GVSU to host ESL conference

Alyssa Rettelle

From Oct. 17 to 18, Grand Valley State University will be hosting the conference Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. On Oct. 17, the conference will be held in the Eberhard Center at 4 p.m.

MITESOL is a state-level affiliate of the major international professional association for English as a second language professionals, named TESOL International Association, which has about 8,000 members worldwide. The purpose is to provide leadership, education and support for professionals involved in teaching English to speakers of other languages in Michigan.

MITESOL accomplishes this mission by holding a conference every year that brings together teachers, teacher educations, material writers and publishers from around the state and country to offer professional development for ESL professionals at all levels.

Colleen Brice, the chair of this year’s conference, said the theme, “Expanding our Perspectives: From the Classroom to the Community,” is a response to the increasingly diverse needs of their membership.

“Historically, our membership has been comprised of professionals in post-secondary and K-12 contexts, but has more recently included growing numbers of professionals in community-based and government-funded adult education programs across the state,” Brice said. “While ESL among immigrants and refugees with limited literacy and/or education is the theme of the conference, we invited and accepted proposals addressing all aspects of ESL in all student populations.

“So the conference aims to serve the needs of all Michigan’s ESL professionals.”

The conference will include two speakers that will focus on how educators can support low-educated second language and literacy acquisition students, as well as students with limited or interrupted formal educations.

On Friday, Andrea DeCapu will present Bridging the Gap: Connecting S.L.I.F.E with U.S. classrooms. On Saturday, Patsy Vinogradov, the director of the adult basic teaching and learning advancement system (ATLAS) at Hamline University, will present Literacy, Language, and the Lifespan: Tapping our Teacher Know-how.

There will also be 71 total presentations addressing varying English language teaching issues, including 10 hands-on workshops targeting English as second language learners at different levels and ages, a presentation by the Michigan Department of Education’s manager of special populations on identifying English as second language students with special needs and exhibits by nine publishers of English Language teaching materials.

Andrew Domzalski is a professor at Madonna University in Livonia, Mich., and has been presenting at MITESOL conferences nearly every year since 1997. Domzalski chaired the 2012 conference that took place at Madonna University. He believes the conference is important for professional development and networking.

“It provides a forum for discussing current research in the field and its classroom applications,” he said. “It allows for the exchange of ideas about instruction and issues affecting English language learners of all ages.”

Jane DeGroot is the program manager of the customized workplace English program at the Literacy Center of West Michigan in Grand Rapids. She began attending the MITESOL conferences the first year she was at GVSU in graduate school in 2003. She was also the Michigan delegate in 2013 for TESOL in Washington D.C.

DeGroot believes this conference makes people better teachers and stronger advocates for the field, while also learning about other programs and other ways ESL instructors can move forward in their careers.

“Someone from Georgetown University will be presenting about the English language program, which I participated in after I graduated from GVSU,” DeGroot said. “I was selected to teach English in Congo for 10 months. I would have never had the opportunity to apply had I not attended the conferences. Networking with others in the field is probably the greatest benefit of the conference.”