By DENISE CEDILLOS
—I attended the CATESOL Los Angeles Regional Conference 2017 (“Sharpening Skills to Shape the Future”) held at Mt. San Antonio College. This was my third time attending a CATESOL LA Regional Conference, yet I continue to be impressed by the caliber of presentations, organization, and professionalism. This sentiment was echoed by one of the featured speakers, Jeanne Lambert.
I arrived to Ms. Lambert’s presentation early and sat in front, pen in hand, ready to absorb all of the wisdom she would impart. Ms. Lambert immediately complimented my bright-red “CATESOL VOLUNTEER” T-shirt, commenting that the volunteers had been so helpful, and that it is rare to find a conference at a regional level that is so organized and well structured, resulting in its running seamlessly. While conference-goers steadily entered the room, we had an engaging conversation during which Ms. Lambert informed me that the New School in New York, where she teaches, is world-renowned for its Parsons School of Design and has a student population comprising 80% ESL students! While Ms. Lambert was complimenting the setup of the conference and providing me with interesting statistics on how prevalent and important the ESL field is, I was reminded of another reason why CATESOL conferences have kept me engaged and returning every year: the approachability and friendliness of its presenters, members, and participants.
Although I am a graduate student, newly entering the field with three CATESOL presentations under my belt, the passion and warmth with which Jeanne Lambert, Donna Brinton, Marsha Chan, and Karen Taylor de Caballero—among others—present add a humanizing factor to my ESL heroes whom I constantly study, cite, and refer to in class. Witnessing and sharing in their continued excitement for the material, including new ways of presenting it to better connect with students, revitalizes my career decision and shows me that it is possible to continue to develop the initial excitement phase into ongoing motivation bolstered by the work, students, and other professionals.
It was not until after our conversation that I discovered that Ms. Lambert is a consultant editor on the Final Draft series, one of the textbooks used in the First Year Composition class for which I am a teaching associate. Her presentation on effective ESL writing instruction for college success included four key approaches to teaching writing and spoke directly to the material I taught this school year. I use Final Draft to help show students how grammar points can directly transfer into their writing, similar to how I will transfer Ms. Lambert’s four key points into my classroom instruction. My first year of teaching has definitely included many challenges, joyful moments, growth opportunities, stress-eating instances, and endless nights of grading, but it is helpful to know that the next burst of inspiration or unconscious reassurance may come from an individual who has already had an influence in my classroom—and is just 10 minutes away in a conference where CATESOL has conveniently gathered all of these experts in one place!
In addition to nicely bookending my grad-school career with a network of supportive influences, other takeaways I received from this conference include how to incorporate corpus-informed vocabulary into my lectures; suggestions for how to connect the personal voice to the academic voice; classroom mixers for listening, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary; how to sharpen contextualized learning through content-based instruction; and current research on how thesis statements and adverb usage affect mixed ESL composition courses. Amid end-of-the-quarter stresses, I am thankful that I was able to invest in my professional and personal growth through this CATESOL Los Angeles Regional Conference, and I look forward to attending many more future CATESOL conferences.
Denise Cedillos is completing her graduate degree at Cal Poly Pomona. She is a teaching associate and has previously served on the CATESOL Board.