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  • 15 May 2023 12:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Victoria Pierson, VATESOL Vice President

    It sounds intimidating... submitting a proposal to present at a conference. We’re here to demystify the process and encourage you to submit a proposal for VATESOL’s upcoming conference this fall.

    First, let's break down the submission form. If it’s your first time considering a presentation at a conference, the submission form may seem overwhelming. Don’t worry… it’s really just three main sections of information:

    • Presenter Information: Share your contact information with us so that we can notify you if your proposal is accepted and credit you in our program! However, our proposal review process is fully anonymous - board members won’t be able to see your name on your submission until after all proposals have been reviewed and accepted or denied.
    • Presentation Type & Target Audience: Help us see where your presentation will fit within the organization of the conference. The Target Audience and Topic Emphasis fields are included in our program as a way for participants to easily locate sessions that may be most relevant to their current field or area of interest.
    • Presentation Details: Share with us the title, summary, and abstract of your proposed presentation. The title and summary will be printed in the conference program for participants, while the abstract is for our proposal reviewers to learn more about what you are proposing to present. Don’t stress… You aren’t expected to write a doctoral dissertation here! Just give us a clear and descriptive overview of your presentation: What information will you share? What will a participant walk away with after hearing your presentation? Be sure not to include any identifying information (like your school division, university, or hometown) in the abstract.

    Top Tips for Writing Your Proposal:

    1. Start with the theme. Past VATESOL board member Marie Rose-McCully shared:

    “Think about the conference as a conversation. How will your presentation fit into the conversation? What are you adding to the conversation? The reason we have a conference theme is so that people can engage in that shared conversation, examining a theme from multiple angles with even more perspectives. Proposals that do not add to that conversation feel out of place.”

    Our fall 2023 conference theme is : "Stronger Together: Building Partnerships for Language, Content and Community What great conversation pieces do you have to share with us?

    2. Follow the rubric. Current VATESOL teacher education SIG leader, Katya Koubek, highlights the importance of studying the rubric and ensuring that your proposal clearly meets the criteria. Clarity is key, so be sure to revise your writing before submitting!

    This year’s proposals will be evaluated for selection on the basis of the following criteria:

    • clear statement of objective
    • clear summary

    • current importance of topic in the field
    • focus and organization of abstract
    • relevance to conference theme and target audience
    • appropriateness of content for session duration

    3. Consider the audience. Past VATESOL president, Jana Moore, wrote:

    “What makes a great proposal is what the listener will get out of it. I don't want to go and listen to a speaker talk because they believe they are fabulous. I want to hear people talk about research or things they are doing in the classroom, and how it can be tweaked for my own purposes, or how that impacts what I'm doing. You can read a certain level of enthusiasm in proposals, and outstanding ones are those that ‘pop.’”

    That's it! Remember, what makes a great conference is a diverse group of presenters and presentations. We are looking for proposals from all stakeholders: K-12 teachers, administrators, adult educators, teacher educators, professors and university-level instructors, students... anyone who has something to contribute to our conversation!

    If you have any questions regarding our conference or submitting proposals, please email

  • 07 Apr 2023 10:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Kathryn Manning, K-12 SIG Leader

    How to Start your Own PLC…with another district

    For small-incidence districts where you may be the sole ELL teacher or go a whole week without seeing your fellow ELL team members, collaborating with ELL teams outside of your district may provide a fresh new perspective and spark ideas for how to improve your setting’s LIEP model.

    Step 1: Identify a District to Partner with

    When it comes to attending conferences, part of the excitement after hearing the keynote speaker’s presentation and perusing vendors is reuniting and catching up with that conference buddy you always run into at VATESOL conferences.  What if you didn’t have to wait until the next conference to catch up and could instead create something new and exciting now?

    After attending a consortium conference last fall, I reached out to another district’s team that presented on how to create in-house ELL-specific professional development and training to support content teachers in collaborating with ELL teachers.  Although unable to attend their presentation, entitled Smarter Together: Developing Teacher Expertise, I found that this team of Staunton City ELL teachers and an Executive Director of Instruction were more than happy to not only share their program model, but also major findings.

    Step 2: Meet Virtually or In-Person to Establish Goals and Purpose for Meeting

    After corresponding via e-mail a few times, we decided an in-person meeting would be best to exchange ideas and our own experiences with collaboration.  I pitched the idea to one of my content area coteachers, who quickly expressed interest in being a part of our growing motley crew.  Getting a group of educators together for a Friday after-school meeting is no easy feat, but we made it happen with the help of a shared interest in improving our district’s collaboration and PD model.  Our first meeting centered on how to create a system for change through staff ELL training: starting a pilot study, using Title III funds, collecting data to show progress, and how to encourage reflection among teachers as they try out and adopt new strategies for supporting English learners—quite the productive agenda even as we hit start on our teacher weekend modes!    

    Step 3: Keep It Going

    Almost three months later and our ELL cross-district PLC is still going strong.  Although our meeting setting has shifted from city hall to local coffee shops, we still bring a desire to grow and increase our knowledge base as educators. On top of improving teacher expertise, we have also added a book study to our agenda list as we dive into Andrea Honigsfeld’s Co-Planning: Five Essential Practices to Integrate Curriculum and Instruction for English Learners Like many ELL educators, we still vent about ACCESS testing and how to support our coworkers in being more intentional about supporting ELs in the classroom. However, I find that with new faces and ideas we also bring a dynamic energy that keeps us moving forward and excited for the positive change we can enact in our individual settings.  Stay tuned–we’re not done yet!

  • 14 Mar 2023 6:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Isra Nikoolkan, VATESOL Blog Editor

    Andrea is an ELL Specialist at Orange Elementary School in Orange, VA. She currently serves on the Minority Advisory Committee for the Superintendent and is a member of the Orange County Youth Commission. She has been working in education, diversity, and inclusion for over 20 years serving as an ESL Instructor at both Montgomery College in Maryland and at Howard University in Washington, DC. Andrea and her family lived in Ghana, West Africa for five years where she served as an Educational Consultant for a nonprofit organization while homeschooling three of her four children. She has an advanced yoga certification and specializes in social emotional health as it relates to anxiety, trauma and racial justice. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Bowie State University and is currently a graduate student at Miami University.

    Andrea looks forward to serving in her role on the VATESOL board as Education Consultant SIG.

  • 12 Mar 2023 8:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Isra Nikoolkan, VATESOL Blog Editor

    Dr. Abrego Meneses holds a  Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual Education from the National University of Panama, a Master's Degree in TESOL and a  Master of Arts in English Education and writing. He obtained his Education Specialist Degree in School Leadership from Virginia Tech and his Doctor of Education in Executive Leadership, Planning and Policy from the College of William and Mary. Dr. Abrego Meneses is the principal of Cardinal Elementary School in Richmond, VA,  the largest Elementary school in RPS with the highest number of ELL students in the state of VA. Dr. Abrego has been an educator for 22 years. He began his career as an ESL teacher in the Republic of Panama. He coordinated ESL and Migrant School programs in South Carolina. Dr. Abrego Meneses has been a foreign language and IB teacher at the middle, high and college levels. He has taught ESL at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He has served as a school level administrator for over 8 years. 

    Juvenal looks forward to serving in his role on the VATESOL board as Administration SIG.

  • 25 Feb 2023 2:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Hali Massey, VATESOL Adult Education SIG Leader

    When planning for adult English language instruction, it is important to consider how to make classroom materials and activities relevant to the real lives of learners. Given that we live in a world that is dominated by technology, it is inevitable that learners will be asked to use different forms of technology in English. When navigating life in the United States, multilingual learners will need to be able to perform tasks using the internet, digital tools, smartphones, laptops, etc. Depending on their prior exposure to technology and using technology for specific purposes, these skills and tasks may be new to learners. 

    Because adult ESOL curricula are typically thematic units that focus on various aspects of adult life in the United States, we can analyze our curriculum to look for areas where digital literacy instruction, materials, and activities would benefit our learners and enhance our instruction. 

    Examples of aligning digital literacy skills to adult ESOL curriculum include: 

    Learning the alphabet 

    • Using keyboards (images or realia) to learn and practice letter recognition 

    Navigating local community 

    • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to look up local places in the community

    • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to navigate directions to and from local places in the community 

    • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to create local community maps

    Discussing weekly schedules and routines 

    • Using a calendar on a smartphone or computer to locate days and times and schedule appointments. 

    Discussing money 

    • Using a calculator on a smartphone or computer to calculate amounts and percentages.

    Instructional practices for integrating digital literacy into the adult ESOL classroom: 

    • Orientation: Spend time orienting learners to digital platforms and tools in the classroom, in-person, and in their home language(s) whenever possible.

    • Explicit instruction: Explicitly teach tools and vocabulary needed to engage in digital literacy skills - use images and realia to scaffold understanding.

    • Familiar tools: Start with tools and platforms that learners have experience using or at least exposure to.

    • Authentic tasks and skills: Utilize authentic digital tasks and skills in the classroom that mimic those that learners need in the real world.

    For resources that assist with integrating digital literacy into the adult English language classroom, please see the members only resource section on the VATESOL website.

  • 05 Feb 2023 3:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by, Laura Lewis, VATESOL President

    End of January into March is the time when K-12 ESOL teachers throughout Virginia are stressing about the WIDA Access test. I know I have been since November when I put together my testing schedule. Have new students entered our school since then, of course! Did I schedule one of my testing days on a county PD day when we will not have students, of course! Luckily, I did come across some of my most valued resources that I have cultivated over the years to help me administer this test. Some are .pdf's pulled from the WIDA site--like the test administrator script-- and one is a wonderful powerpoint on the "Why" and "What" behind the Access test that you can share with your school building or district. Full disclosure I am not sure where I got this powerpoint. To have access to these resources go to Members' Area section of our website. Good luck with your testing season!

  • 03 Feb 2023 2:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Katya Koubek, VATESOL Teacher Education SIG Leader

    As we are slowly emerging from a three-year pandemic, the topic of social-emotional learning continues to play an important role in the TESOL field. No matter where we teach, many educators and students have experienced the effect of the pandemic, especially on their mental health. In many schools, mindfulness has become an essential topic of educators’ professional development. In an overview of top 8 TESOL PD topics from the 2022 year, Dr. Laura Baecher has revealed the topics of mindfulness and overcoming teacher burnout as part of this list. 

    As a teacher educator, I remember attending a virtual TESOL 2021 conference in which Dr. Janet Zadina discussed the pandemic brain and science behind optimal learning. As a result of her mindfulness practices with her virtual audience, I learned the techniques to help my students and myself rewire our brains and mitigate anxiety, which in the long run can help with a more positive outlook on life. These techniques adaptable to other educational contexts outside of higher education include the following steps: 

    1. Play 60-beat instrumental music as students come to class and have it on during the next mindfulness steps. YouTube is an excellent free source for such music, especially coffee shop jazz..

    2. Ask students to sit straight with feet down on the floor and one hand on their chest and the other on the stomach to do some breathing techniques. Encourage them to close or partially close their eyes to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique (four seconds inhale through one’s nose, 7 second to hold one’s breath, and 8 seconds exhale through one’s mouth). Repeat this technique 6 times. This technique is suitable for adults, but not for younger children. In addition, if students cannot hold their breath or have heart problems, encourage them to breathe naturally instead.

    3. Switch to natural breathing for an additional minute or twoContinue to sit straight with partially closed or fully closed eyes.

    4. The final step involves gratitude where students write down three gratitude notes. By varying these gratitude notes, students help rewire their brains to mitigate their anxiety and stress, which in the long run will improve their sleep, health, and learning in general. While these gratitude notes are private, students are encouraged to share them with the whole class if desired.

    As someone who has been practicing mindfulness in all my undergraduate and graduate courses, I can attest that students perceive them as beneficial to their learning and overall health based on survey results gathered over several years (Koubek, 2021, 2022). By teaching our students mindfulness techniques, we can help our students develop better coping mechanisms to deal with the effects of the pandemic and have a brighter outlook on their lives. 


    Baecher, L. (2022, December 27). Top 8 PD topics for English language teachers in 2022. TESOL blog. 

    Koubek, E. (2021). (Re)Imagining remote teaching and learning: Meeting students where they are. In J. Davis & C. Irish (Eds.), Lessons from the pivot: Higher education’s response to the pandemic.

    Koubek, E. (2022). Enacting an ethic of care as a TESOL teacher educator. In M. Shoffner and A. Webb (Eds.), Reconstructing care in teacher education after COVID-19. Routledge.

    Zadina, J. (2021, March). The pandemic brain: Science and strategies for optimal learning. Keynote. Virtual TESOL Convention. 

  • 10 Jan 2023 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Kathryn Manning, VATESOL K-12 SIG Leader  

    As we recalibrate ourselves to adding 23 to the end of the year, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the previous years and the value of change. It’s hard to believe it's been three whole years since COVID shifted instructional norms.  At the same time that we dove into virtual learning, the ELL world also saw the introduction of new WIDA language standards, yet another change to be navigated.

    As an educator, getting a 200+ page  book packed full of shiny new standards can be a bit daunting, not to mention hefty. Once I got to work perusing the grade clusters and appreciating the color-packed and visual layout (WIDA never disappoints) it ended up being a refreshing and welcome change. With the latest 2020 ELD Standards update rolled out by WIDA, the task shifted to not just revamping my own instruction to be more intentional about language features and uses, but also getting my fellow teachers onboard the language standards train as well. To this end, I’ve found that the standards not only inform my own instruction and assessment of ELs, but also that of my content teacher colleagues as well.  As demonstrated in my presentation at the Title III Consortium Conference last year, having ELD standards embedded within instruction benefits not just ELs, but all learners, a fact that my co-presenter and content co-teacher gladly hammered on at least five times (we kept mental tally marks) during our sessions. 

    In our co-planning we found that crafting authentic tasks (e.g. delivering a final verdict on a murder case) most easily facilitated incorporating language use within units. Once a language use was identified, we could then hold all learners accountable for academic language features through explicit instruction and modeling.  By utilizing the ELD Standards bible (as I now call it), ELs were held to high expectations and academic rigor within each unit with supports embedded to further encourage and support language growth.  With the continued chant of “good for all learners, but especially ELs”, K-12 educators can embrace the ELD standards in conjunction with Standards of Learning in our new era where all teachers support language standards, not just ELL teachers.

    As we step into this new year, with some of us leaping while others may shuffle forward, still testing the waters, I encourage all of you to take a moment to reflect on the change that has happened up to this point, perhaps even finding new opportunities for growth. Three years ago as a newly-minted ELL teacher establishing the first LIEP at my school, collaboration with the standards seemed near impossible, as I was introduced at my first staff meeting not as a resource for supporting lessons, but as essentially the “ELL test giver”. Since then, through small, yet intentional steps, I have established norms for co-planning and coteaching with the ELD standards.  All this to say, we are all working continuously with our learners, administrators, and content teachers to enact positive change. While sometimes it can feel like we’re stuck and not progressing, often all it takes is a little more time and the grace to accept that the work we do does have impact.

  • 06 Dec 2022 7:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kara Friedel is in her fourth year as the ESL Secondary Support Specialist for Chesterfield County Public Schools. She taught ESL for 8 years in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as Adult ESL classes. Kara is a member of VESA and WELV. She is a proud Hokie who is now pursuing her master’s in Administration and Supervision through the University of Virginia. Kara is a proud wife, mom, and dog mom to her golden retriever, Kix. 

    Kara looks forward to serving in her role on the VATESOL board as Membership Chair.  

    Kathryn Manning currently works at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind as an ELL Teacher. A self-professed language nerd, she taught English in Japan for three years before returning to the U.S. in 2017 to pursue her degree in MAT TESOL Education. While opportunities to use Japanese are rare in her current setting, she enjoys innovating with ASL and Braille to support dually identified English Learners, sometimes even outside the classroom during cross country or blind soccer practice.

    Kathryn looks forward to serving in her role on the VATESOL board as K-12 SIG.

    This is Max Nikoolkan's fifth year serving as an elementary ESL/ELL teacher for Loudoun County Public school as well as his second year as an ESL/ELL Adult Instructor. Previously, he has served as Asian American Chair of the Equity Committee for Loudoun County Public Schools and continues to serve as co-equity leady for his own school site. Before public school teaching, he previously received a Fulbright to teach English in South Korea and taught English in Japan through the JET Program.

    Max looks forward to serving in his role on the VATESOL board as Blog Editor.

  • 08 Aug 2022 8:00 AM | Anonymous member

    Authored by Katya Koubek, VATESOL Teacher Education SIG Leader  

    VATESOL is excited to bring a SETESOL conference to Virginia on October 12- 15 this year! VATESOL is among 11 states that are part of SETESOL. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Last time our organization had an honor to bring this conference to Virginia was in 2011. As a member of VATESOL Board of Directors, I would like to share my top 5 reasons to attend this year’s SETESOL conference in Richmond, Virginia.


    1.     Learn from experts in the field


    There is nothing more exciting than learning about the latest research and instructional practices from educational experts in the field whether these are professors, administrators, exhibitors, or teachers. This type of learning is exhilarating to one’s mental health and brain and serves as a catalyst for change in instructional and methodological practices. Three days of the conference will surely enrich everyone with new skills and knowledge on how to support multilingual learners in various educational contexts.


    2.     Network by meeting old and new colleagues


    Since this conference is going to attract attendees from the above-mentioned SETESOL states, there will be plenty of opportunities to meet new colleagues and reconnect with your old friends. By interacting with like-minded individuals, there is a greater chance that new projects and ideas will be generated and potentially pursued, thus contributing to the dissemination of new research and evidence-based practices.


    3.     Exchange ideas on what matters the most to you


    While attending a conference is fulfilling in its own way, presenting and sharing ideas with others on one’s latest projects is even more exhilarating. Having an opportunity to hear others’ opinions on your projects stimulate further thinking that can potentially increase the quality of these projects and provide avenues for their dissemination.


    4.     Boost your resume and invest in yourself


    Whether you need professional credits to maintain your license or are required to demonstrate your professional development on your annual review, this conference can cover it all! By attending and/or presenting at this conference, you are taking a step further to enhance your resume or CV, which also serves as a good sign to your employer that you are willing to expand your knowledge, learn, and improve.


    5.     Visit a new place and have fun!


    It is essential to decompress and relax while attending conferences! These professional development opportunities while brain-stimulating can be overly exhausting. Therefore, it is paramount to take time for yourself to have fun exploring a new place, enjoying a nice meal, or just strolling along the streets of a new city. Having this SETESOL conference in Richmond guarantees that everyone will find something to enjoy in the capital of Virginia – whether you are interested in shopping, eating out, or sightseeing.


    In sum, these are my top five reasons for attending the SETESOL conference in Richmond, VA this fall.  The bottom line is whatever your reasons are to attend this conference, we would like to extend a warm welcome to you and your colleagues and to ensure that your stay with us is memorable and rich with new knowledge, skills, and professional opportunities. On behalf of the VATESOL Board of Directors, I hope to see you at SETESOL on October 12 -15 this year!


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