BART President, 2011-2013
This year, Bay Area Regional TESOL offered three $120 travel grants in memory of colleague and former BART president Don Modesto. The purpose of these grants was to assist BART members in attending the 2014 Sunshine State TESOL Convention in St. Petersburg, Florida. You can read about their experiences below.
Participating in the SSTESOL 2014 Conference in St. Petersburg gave me the opportunity to meet diverse educators and better understand their experiences, including navigating between multiple contexts, introducing creative classroom activities, interacting with tele-connected students, and exploring new juxtapositions of courses in higher education. Seeing the passion and energy of one of the plenary speakers, Dorina Sackman, it was clear why she was chosen as teacher of the year.
My interest in arts-based research led me to creative sessions such as “Drawing Out ELLs,” which recreated successful activities that make extensive use of visual arts in the classroom. As the adults in the room laughed and struggled to follow the drawing instructions, it was clear to see how an arts-based approach can work for any age. Another session on Book Clubs detailed the procedures to encourage interaction, inclusivity, and interest through small groups of reading circles. The informative session shared an organized approach to group formation and accountability and discussed the challenge of assessing reading. Other sessions included various examples of creative approaches, such as a discussion on how Russian language courses are coupled with a degree in EFL, and how a content-based class can successfully include both native speakers and advanced ELLs.
While the presenters were diverse, informative, entertaining, and all-around fantastic, the most impactful aspect of the conference, for me, was the extended opportunity to meet and discuss issues in TESOL which began formally in the session rooms, but then continued between the halls and over meals. Sharing a space for collaborations, conversations, and community concerns is what really creates a wonderful opportunity for growth.
The SSTESOL conference in beautiful downtown Saint Petersburg this year was definitely an enriching experience, as well as a fun one for me. As a new PhD student of Second Language Acquisition at the University of South Florida, going to SSTESOL for me was a must. I got to enjoy various presentations, the experience of doing my own presentation, as well as meeting people from all over the state, all in a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere.
The conference was also a refreshing reminder of how widely ranged ESL teaching actually is by getting to hear about the teaching experiences from so many perspectives. The information given in the presentations mirrored the breadth of the TESOL field. Presentations covered topics such as teaching refuge-seeking children recovering from trauma, and being a teacher who is wary of unexpected cultural differences including religion, gender variation and sexual-orientation. Others demonstrated delightful ideas for incorporating culture, authenticity and improved efficacy into daily lessons. A theme that I noticed in some presentations that I particularly enjoyed was the many considerations to take when the learners’ goal is English as an International Language/Lingua Franca, which is undoubtedly a crucial topic considering the number of L2 speakers who use English exclusively with other non-native speakers. For example, presenters showed how some NNS errors do not necessarily prevent comprehensibility, also how various dialects of English should be introduced to English as an International Language learners.
All in all, SSTESOL was a memorable and informative three days for me and I look forward to participating again in the years to come.
First of all, let me thank BART for The Don Modesto Memorial Conference Grant and, thus, assisting BART members in attending the conference! I was there on May 8th and had a tremendously enriching experience. I was really impressed by the organization. Besides the beautiful facility, a spacious lounge with publishers and vendors, tables with water and candies, a welcome reception dinner, etc. there was a huge variety of academic sessions and multiple workshops to meet everyone’s interests and needs. We received nice conference bags and a detailed conference program booklet. Though the booklet had all session descriptions, it was really difficult to choose the best and most helpful one! I did not want to miss anything! I attended five workshops where I learnt some valuable collaborative activities and effective instructional strategies and tools, gained new skills, and met ESL instructors from across the country. Rebecca Yoon and Lucy Cossan presented ‘Collaborative Activities That Work’ and showed us a few activities that can be effectively used in reading, writing, and speaking courses. They kindly emailed the material to the participants on the following day. I also enjoyed the workshop ‘A Practical Analysis of Modals in Written English’ by Keith Folse where the presenter demonstrated the actual usage of modal verbs by native speakers. Keith conducted an easy, pleasant conversation with the participants. In addition, I got good ideas about how to create and implement rubrics in ESL teaching presented by Nicole Hammond Carrasquel and Marcella A. Farina. I am grateful to the organizing committee and the presenters for all their efforts in providing the forum of creative collaboration.