By Tim Healy, Head Academic & Instructor at A.C.E. at SPU — From March 26 to 28 I had the pleasure of attending the 43rd annual TESOL Conference in Denver, CO. I presented “Teaching ESL writing through website publishing” at the CALL Interest Section’s Electronic Village Classics Fair on Friday afternoon. I displayed student texts and other elements of class websites that my students and I have created over the last few years at ACE. Website and blog publishing projects have been fun and effective teaching/learning activities for us. I’m a big fan of project-based learning because collaborative projects require authentic communication and the use of the four major language skills, and they motivate students. Attendance at TESOL gives me a chance to share these views and work with my colleagues in the profession.
In addition to presenting, I heard several informative and valuable presentations on a variety of topics. Of particular interest were a description of a curriculum revision project the purpose of which was to better replicate in an academic bridge class (the equivalent of our Level 6 at ACE/SPU) the types of reading and writing that are required of students in university classes, an explanation of a service-learning program at another intensive English language institute, and the results of a study that point to the importance of extended vowel sounds in English pronunciation and the challenges this presents for learners.
But these transactions were not the only highlights of the conference. Interactions were enjoyed! Besides reconnecting with colleagues at the conference, I was a guest of David Woodward’s for breakfast at the historic Brown Palace Hotel with MSU/ACE Director Rick O’Connor and his teachers. It was my first time to meet the Montanans and – they rock! We shared a bit of detail about our institutes/universities over hash and waffles (and later, over Margaritas and enchiladas). One impression that remains is the incredible amount of first-hand experience of other cultures each of us brings to our organization. For me, because I am surrounded by such people at ACE/SPU, I easily take it for granted that my colleagues have lived and worked abroad. It’s easy to forget how, in actuality, such experience is rare. Personally, my experiences living and studying in the Soviet Union and Russia are a key in helping me connect with my students.
Finally, I ran into friends from my days in the MA-TESOL program at SPU. Dave Dorratcogue bravely grabbed my arm on the plane and it turned out our hotels were next to each other (on the Denver equivalent of Aurora Avenue N in Seattle!). Dave is a full-timer at Cascadia in Bothell. So I had someone with whom to explore Denver. We can vouch for the beer at the Great Divide Taproom and the Nachos at Racine’s. I also met former professor Dr. Katya Nemtchinova from the SPU MA-TESOL program. She was presenting multiple times, yet took the time to introduce me to three of her current MA students from the program who had presented at the Graduate Student Forum. Unfortunately, the blizzard which descended on Denver on Wednesday night prevented SPU MA-TESOL professor Nancy McEachran from flying in for her scheduled presentation. It is good to see the extent to which SPU played a role in the conference.