TESOL Turns 50 and Reflects Forward

Nick Einterz

Nick Einterz, Lecturer at the International English Center, University of Colorado, Boulder.



Happy 50th Birthday, TESOL! In April, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages hosted its annual international convention and expo in Baltimore, Maryland’s Inner Harbor. The district has a nostalgic character with a burgeoning waterfront surrounded by restored historic buildings and neighborhoods. Certainly, TESOL was purposeful by celebrating its 50th anniversary is such a city.

In 50 years, the association has evolved from five organizations, each with its own specialization, to one cohesive association with an impressive 47,000 members from all over the world. This year, 6,500 of these members swarmed through 1,000 sessions over 3 days in the name of professional development and celebration (Lindahl, 2016).

Among the session topics was an impressive mix of pedagogy, assessment, culture, and, my personal favorite, instructional technology. And with content areas as distinct as phonology and advocacy, there were many opportunities to learn the latest approaches in language learning from the classroom to the administrative level. Of course, with so many sessions to choose from, attendees had to theme their own convention experience. Some attendees focused on the culturally rich presentations, such as the “Language, Culture, Identity Roundtable”, or the pronunciation-focused, “Phonological Awareness: What your brain doesn’t want you to know” (TESOL International, 2016).

Further, the conference’s theme, “Reflecting Forward”, was well-represented in the keynote address by Aziz Abu Sarah entitled, “Revolutionizing Education: Building Peace in a Divided World”. Sarah reflected on his educational efforts in the Middle East to “help bridge the gap between hostile communities” and alluded to a progressive focus on geopolitics in ESL classrooms, which can be an effective engagement tool (TESOL International, 2016).

With the 2016 convention complete, TESOL reflects forward to the 2017 convention in Seattle. We are hopeful to see another excellent convention from a forward-thinking association with a renewed sense of history.

“Keynote Speakers.” TESOL International. April 5, 2016.

Lindahl, Kristen. “It’s TESOL Convention Time Again! | TESOL Blog.” 50 Tesol International Association. March 21, 2016.

“Pilot Meeting, 12 September 1963.” 50 TESOL International Association.’s-history/pilot-meeting-12-september-1963.

“Program Book.” TESOL. 2016.

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