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BYUH students say attending the international TESOL convention was an eye-opening experience, both academically and spiritually

Three  BYU-Hawaii students stand by a TESOL sign at the national convention in Pittsburg during Winter Semester 2022.
Three BYU-Hawaii students stand by a TESOL sign at the national convention in Pittsburg during Winter Semester 2022.

Attending the national TESOL convention helped BYU–Hawaii students learn more about how to be teachers of English, helped them gain confidence and gave them networking experiences, said students and alumni who attended the convention during Winter Semester of 2022.

Tom Court, assistant professor in the Faculty of Education & Social Work, accompanied five BYUH students from the TESOL 391R class to a five-day International TESOL Convention held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. This event is held in a different location every year.

According to Court, “BYUH has been sending students to the international TESOL convention since 2000 when Brother Earl Wyman led the first group. There are typically well over 5,000 attendees from all over the world at these conferences, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for our students to network with practitioners, researchers, and luminary leaders in our field.” He said this year’s convention was the first time since the pandemic students were permitted to attend in person.

Court said he encouraged all TESOL seniors to consider participating in next year’s convention in Portland, Oregon, since it will provide them opportunities to network with professionals and attain broader academic and spiritual knowledge. He shared in his opinion, seniors who participated in this year’s event have grown spiritually, although the conference wasn’t faith-based. He said, “I was grateful to see them living their faith by example.”

Jenna Armstrong Fuller, an alumna from California, said she had an incredible experience attending her first TESOL convention. Fuller shared she appreciated the presenter included God’s love while sharing their teaching experiences. She added, “Although the conference was not connected to the church, I was able to strengthen my testimony through my experiences there. One of the first sessions I attended was about faith-inspired collaboration and reconciliation.” From the event, Fuller said she learned despite cultural and religious backgrounds, teaching and learning English could bridge the gap between teachers and students.

Although she could only attend virtually, Luo Xi Lin, an alumna from China, said she gained valuable knowledge that enabled her to step out of her comfort zone. She also said she received “helpful tips for teaching and learning,” particularly about her questions about teaching online and using technology in the classroom. She said, “Listening to the sessions triggered and inspired me to come up with more creative ideas, and I can’t wait to put them into practice and make improvements.”

This convention has helped Lin see this opportunity with new eyes, she shared. She said she now understands “how [TESOL conventions] can bless a teacher’s teaching career.” Lin said everything made sense to her when she remembered how “some professors always had big smiles and excitement on their faces” after returning from the convention.

Jerius Gutierrez, a senior from the Philippines, was another student who participated in the event and said it was “the highlight of [his] Winter Semester 2022.” He said the convention allowed him to build connections and network with TESOL experts and leaders. Because of the experience, Gutierrez said, he met potential employers, including some from Monterey, California. He shared, “I learned that it was a great opportunity for me to pitch myself to them by sharing my past and current job experiences in using the Korean language at work.”

Besides that, Gutierrez said he learned the significance of stepping away from the traditional teaching that only focuses on students passing language exams. Instead, teachers should “help them become active participants in group works, build language learning portfolios and write their reflections about their language learning experience,” he said.