In terms of professional development (PD), this year TESOL offered 14 virtual seminars,11 online courses, 5 different online certificate programs, and 1 brand new certificate program (the TESOL Certificate: Advanced Practitioner) in addition to the academies I mentioned earlier. Many of the events are free or available at a discounted rate for members.  TESOL will continue offering innovative and on-demand PD events for members, especially because the majority of our members can’t attend the annual convention in person.
  • TESOL’s new 3-year Strategic Plan (2015–2018). The TESOL Board has achieved a very important accomplishment this year in TESOL’s new 3-year strategic plan (2015–2018). The Board spent countless hours of deliberation before reaching a practical consensus on the major components of the new plan, which includes a vision statement, four core values, and five audacious strategic goals—Advocacy, Professional Learning & Engagement, Research, Standards, and Governance—each with a list of measurable objectives and strategies. The staff team, led by TESOL Executive Director Rosa Aronson, has developed operational plans to implement the new strategic plan for the next 3 years. What is unique about this new strategic plan is that Research and Standards have received their long overdue attention and stand out together as twin goals. It is our hope that the five goals will help TESOL advance its mission and strategic direction in the next 3 years and further strengthen TESOL’s leadership position in the ELT field.
  • TESOL’s Governance Review Initiative. Going hand in hand with the new strategic plan is TESOL’s Governance Review Initiative. At the 2015 TESOL convention, the Board adopted the new model and the implementation plan will follow after the convention. The Board has worked nonstop this year and has spent countless hours deliberating every change we make. Why? Because your Board wants to make sure every decision we make is based on the best interests of our membership, and we have been conscious of the need for due process at every stage of the decision-making process. We also made sure members had sufficient time to provide comments and suggestions. The entire process has been transparent, as your Board is committed to cocreating a new governance structure with the members. The Board will continue keeping regular communication with members during the implementation process.
  • TESOL’s new Research Agenda. Another exciting achievement is the completion of TESOL’s 2014 Research Agenda, thanks to the outstanding work of the task force led by Christine Coombe and Dudley Reynolds. This agenda is an important part of TESOL International Association’s ongoing efforts to build professional expertise through the dissemination of knowledge in the field, and in particular to strengthen the relationships among research, practice, and policy. The Board has formally approved the Research Agenda and has developed implementation plans.
  • The fifth accomplishment is the new Short-Term Certificate Program Standards, recently completed thanks to the task force led by Richmond Stroupe and a very dedicated and diverse group of experts. The Board approved the final version of the standards at its March 2015 board meeting.  It is our hope that the new Short-Term Certificate Program Standards will raise TESOL’s profile with short-term certificate providers and prospective employers.  In the long term, TESOL will be able to test the viability of a future accreditation program by tracking interest in the standards and accompanying products.  TESOL will provide further updates in the coming months.
  • The TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit in June 2014 was a huge success. It was the first time that TESOL made the Advocacy Day into a Summit, and it had the highest participation since its inception. I was fortunate to be part of the summit and had a great time talking with the representatives from my state (Washington) and networking with other summit participants. Huge thanks to John Segota and his wonderful staff team for making the event so successful!
  • Last, but not least, to increase Board accountability, the Board also started to plan a self-evaluation process. We conducted research on several Board evaluation tools and will start the process of developing our own tool once the new governance structure implementation is in place.

In this brief blog, I can only highlight a few major achievements we have accomplished this year. I’d like to express my deep gratitude to all my Board colleagues for their dedication, wisdom, trust, and support, and for their candor, professionalism, and respect in debating critical issues while keeping the best interest of the association and our membership in mind. No subject was treated as undiscussable.

I’d also like to express my sincere thanks to the amazing TESOL staff team led by Rosa Aronson. Without their great support and collaboration, it would have been impossible for us to achieve so much this year. Of course, a huge thank you to all our members for your unwavering support and trust!  I hope you’ll agree with me that this was indeed a collaborative, productive, and visionary year!

Thank you for reading my last president’s blog. In the coming year, I’ll serve as your past president. May the coming year continue to bring us more collaboration, trust, support, productivity, happiness, peace, and success! Thank you all!

About Yilin Sun

Yilin Sun
Yilin Sun has served as president of TESOL International Association, as chair of the TESOL Affiliate Leadership Council, and president of Washington Association for the Education of Speakers of Other Languages (WAESOL). In 2011-2012, Dr. Sun was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Taiwan at the National Taiwan Normal University. Dr. Sun received her doctorate in applied linguistics/curriculum and instruction from the University of Toronto, Canada. She has more than 28 years of experience in the field of TESOL as a teacher educator, a researcher, a classroom teacher, and a program leader with various institutions of higher education in China, Canada, and the United States. She is the author and co-author of books, book chapters, and research papers in refereed professional journals. Her research interests include curriculum development, program assessment and evaluation, L2 reading, vocabulary learning, classroom-based action research, teacher education, adult education, teaching English to young learners, World Englishes, ESP and nonnative English speaking teachers (NNEST) in the ELT field.
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