One partnership that TESOL has with its 100+ affiliates is the Affiliate Speaker Program. This program encourages TESOL’s affiliate partners to select a TESOL board member to come and speak at their conference. As part of this program, I had the pleasure of visiting Argentina when I was on the board of directors. Luciana de Oliveira, our current president-elect, wrote a wonderful reflection on how powerful these experiences are for both the affiliate and the board member.
This month, the Affiliate Speaker Program took me to the Southeast TESOL Conference in Birmingham, Alabama. SETESOL is a regional conference that represents member affiliates from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The main conference was preceded by a PK–12 and Adult learners Day. The SETESOL conference opened on 5 October with a keynote by Stephen Krashen (other keynotes included Rebecca Oxford, Paulette Patterson Dilworth, Catherine Davies, Tery Medina, Ofelia García, and April Muchmore-Vokoun, and yours truly). More than 950 individuals attended the conference! Presentations and poster sessions provided a mix of practical how-to workshops and research-based presentations that considered implications for practice. Kudos to the organizers for putting together such a strong program!
The southeast of the United States provides a unique context for teaching English as an additional language. Some of the states are so-called New Destination states. Traditionally, these states have not received many immigrants but are now experiencing a significant and rapid influx of immigrants and immigrant families. As a result, these states have seen a tremendous increase in their English language learner populations and are trying to build up an infrastructure of qualified teachers and programs in a very short time. Needless to say, this is challenging for administrators and English language teachers alike.
I enjoyed many wonderful conversations with different K–12 teachers and higher education faculty during the conference. I was so impressed with the stories of resiliency and the passion of those who have chosen TESOL as their profession. Despite many challenges, these ELT professionals advocate for and work with PK through adult English language learners every day to ensure that they learn to navigate the complex and difficult realities of the world around us.