The Betty Azar Travel Grants: Gobinda Puri at TESOL 2017

Did you know Betty Azar generously supports TESOLers in their professional development annually? This year, we are very proud to have renamed the award the Betty Azar Travel Grant for Practicing ESL ESL/EFL Teachers because she deserves that recognition. This is the second year I’m coordinating the award and I can attest that volunteering on the TESOL Awards Council is an excellent way to connect with Betty, but also the award recipients all the committed volunteer reviewers. One special recipient of the award is Gobinda Puri, an educator from Nepal. Betty’s generous donation helps educators like Gobinda make a difference with his learners and community. Please read on as Gobinda shares his experience from the 2017 TESOL International Convention and Expo in Seattle.

Gobinda teaching in Nepal

Attending the 2017 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo in Seattle was, for me, one of the most intense, unforgettable, once in a lifetime academic experiences, which has inspired me to become a more modern and creative educator of the 21st century. As one of the lucky recipients of the TESOL 2017 Professional Development Travel Grant, I had the opportunity to attend amazing exhibitor sessions, panel discussions, and practice-oriented presentations led by some of the most prominent language-teaching professionals from around the world.

Recipients of the 2017 Betty Azar Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers

According to the official report, more than 6,000 educators from across the globe came to Seattle, Washington, USA, for the 2017 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo. The largest of its kind in the world, the 51st annual convention began on Tuesday night with the opening keynote of Sherman Alexie and closed on Friday evening with a celebratory event. During those three-plus days, attendees could choose from nearly 1,000 educational sessions and visit more than 120 exhibitors in the English Language Expo.

I was a fortunate to attend and present at that grand gathering after a 36-hour journey. It was a long but fun journey travelling through Asia, Europe, and reaching the USA for the first time. I reached the venue a day before it began and had a short visit to the center to be familiar for the next day.

I reached the convention center at around 9:00 am (local time) on Tuesday, 22 March, and started connecting with people from different parts of the world whom I had met earlier in various occasions. There were some events scheduled for the day, like Educational Site visits, Doctoral Research Forum, Masters’ Student Forum, Affiliate Workshop, Reception for New members and first-time attendees, and most importantly the Sherman Alexie’s opening keynote.

I collected my bags and program book and roamed around the convention center. The convention center was magnificent, but it was difficult to find the particular halls and rooms. Each floor was like a maze, and there were seven floors. The Sheraton Hotel was adjacent to the convention center were some of the programs were conducted. I could see the attendees running up and down, greeting each other through the moving elevator.

I had volunteered to serve for two hours at Bags and Programs. I worked from 12:00 to 2:00, and I made many new friends and also got lunch voucher. From 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm, I attended the reception for the first-time attendees and new members. It was nice meeting and chatting with many newcomers from different corners of the world.

Finally, I rushed to the Ballroom to attend the keynote speech of Sherman Alexie. The hall was already full of people. I managed to find a seat and listened to him. The title of his keynote, “Power and Empowerment: An Urban Indian’s Comic, Poetic, and Highly Irreverent Look at World,” appeared on the screen and he energetically walked on to the stage. The audience roared and clapped, an event not to be missed. Alexie is known for his semi-autobiographical writings that illuminate challenges facing American Indians while promoting cultural expression and social change. During his keynote, he presented his take on language, identity, struggle, perseverance, hope, and respect–all with a heavy dose of candor and wit. He also signed copies of his book “The Diary of a Part-time Indian.”

The next day I hurried to catch Dudley Reynolds’ presidential keynote titled “Professional English Language Teachers in a 2.0 World.” He made a wonderful presentation and asked what professional English language teachers offer this world. He said that the 2.0 world prizes nontraditional learning, interdisciplinary, and technology. He also highlighted that educational systems everywhere want to educate more students to higher standards while cutting resources for teacher education and development.

Following the keynote, I attended a panel discussion titled “Engaging With Diverse Contexts: Enriching Practices in Teacher Education Programs.” The presenters discussed innovative collaborations in their programs that empower teachers through experience in context-sensitive and location-specific pedagogies. Another important panel discussion I attended was “A Memorial Panel on the Life and Legacy of Braj Kachru.”

On the second day, I presented a poster session titled “Addressing Diversity in the EFL Classroom: Reflection of Nepalese Community School.” More than 60 people visited the session, and I had a wonderful discussion among the participants.

Exchanging with TESOLers in Seattle, Washington

The third day began with the James E. Alatis Plenary by Guadalupe Valdes titled “Rumination of an Old Language Teacher.” In this presentation, Vades talked about SLA theory and research from the perspective of a dedicated language teacher. She shared some of what she had learned during her career and involved the participants with the topics. Following the plenary, I enjoyed the session and informal professional talks.

My teaching portfolio became more diversified due to cutting-edge methodologies and techniques that I am anxious to take back with me to Nepal, where I have been teaching and supporting teachers for last 13 years. Some of my favorite sessions included tips on using video feedback to comment on student presentations, and enriching, engaging, and empowering using YouTube videos. I learned how to use phone cameras as interactive and fun language learning devices and how to help learners improve their speaking and presentation skills by applying practical strategies that TED speakers use. I experimented with various online applications that were designed for differentiated instruction within YouTube videos and found out about cooperative learning 2.0 tools which can help us create “we-ness” in our classroom.

The best moments included attending the presentation on using digital tasks and mobile devices for pair and group activities. Last, but certainly not the least, Young Zhao’s morning keynote on perils and promises of education in the age of smart machines was a brilliant, hilarious, and amazing moment that marked the end of a truly inspirational conference.

Now I am elated to have received a Azar Travel grant to attend the 51st TESOL Convention as a first-time attendee. I learned so many beautiful ideas in the convention and brought them back to my classroom and colleagues in the region. Moreover, I met many teaching professionals in person and enjoyed social networking with colleagues from throughout the world. Even more, I have become a resource person in my local organization to encourage new teachers to attend the conferences and groom professionally. I would like to thank Betty Azar, Sherry Blok, and the TESOL Awards Professional Council  for this wonderful opportunity.
Gobinda Puri
Itahari, Nepal

Interested in applying for the Betty Azar Travel Grant? Find out more by visiting the TESOL website. The deadline is 1 November 2017.

About Sherry Blok

Sherry Blok

Sherry Blok is the assistant director of programs at the Centre for Continuing Education, Concordia University. Montreal, Canada. She holds a master’s degree in second language education from McGill University and has more than 20 years of experience as an ESL lecturer in the intensive English program at Concordia University. She received the TESOL Teacher of the Year Award in 2015 and has presented nationally and internationally on topics related to English for academic purposes, global citizenship education, assessment, and teacher feedback.

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2 Responses to The Betty Azar Travel Grants: Gobinda Puri at TESOL 2017

  1. Congratulations Mr.Govinda Puri .i am so interested to apply to it .could you please help ?