TESOL 2017 Seattle

TESOL 2015 Toronto

Clear your calendars for the week of March 21-24th, 2017. The TESOL international organization, or “Big TESOL,” as it is affectionately called, will be holding its annual conference here in Seattle on those dates next spring. As a professional organization, TESOL publishes standards, books and a number of journals, provides online professional development, maintains a career center and online job board, and plays an advocacy role with governments at every level. Perhaps you have heard of their local affiliate WAESOL, which puts on regional conferences every year in October.

The Big TESOL conference has something for everyone. There are presentations and workshops on every conceivable aspect of TESOL, as well as a huge expo of published teaching materials, software packages and programs such as the US Department of State’s English Language Fellows Program. There is also a job fair where employers from around the country and the world hold interviews.

It is not unusual to run into people at Big TESOL whom you assumed you would never see again. People travel from around the world to participate. At the 2008 convention in New York, I ran into one of my trainers from ITC Barcelona, where I had earned my TEFL Certificate seven years earlier. It is a great place to reconnect with long-lost friends and colleagues from graduate school or earlier.

On the other hand, you can also make new connections quite easily. I’ve been introduced to colleagues of colleagues and friends of friends and also several wonderful strangers. “Hey guys, this is Martin from Kenya. I met him on the trolley on the way over here from the hotel. Do you mind if he joins us for lunch?” After a workshop on environmental education and TESOL, I got to know several local teachers when a group of us went out for dinner.

Many employers and some graduate school departments will pay for students and faculty to attend academic conferences, especially if they are presenting. (The deadline to submit presentation proposals for this conference is just a month from now – June 1, 2016!)

Attending without such support can be difficult, but TESOL does offer scholarships and travel grants, and attending for just one day is a nice option when it’s actually in the city where you live. Some conferences give discounts on fees in exchange for volunteer hours. It is not yet clear whether TESOL will offer a discount, but it is sure to need lots of volunteers to help orient thousands of participants to the conference and our city.

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Julia Sandler

Teacher Educator at School of Teaching ESL
Ph.D. Educational Linguistics & MS.Ed. in TESOL, University of Pennsylvania. Since 2000, Julia has taught ESOL mostly to adults in a variety of settings in Hungary, South Korea, and both coasts of the US. She has been part of the faculty at the University of Washington’s International & English Language Programs since 2010 and has also trained ESOL teachers at several US universities and in Taiwan and South Korea.