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May 17th, 2017 | By | Category: Featuring: Conferences
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author image of Undarmaa Maamuujav

Undarmaa Maamuujav

By UNDARMAA MAAMUUJAV

—The professional air, positive vibes, and friendly atmosphere of CATESOL regional and annual conferences have always made me feel proud of our thriving field of teaching English. These conferences have helped me to stay abreast of the new developments in research and practice. They have allowed me to sit in a student seat, to learn from my fellow colleagues, and to reflect on my own teaching. The 2017 CATESOL San Diego Regional Conference, themed as “Supporting the Journey,” had the same effect on me. As a recipient of the Education Foundation’s Regional Conference Stipend, I had the pleasure to attend this one-day event and volunteer a few hours of my time, both of which are invaluable experiences that have a tremendous impact on my personal and professional growth.

This year’s San Diego Regional was held on a beautiful campus of Palomar College in the foothills of San Marcos, California. The conference was well attended although it coincided with an epoch-making public demonstration for Earth Day—“March for Science.” This day, indeed, was eventful. What made it so were the wide variety of presentations, varying from rather conventional topics related to skills-development strategies and technology use in teaching to more unorthodox topics involving mindfulness in the classroom and digital storytelling.

The conference commenced with an opening note by the co-chair, Lee Chen, who welcomed us all and thanked us for being there although some of us may have had the urge to join the March for Science.

Undraa and Cambridge rep Mary Louise Baez

The author was a room monitor for the presentation “Critical Thinking for Academic Success: A Full-Pyramid Approach” by Mary Louise Baez.

The highlight of the conference was a plenary by Dr. Kate Kinsella from San Francisco State University, whose exuberant keynote was both informative and stimulating. She passionately talked about the need to prepare English learners for academic writing, and she urged us to rethink our approach to better help our students in their journeys to become proficient writers. Her presentation, titled “You Can’t Write What You Can’t Say,” touched upon the limitations of traditional writing instruction and put forward a clear pedagogical scheme to eliminate barriers that students face in their Language Arts classes. She further emphasized the importance of serving as “the over-the-shoulder writing coach” to our students by not only setting clear expectations and objectives but also providing “informed, interactive, and systematic instruction.” A fundamental goal of a writing instructor, according to Dr. Kinsella, should be to prevent young English learners from becoming “long-term language learners.”

The morning plenary was followed by a wide range of concurrent sessions, many of which had captivating titles and centered around the theme of “Supporting the Journey.” I attended three remarkable presentations; the first two were practice-based sessions that focused on supporting students in their writing journey, and the last one was a publisher’s session that aimed at improving L2 learners’ critical-thinking skills through a newly published textbook series titled “Prism.” There is always something to take away from these presentations; it is either a newly developed strategy or a creative idea for teaching. But the biggest takeaway for me is the inspiration I draw from the professional, passionate educators committed to their work.

feature image for SD regional report/author and Heayoung Mikas

The authorwith Heayoung Mikas, a volunteer in charge of the raffle, holding books donated by publishers.

Adding value to my conference experience was volunteering a few hours of my time. My volunteer work started at 7:30 a.m. with the task of posting signs to direct attendees to their intended destinations. For someone who had never been to this campus, signposting perhaps was not a suitable task, but with the help of Michael Roure, an ESL tutor at Palomar college, I was able to carry out my duty. This job, in fact, helped me become familiar with the locations of presentation rooms, elevators, and exits. Since I was wearing a big round pin that said “Ask Me,” I felt more confident when someone approached me asking for directions. In the afternoon, I helped Heayoung Mikas, an experienced ESL instructor at Palomar College, who was in charge of the raffle. My role here was very minimal, limited to carrying a few boxes of donated books inside and keeping her company for a second trip of asking for donations from publishers. Thanks to the generous donations from publishers, including National Geographic Learning, Townsend, Cambridge University Press, Pearson ELT, Compass, and others, we had many rounds of raffle drawings in the end.

I have to thank Katrina Tamura, a volunteer coordinator, for her professionalism, hard work, and effort. The online volunteer signup form she created, the frequent and prompt communication she maintained (she sent a “thank you” email before I got home), and the clear direction she provided made the volunteering a rather easy and enjoyable task. She exemplifies qualities of a professional who is dedicated to service and excellence. It is the commitment of people such as Katrina that makes these conferences successful.

The CATESOL San Diego Regional Conference of 2017, indeed, was another successful conference that fulfilled its promise to “Support the Journey.” It did its part to support the lifelong journey of an educator to become a capable and competent professional. With such sustained support, I strive to be the support for my students and lighten their arduous journey of learning a new language and developing a new skill.

Undarmaa Maamuujav is a lecturer at the University Writing Center at California State University, Los Angeles, where she has been teaching writing and other ESL courses at different levels since 2005. She is a second language learner herself, having come to this country as an international student to earn her graduate degree (MA in TESOL) back in 2002.

 

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