A New Professional Journey

For the past two decades the Annual TESOL Convention has been part of my March calendar, but this year my attendance at the TESOL New Orleans Convention was special as it marked the achievement of a goal I’ve had for many years—being President of the association.

I attended my first TESOL Convention in 1992 in Vancouver just as I was finishing my PhD.  From the moment I walked into the convention center that year I was mesmerized.  The selection of featured and concurrent sessions was intimidating but there was something for everyone on offer.   I had never seen so many books and teaching materials as I did in the Exhibition and it was in Vancouver where I got my first job overseas from TESOL’s  Employment Clearinghouse.  Since then I have attended 18 TESOL Conventions.  In 1996 I was asked to represent my affiliate, TESOL Arabia, at the annual affiliate leaders’ meetings and it was at these meetings in Chicago that the thought of participating in the leadership of the association first crossed my mind.  I continued to represent TESOL Arabia at these meetings year after year and got involved in the EFL Interest Section.  Gradually I learned about the association by volunteering for committees.  In 2002 I was invited to serve on TESOL’s Professional Development Committee and it was from my service on this committee that I came to the attention of the nominating committee who convinced me to run for the Board.  To make a long story short, I lost twice before I won but in 2005 I was elected to serve as the Convention Chair for the Tampa 2006 Convention.  Board service for TESOL is a three-year commitment and in those three years I learned as much about parliamentary procedure as I did about event planning.  Both the learning curve and the workload were steep but Board service was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in terms of my own professional development.    In 2008 I made my first run for President and lost!  Undeterred, I decided to run again in 2009 and was elected, becoming the first person from the Middle East to serve as TESOL President and only the third person from outside the United States.

On March 19th during the Annual Business Meeting I was installed as TESOL President for the years 2011 to 2012.  Quite frankly, with the exception of getting my doctorate it was one of the most exciting moments of my life.  It was made better still because of the presence in the audience of many TESOL Arabia members and faculty from my own institution.  Since then my life has really changed.  My e-mails have tripled, I’m travelling almost every weekend, and I feel I’m making a difference for teachers all over the world.

Since my installation as President I have represented TESOL at conferences in Serbia, Malaysia, and Kosovo.  In my conversations with teachers in these areas I’ve found that the issues affecting language teachers are similar to the ones that we face in the UAE, my home base.  So in my first blog as TESOL President I’d like to hear from members about the issues affecting teachers in your regions.

About Christine

Christine Coombe has a Ph.D in Foreign/Second Language Education from The Ohio State University. She is currently on the English faculty of Dubai Men's College. She is the former Testing and Measurements Supervisor at UAE University and Assessment Coordinator of Zayed University. Christine is co-editor of Assessment Practices (2003, TESOL Publications); co-author, A Practical Guide to Assessing English Language Learners (2007, University of Michigan Press); co-editor, Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness in EF/SL Contexts (2007, UMP); co-editor, Language Teacher Research in the Middle East (2007, TESOL Publications), Leadership in English Language Teaching and Learning (2008, UMP) and Applications of Task-based Learning in TESOL (2010, TESOL Publications). Christine’s forthcoming books are on task-based learning and reigniting, retooling and retiring in English language teaching. Christine has lived and worked in the Arabian Gulf for the past 19 years. In this capacity, she has served as President of TESOL Arabia and as the founder and co-chair of the TESOL Arabia Testing Special Interest Group who organize the Current Trends in English Language Testing (CTELT) Conference. During her tenure in the Middle East, she has won many awards including: 2002 Spaan Fellowship for Research in Second/Foreign Language Assessment; 2002-03 TOEFL Outstanding Young Scholar Award; TOEFL Board Grant for 2003-04, 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2009-10 for her work in delivering assessment training assessment in developing countries. Most recently she served on the TESOL Board of Directors as Convention Chair for Tampa 2006 and was the recipient of the Chancellor’s Teacher of the Year for 2003-04. She is currently TESOL President (2010-2013).
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16 Responses to A New Professional Journey

  1. Thavisack Phasathanh says:

    Dear Christine,

    Congratulations on your previlege position holding the current TESOL International Association. Very nice hear from you and your global friends. This is Thavisack Phasathanh from Department of English, Faculty of Letters, National University of Laos (Dong Dok Campus). As a LaoTESOL Coordinators, I would like to invite you to particpate in the 2012 Annual LaoTESOL Conference, perhaps acting as one of the Keynote Speakers. The conference theme is “Effective Use of Teaching Materials for Primary and/or Secondary School Levels in Lao PDR” if there will not be changed. The conference will be officially organized on the 2nd-3rd February, 2012 after the ThaiTESOL Conference which will be organized on the 27th-28th January, 2012. With best regards.

  2. Sandra Rogers Sandra Rogers says:

    Dear Vony,

    To help answer your question regarding TESOL grants, I wrote a blog about it during the convention. Here’s the link:


    Best of luck!

    Sandra Rogers

  3. Vony says:

    Dear Christine,
    First of all I’d like to congratulate you on your achievement. Your long journey is so inspiring and gives us hope to follow through our dream. I’m a TESOL member since 2006. Like you, attending the TESOL Convention has been part of my March Calendar but of all the conventions I attended, the one (my first one) in Tampa was my favorite. The variety of sessions offered left a first timer as I was, overwhelmed let alone the multitude of books and teaching materials. In 2008 in New York, I attended one of your sessions on “Effective Time Management” as part of the LDCP Modules. I could feel then your love for and involvement in the organization. As a global member, I try to take advantage of the online training offered to learn new ways of teaching English. I completed the E-Teacher program with the University of Oregon and was among the 26 teachers who attended the summer workshop at UMBC in 2010. Being a member of TESOL has shaped both my career and my life. As a simple attendee from 2006 to 2008, I got my proposal accepted in 2009 and it was with such pride that I represented my country at the Denver Convention and I got my proposal accepted again in Boston. Since 2006 I try to convince other teachers from my country (Madagascar) to become a member first and to attend the convention given all the benefits and ploughback. This year in New Orleans, we’re 6 from Madagascar and our objective is to increase that number. However I have to admit that it is not financially easy for us to make the convention (we have to save one full year given our low income) so I wonder if TESOL has grants to help us cover part of the costs (accommodation cost for example). I’d like also to ask what the conditions are to become a TESOL affiliate.
    Best regards

  4. Jayashree Mohanraj says:

    Hi Christine
    Congratulations!I got to know about your becoming President TESOL from the link provided in the Bulletin for your write up.It’s indeed inspiring. I received the Ruth Cryme Award 2010 at Boston and you presented it to me. Last year I wanted to attend the Dubai Convention but my proposal was not accepted. I am interested i the professional development of teachers as well as teaching speaking in English to non-native learners. Hope to meet you again.
    Best regards

  5. Hedel Grünebaum says:

    Greetings from Guatemala, and thanks for being here also.
    We really learned a lot when you shared about assessment.


    San Carlos University, Calusac.

  6. Hi Christine, your blog post came up at a weekly event we hold online, which resulted in a few more visitors, and it’s truly interesting to read about your journey of involvement with TESOL (and of course I’m aware of some of your many other projects). So much of teaching is modeling, and the best teachers are inspirational models. You are certainly demonstrating one path of active involvement with peers that results in benefits for all who share our profession.

  7. Thanks for your comments Sandra. I am a big fan of everything that TESOL’s Electronic Village Online has to offer and I encourage members to take full advantage of the excellent professional development on offer.

  8. Hello Christine,
    I’d like to thank you again for joining us in Massachusetts for our affiliate conference last weekend. It was wonderful to host the President of Tesol. We enjoyed hearing about your experiences, travels, and advice. We hope you visit the Boston area again soon.
    Sincerely, Linda Foley-Vinay

    • Dear Linda:

      Please convey my thanks to Massachusetts TESOL (MATSOL) for their wonderful hospitality during my recent visit to their affiliate conference. I was very impressed with the quality and organization of the event and I recommend it highly to teachers.


  9. Buket says:

    Dear Christine,
    Thanks for this great blog.I found about it on my facebook page.First of all I want to congratulate you on your great success.I just admired your dedication and perseverance.I want to become a member of TESOL and apply for a certificate program in the USA.I have little information about those matters but I’m trying:)I have been doing lots of projects with the support of the US Embassy Ankara and iEARN.I particularly want to be specialized on PBL Learning and E-Learning skills.I’m looking forward to awesome collaborations with you and with other friends colleagues around the world.The more connections we have,the more globally aware citizens we become:)
    Kind regards ,

    • Your comments are so true Buket. The more connections we have in the TESOL world the easier our jobs become. I can say without a doubt that being a member of TESOL has shaped not only my career but my life in many ways. I take it from you post that you are not currently a member of TESOL. What is holding you back? Do you need more information about how to become a member or a reminder of the many benefits that membership to TESOL brings to an educator. Let me know how I can help you.


  10. Sandra Rogers Sandra Rogers says:

    Dear Victoria and Christine,

    I’d like to address the issue of ongoing professional development in remote areas. TESOL’s Electronic Village Online (EVO) offers several free sessions annually in January and February. You don’t have to be a TESOL member to participate. The 5-week sessions are taught online and address all sorts of topics like drama, young learners, SecondLife, free tech tools, as well as adaptive technology. One of the EVO favorites is called, “Becoming a Webhead.” I took the course and learned so much. You can also receive training to become an EVO moderator. Contact the leaders of the Computer-assisted Language Learning Interest Section ( CALL-IS.org) to find out more. The call to participate goes out in December.

  11. Hi ladies:

    Thanks for your comments on my first blog. I agree that perseverance is key when achieving goals that in many ways don’t seem achievable.

    Victoria you mentioned the difficulty that teachers in your region have with access to professional development because of the remoteness of your location. Luckily with the internet we are not remote now.

    Well done for completing your E-Teacher course but I hope it’s only the first step for you. As a member of TESOL you can participate in our Webinars and if you feel you’d like more in-depth training we offer a great Principles and Practices course. There are a couple of ways that I know of if you want to bring a speaker to one of your conferences. First of all, you can contact your RELO (Regional English Language Officer) in Moscow to make a request. I have personally done many programs in Russia for the RELO office and have travelled all around the country doing training for teachers. If your organization is an affiliate of TESOL, you can submit a request with us to bring a speaker to your next event. If either of these ideas are of interest to you, contact me on my private email christine.coombe@hct.ac.ae and I can connect you with the right people.

    Looking forward to hearing about more issues from English language teachers in Russia and beyond.


  12. Victoria says:

    Dear Christine,
    Thanks for the very inspiring sharing and a great example that we shouldn’t give up in any life situations! I adore your perserverance and dedication to your work and people!
    Only few English teachers in my Kamchatka Region (Russia) have heard about TESOL. I’ve encountered a problem to join the TESOL association as well. That’s my dream to be the part of this discourse community and can’t!
    Also, I’ve completed E-Teacher Scholarship at UMBC (Methods I) and gave one lecture for the inservice teachers. But I came across the terminalogical barrier. The teachers didn’t understand the ELT terminology and the new ways of teaching, never heard of approaches. I am so willing to help our regional teachers develop in a professional way, but how can I do this alone? I had been the one from the whole region who completed this Scholarship Program. Conferences are very rare too. Nobody wants to go to Kamchatka, I know it’s too far away! We are secondary school teachers and need growth and development, moreover, we work for and with children.
    How can we cope with these issues in my region?

    Thank you.

  13. Guliya Shaykhutdinova says:

    Dear Christine,
    I can’t stop admiring your persistence and diligence in achieving your goals, your devotion to your dreams! What is more remarkable, you are so open and sincere in telling us that it wasn’t an easy way, thus inspiring thousands to be purposeful and patient. Your life proves once again the idea that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to what we think we can do. We can achieve what we believe. Thank you!
    Best wishes,

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