KATESOL Spring Conference in Emporia, Kansas!

December 2004

Remembering FLEAT II

Southeast Asia Outreach

Fewer Int'l Scholars at U.S. Colleges

2004 Retrospective

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ESL MiniConference Online!

Enjoying the Challenges
Interview with ESL MiniConference Editor Robb Scott

Since June of this year, you have been serving as president of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. What has that experience been like?

Photo by John Clark Scott, December 21, 2004I was born in Kansas City, Kansas. I grew up and graduated from high school in Great Bend, Kansas. My B.A. in English and M.A. in TESL are from the University of Kansas, in Lawrence. It means everything to me that I have this opportunity to make a positive difference for ESL professionals across the state through my service as KATESOL president this year.

My first priority, starting during my year as first vice-president of the organization, was to increase awareness of KATESOL, raise our membership numbers, and build a more effective advocacy group for ESL teachers and the growing population of English language learners in Kansas schools and communities. KATESOL membership has grown eight-fold, from 25 two years ago to 200 today.

Photo by Steve Wolf, March 12, 2004 We had 300 participants at the annual KATESOL conference this past March, six times the maximum number anyone remembers during the quarter of a century KATESOL has existed. I will be giving a "break-out" session this spring at the TESOL Affiliates meeting in San Antonio, on how to build an effective local and regional TESOL network, based on the success of our efforts in Kansas.

What have been your major challenges as president this year?

KATESOL now functions as a key partner with universities, school districts, the Kansas Department of Education, and the Kansas Board of Regents to raise awareness regarding the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse learners of all ages. This means it is more important than ever to serve as a communication system between our members and these entities. For example, the directors of ESOL Endorsement Programs from eight or nine different institutions of higher education meet annually at a Roundtable sponsored by KATESOL, as an important event at our spring conference. District leaders, including principals and superintendents, are becoming more involved in KATESOL, as evidenced by several sessions being offered at this year's conference, February 18-19, 2005, in Emporia.

KATESOL works in tandem with KSDE to help disseminate information on laws, policies and resources, to support the important work our members are doing in their schools and communities. We are also beginning to reach out more effectively to groups like KAEA (Kansas Adult Education Association) to share expertise to help meet the learning needs of growing numbers of adult English language learners entering literacy programs.

KATESOL is also advocating for English language learners and immigrant Kansans at every opportunity, including our strong participation--through letter-writing, phone-calling, and faxing-- in this past spring's successful efforts to lobby state legislators to pass one of the best laws in the country giving qualified immigrant Kansans resident-status for lower tuition costs at state universities, colleges and community colleges.

In recent months, I have been in contact with leaders of our sister organizations, K-NEA and Kansas World Language Association, in efforts to bring together a proposal that would add an ESOL component to all teacher licensure programs in Kansas. These are some of the challenges I am enjoying working on this year as president of KATESOL. I'll be giving it my all through to early June, 2005, when the next president takes over.

You have lived and worked as an English teacher in several countries, with different languages and cultures. You have served in various capacities for professional organizations, including JALT, New York TESOL, and now Kansas TESOL. You promote the ESL/EFL profession in so many ways, as a teacher educator and as editor of the ESL MiniConference. It seems as if you have done nearly everything there is to do in ESL. What is next for you?

My experience is still rather limited, compared to so many of my peers in the ESL/EFL profession. I do consider myself fortunate to have been able to live in South America and in Japan during my first decade of service as an English teacher. It also made a big difference to me that I was able to receive some training in cross-cultural communication at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, about ten years ago.

Photo by Meribel Osorio, October, 2004The biggest challenge I face now is to finally bring together the time and energy to help me focus on achieving an important educational goal: the doctoral degree. I believe that the learning and research I do within the context of that project will enable me to make a very positive contribution to the TESOL profession over the next 20 years of my career. It seems that there has always been something else engaging my attention and I have not been successful yet in pushing my doctoral aspirations to one of the top rungs on my list of priorities. That activity will enhance the quality of everything else I am doing and my further projects. By this time two years from now I am determined to be writing my dissertation.

What research area are you most interested in?

I am hopeful that I can contribute in the area of creating effective transition programs for culturally and linguistically diverse young people with special needs. I believe most of the emphasis today is on working with very young and young children who are learning English as their second language. I look forward to becoming more familiar with research on what can be done to help older students, ages 14-18, where language and culture are also important factors.

But I have a number of pre-requisites to complete before I will be able to focus on a research project in the area of transition programs for ELLs.

In the Achievement Profiles, you have interviewed many important and well-known ESL/EFL professionals. Who has won your personal admiration, and why?

Of course, the well-known professionals have been very exciting to "meet" via e-mail interviews. And I have been able to actually meet several of them in person afterwards, including three who came and spoke at this past spring's KATESOL conference. Some of the people I have interviewed were at one time my teachers, so that was also a special honor and joy for me. And perhaps some of the most insightful interviews have come from individuals whose names are not widely known but who are doing such important things to make a difference where they live.

There are also people I've talked to in the past several years who, after enjoying 20 years of successful activity in ESL, are leaving the field to pursue other work. In one case, this was for personal growth; in another case, it was the result of yet another intensive English program closing.

I am working to try to find publishers to sponsor the printing of several hundred or perhaps a thousand copies of a book, "Transition, Turmoil, and Hope," so that I can provide the book for free to prospective teachers, practicing teachers, and veteran teachers. This book, which collects the comments from the first several years of Achievement Profile interviews, will refresh the spirit and recharge the batteries of anyone who reads it, if they are anything like me. Every person I interviewed has won my admiration, my respect, and my deepest gratitude for sharing of their time, thoughts, and insights from experience.

Interview by Meribel Osorio

2004 ESL MiniConference Online