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TESOL Conference 2024

Students and founder of TESOL Conference shared the importance of gathering as Second Language Teachers

Students and presenters gather around table at the TESOL conference while listening to a bearded man speak

The annual TESOL Conference brought English teachers and students together from all across Hawaii with the theme “Roots and Horizons – Bridging Tradition with Tomorrow’s Innovations in TESOL.” More than 40 participants presented at the conference on Feb. 17, at the Heber J. Grant building.

According to Hawaii’s TESOL website, the mission of this affiliation is to build a professional teaching community in the State of Hawaii, promote the highest standards of employment in the ESL Field and open networking opportunities to those who share similar goals.

Christine Guro, the retired assistant director of the health program at the University of Hawaii and who is from Kaaawa, said she has been around since the TESOL Hawaii association began in 1975. She explained, “The ESL was a subdivision of the Hawaiian Council of Teachers of English, but [they] weren’t putting much focus on anything that we were doing as a second language learner teacher.” This concern led the ESL division to opt-out of HCTE to join the TESOL International Association because they addressed more specific needs and it significantly boosted people’s interest in the TESOL field.

According to her, the effectiveness of ESL teachers has excelled since the Hawaiian TESOL association was established. “There has been an increase in the [number of] presenters,” she said, “especially presenters who come from another state.” The multicultural background of the participants in every conference grows her enthusiasm and adds energy to the TESOL Conference, she explained. Guro said when she was teaching in an ESL program, the conference was a mediator for her to open her eyes to someone else’s perspectives and to exchange ideas.

She said she has observed the Hawaiian TESOL Conference become a big stepping-stone for the growth of the language educator to start up their teaching journeys. She said, “For me, it was good to give a presentation here first in this region, then you know what to expect in the national TESOL Conference.” She said she felt proud every time she witnessed a teacher who was once an ESL student present at the conference. She said, “It’s really nice to see her progression. At the same time, I was able to see her teaching, working and studying.”

students sitting at a desk with notebooks and pencils out paying attention to a lecture
Photo by Yui Leung

Isaku Yamada, a senior majoring in TESOL from Japan, presented at the conference. His group mates and he presented research entitled "World English.” It focused on how individual people perceive different accents with different characteristics. He said as a presenter he became more aware of how [people connect] different parts of their research into one place. He said, “Giving presentations in front of masters, doctorate and professors from different schools, made me feel that I am a real researcher.”

Jo-Ya Hsu, a senior majoring in TESOL from Taiwan, also presented her research and said through it she was able to learn that people cultivate language competence differently according to their cultural background. She said before the conference she was driven to use her time and effort to do research, “Regardless if I am accepted to present in the TESOL Conference or not.” [this research] is good for my personal development.”

Through her research, she said she discovered an intense correlation between someone’s speaking fluency to their cultural background. She said she figured out the linguistic complexities and numerous factors that cause individual challenges in English proficiency. She said she was nervous during her presentation but was excited to share her findings with those who are in the same field. After her presentation and others at the conference, she said she felt enlightened and relieved.

adults sit at desks and pay attention to a lecturer off screen

To students who haven’t had an opportunity to attend any conference, Yamada said, “[The conference] is a good opportunity not only to network but also find what kind of interest you have, so you will understand what you want to do in a professional world.” She added, “Just be open-minded, don't see this conference as something scary because it takes time to know some context in the conference.”