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Education Crossing Barriers: WC Hosts Maryland TESOL Conference

  • From left to right: John Hepler, Director, Office of English Language Learning; Keynote Speaker Eli Hinkel, PhD; and Shena...
    From left to right: John Hepler, Director, Office of English Language Learning; Keynote Speaker Eli Hinkel, PhD; and Shenaz Shaffee, Academic Director, Lado Institute
November 06, 2015
On October 17, Washington College hosted the 2015 Maryland Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Conference. The theme this year was “Beyond Borders: Connecting Diverse Perspectives.”

Guests included keynote speaker Dr. Eli Hinkel, President of the Maryland TESOL Yeji Yoon, Washington College President Sheila Bair, and over thirty presenters from around the world.

John Hepler, the director of the Office of English Language Learning at the College, helped bring the conference to campus. “It was an important ‘score’ for the College because it had never been held here before, nor even on the Eastern Shore,” he said. “My goal for securing the conference was an early step in my long-term plan to promote Washington College as a leader in educating English-language learning students in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic Region.”

The event’s featured speaker was Dr. Eli Hinkel, a widely published and experienced applied linguistics professor, who is herself a non-native speaker. Editor of the Routledge ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series of textbooks, her speech at the conference focused on the need for explicit instruction on grammar and vocabulary for second-language learners. She urged instructors to focus on teaching necessary academic vocabulary using repetition, rather than relying on context to teach students unfamiliar words.

Hepler said that Hinkel’s presentation supported his own philosophy of teaching at the College, where he uses the Oxford Academic Word List to familiarize ELL students with words they will encounter in academia. “In addition to teaching academic culture in my classes, I use the academic word list along with focused instruction on problems in English grammar and essay writing.”

According to Hepler, the conference was a success. “A statewide conference generally attracts around 200 to 250 participants; we estimate that 260 people attended the conference. The committee has stated an interest in returning to campus in several years, which I fully support,” he said.

Maryland TESOL is a professional, non-profit association dedicated to the improvement and advancement of teaching English to speakers of other languages. Maryland TESOL is an affiliate of TESOL, the international organization of professionals interested in teaching English to speakers of other languages. More information and, for the first time, video footage of the conference can be found at their website.


Last modified on Jan. 7th, 2016 at 12:25pm by .