Back to the Future: The TESOL Convention Comes (Back) to Canada

Mar 13th, 2015 | By | Category: Messages, TESOL
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Andy Curtis, p-elect of TESOL

Andy Curtis


—As you know, the TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo—to give it its rather full title—will be taking place very soon: this year, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from March 25 through 28. This is not the first time the convention has come to Canada. In 1983, the 17th Convention came to Toronto, and in 1992 and in 2000 (26th and 34th, respectively), it came to Vancouver, British Columbia. It is also worth noting that in 1978, the 12th Annual Convention came to Mexico City. And as CATESOL members will know, one of the most-visited locations for the convention has been California, where it has taken place seven times in the last 49 years!

First it was in San Francisco in 1970, Los Angeles in 1975, and back to San Francisco in 1980. Then, Anaheim in 1986, San Francisco for the third time in 1990, Long Beach in 1995, and then back to Long Beach in 2004. That convention, in 2004, was the first time I presented in California. My “featured speaker” slot was titled “Leadership in Times of Challenge and Change.” In my abstract I wrote: “As the fields of ESL and EFL have grown, and as the professional body of ESL/EFL teachers has grown, teachers are increasingly finding themselves in the roles of leaders and managers of change, often in organizations and in contexts experiencing great uncertainty and great change” (2004, p.8). Little did I know then that a decade later, I would be preparing to be the 50th president of the TESOL International Association (TIA) in 2015.

Looking at the list of the 50 presidents of the TIA, from Harold Allen in 1966 to now, I realize that I will be the first association president of Indian origin, and because of the geopolitical positioning of Guyana, I will also be the first association president of South American origin, and the first from the Afro-Caribbean-Pacific, as Guyana is one of the official ACP countries. As if all that were not enough, the list of our first 50 presidents shows that I will also be one of the very few who was not born in the US and/or who was not working in the US during his or her presidential years, as well as one of the only ones who is Canadian, and one of even fewer who is British. So, for those who may be concerned about matters of diversity and inclusion in the leadership of the TIA, I can confirm that this is the most diverse and inclusive leadership this association has ever had!

Continuing with the theme of looking back and looking forward, as I wrote a year ago in my first piece for the CATESOL News, in Spring 2014: “Although I was born and raised in England, my parents made the long and difficult trip from what was then British Guiana (now Guyana) to England in the 1950s so that their children would not be born into what was referred to as the Indian Indenture System, which started at the end of official slavery in the 1830s and continued for nearly a century until the 1920s.” Slavery by any other name is still slavery. What this means is that my parents were, in effect, bought and paid for by the British Empire, as were their parents, and their grandparents, going back well over a century, including many generations of my family. This also means that my siblings and I are the first generation to be born fully free—unshackled, unowned in any way by anyone.

As a result of such a history, I was recently asked during an interview: “How did someone come from generations of slavery to be the president of the world’s largest international association of language educators?” My answer was, of course, “education.” As immigrants in England in the 1960s, my parents could give us little or nothing in the way of material comfort. But they saw to it that we pursued every single educational opportunity there was, with a determination and a zeal that few of my peers showed any signs of having had inculcated in them. So, in closing, I want to remind all teachers of the tremendous value of what we do every day, in every lesson, in every classroom. As educators, we change lives, for the better, in ways we cannot imagine.

I look forward to meeting as many CATESOL members as possible at TESOL 2015 in Toronto, and to hearing from you about how the TIA can further strengthen our ties with CATESOL, and with all its affiliates.

Andy Curtis (PhD, MA) is the 2015-2016 president of the TESOL International Association ( and he will be the president during TESOL’s 50th anniversary in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2016. He teaches online with the Graduate School of Education at Anaheim University, and he works as an independent consultant for language-teaching organizations worldwide.


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