The lights in Sandy Reno's office have been lit a lot more than usual since last fall.
The director of the Intensive English Language Institute at DWC agreed a year ago to chair the Mid America-Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MIDTESOL) Conference, which will be held at the Hotel Julien in downtown Dubuque, October 22-23.
The conference is expected to attract 100 to 150 English as a Second Language (ESL) professionals from Iowa and Missouri, though invitations have also been sent to others in the field in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.
"Divine Word College is the hosting institution," said Reno, who along with other members of her department is coordinating all aspects of the conference. "This conference will give participants an opportunity to network with each other, to get support from others in the field, get new ideas for teaching and research and see what other people are doing."
Headlining the conference are two speakers of national significance. Dr. William G. Eggington, chair of Brigham Young University’s Linguistics and English Language Department, will speak Friday evening. He will present, "Thinking about Culture in TESOL," where he will discuss questions like: What is culture? How do large and small cultures work? Why does culture matter in language teaching?
Don Weasenforth, chair of the TESOL Affiliate Leadership Council, is the keynote speaker at the Saturday mid-day luncheon. Taking a tip from one of the world’s classic narratives, "Alice in Wonderland," he will present, "The Power of Narrative in Research and Learning: Taking Alice’s Lead."
Both men will conduct their own respective workshops on Friday afternoon.
More than 30 presentations are scheduled to run during three concurrent sessions, attracting a host of ESL professionals who will share what they have observed, researched or discovered. And there will be ample time for free and open discussion.
"There will be question and answer periods during presentations, as well as break-out sessions at the reception and the luncheon," Reno said. "Plenty of chances for people to share what they are doing with other people."
This interaction lives up to the theme of the conference, "Stories to Tell," drawn from Mark Twain’s, "Life on the Mississippi."
Everyone who attends the conference has stories to tell. The layout of the conference—which also allows these visitors to spend some quality time together enjoying Dubuque—encourages them to meet, talk and share experiences in a field that is more and more relevant today.
"Teaching ESL in the United States has not diminished at all. In fact, it’s increased," Reno said. "Our conference gives people a chance to interact with others face to face, get moral support and reassurance that what you are doing has worth, and find people who are like-minded."