The TESOL President’s Blog
Last month, I had the honor to represent TESOL International Association by delivering an opening plenary talk at VenTESOL’s 32nd convention in Caracas, Venezuela.
The theme of VenTESOL’s event was “Examine, Support and Renew ELT for the Next Generation.” The conference attracted more than 500 participants from different parts of Venezuela and neighboring countries.
Everyone I met was so excited to engage in conversations about English teaching and learning, passionate to learn more about TESOL International Association, and eager to share stories about their work and how much they value the opportunity to be part of the conference. The 3-day event was a perfect illustration of VenTESOL’s motto, “Live Ven-TESOL’s Spirit: Teachers helping teachers from the heart.”
What Is VenTESOL’s Spirit?
It is about strong leadership that firmly believes in promoting English teaching and learning through continuous professional development. Last year alone, the VenTESOL leadership team organized about 40 ELT professional development events, in addition to this annual national conference for their teachers! That is almost one event a week throughout the entire year! To help more teachers access professional development opportunities, they organize travelling workshops for the teachers at different regions of the country, or assign a regional leader to coordinate and/or facilitate a workshop tour.
It is the willingness to take risks and believe in the mission of English language education, even under adversity, and about educators keeping their courageous and unwavering commitment to English teaching and learning in every corner of Venezuela. Many teachers told me that nothing would stop them from going to the classroom to teach their students, even though they ran the risk of being tear-gassed during a riot on the way to work or robbed late at night on the way home after tutoring students. Many schools, especially those in remote areas, have limited Internet access, but teachers would create ways to help students learn how to use technology and access media materials. They would print out downloaded information, or make a screenshot to show students how to access information online when an Internet connection is available. Their dedication to English teaching and learning was further witnessed at the conference. Many teachers traveled long distances to be there. All the sessions were packed, and the ones I attended were all well prepared and informative. The speakers were passionate and the participants would eagerly take notes and gather handouts at every session they attended. I even saw teachers do postsession debriefings in small groups during the lunch breaks.
It is also about being optimistic, and keeping faith and hope for a brighter future. This year, the kickoff event was a social gathering attended by conference presenters and invited guests. After the welcome remarks delivered by VenTESOL President, Ms. Evelín A. Ojeda, and the new US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires in Caracas, Mr. Lee McClenny, the participants started to socialize and dance to the lively local music. Whenever the band played a Venezuelan song, the crowd would cheer and clap with it. I was so impressed with the multitalents and cheerful spirit these teachers demonstrated at this fun-filled social event and throughout the conference.
The planning committee did a wonderful job of integrating games, competitions, raffles, and performances between sessions and throughout the 3-day event. The conference was filled with cheerful conversations and laughter. The event wrapped up with a splendid performance by a local youth orchestra. Many people were moved to tears as we listened to the beautiful music and watched those talented children play. When they played their national songs, everyone gave a standing ovation to these young musicians. We could see hope, strength, inspiration, and the future in those talented children, especially as many of them are from very poor family backgrounds.
At this unforgettable event, I truly experienced and witnessed the meaning of “Living VenTESOL’s Spirit.” I have made so many friends and Facebook friends, and am now a VenTESOL member! It’s beyond description how deeply moved and invigorated I have felt. Their sincere, optimistic, and upbeat spirit has inspired me and will forever be part of me. When we had to say goodbye at the airport, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. My very best wishes to VenTESOL and all the wonderful friends and colleagues who are a part of it. Let’s keep living the VenTESOL spirit: Teachers helping teachers from the heart!
Thank you for reading this brief blog. If you have recently attended an affiliate TESOL conference or an event, I’d love to hear from you.