Dear VenTESOLers, what a great couple of years we had in 2013-2015!
When we were elected as VenTESOL board of directors 2013-2015, we were eager to endlessly work to hold more than 70 academic events nationwide, 3 summer camps, 2 National conventions, 8 regional conventions and 4 local ELL projects, thereby reaching beyond the teachers’ community. What an accomplishment, what a commitment to move forward for everyone involved in this amazing organization, named 2015 Number 1 TESOL Affiliate outside USA!
Since day one, our top priority was to bring academic events to remote areas of the country reaching as many teachers and students and possible and so we did: Thousands of kilometres travelled to help in-service and pre-service teachers develop professionally, to reignite their passion for teaching, to light up their inner motivation for the improvement of their teaching practice, because at the end of the day that is what VenTESOL is about: Teachers helping teachers.
Today we want to reflect on these last two years which have helped the organization grow amazingly. 2013-2015 was the consolidation period of all the work done for more than 33 years. We are who we are, as a teachers’ organization, thanks to all the volunteer work of past VenTESOL leaders and, of course, the current ones who are willing to dedicate their scarce free time to help improve ELT in Venezuela.
a. ELSpec visits
As one of the projects developed during 2013-2015, and with the complete support of the US Embassy along with most teacher training universities in Venezuela and our 19 regional representatives, VenTESOL organized eight English Language Specialist visits (ELSpec visits). The main objective of these workshops was to provide training to pre-service teachers around the country as well as coaching and consultancy to in-service teachers and universities in Venezuela in order to contribute to the development of critical thinking, skills applied to ELT, the use of technology in and out of the classroom, English for Specific Purposes (ESP), teaching young learners, EFL teaching strategies, planning skills, curricula update in ESL.
These American ELT specialists used their expertise to benefit almost five thousand (5,000) teachers and teacher trainees in different regions of the country with their workshops. An added value of these visits is that through VenTESOL social media, (Ning, Facebook, Twitter among them), most participants can reach these specialists for follow-up and expertise in the corresponding field. Also, we were able to continue distance working for remote collaboration with these seven Americans and one Venezuelan teachers, in order to strengthen the work they helped us do while visiting the country.
The above is the reason why, for our teachers’ organization, the ELSpec program is paramount since it has helped us reach remote areas so as to train teachers in their regional contexts. It is through this program that VenTESOL has been able to expand its horizons and increase the numbers of professionals who have later become active members.
Below a brief summary of teacher training workshops carried out:
b. Regional Conventions
The main objective of these eight (8) regional conventions was to empower Venezuelan teachers of English to become agents of change, that is, super teachers. We also planned to show how they can create projects supported by organizations, colleagues and students in order to improve ELT. Finally, we aimed at reactivating VenTESOL regions through the delivery of teacher training workshops bearing in mind teachers’ needs and their regional context.
During these regional conventions, we trained almost 600 teachers and we visited the following cities:
• Caracas, Distrito Capital
• Valencia, Carabobo State
• Barcelona, Anzoátegui State
• Pto Cabello, Carabobo State
• Puerto Ordaz, Bolívar State
• Barquisimeto, Lara State
• Merida, Mérida State
• Maracaibo, Zulia State
The feedback from participants was amazing and the need for another similar tour, with stops at different areas of the country, was also a common feature which rated high on the evaluation sheets.
c. National Conventions
The 32nd and 33rd VenTESOL Annual Conventions were a very special occasion for English teaching professionals in Venezuela to gather and share their expertise in ELT. Both events started with a cocktail reception as a means to welcome, thank and share with exhibitors, national and international presenters, the US Embassy and the British Council in Venezuela.
The 32nd edition, Examine, Support, Reniew: ELT for the Next Generation, took place at Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas on July 18th-19th, 2014. More than 600 participants from all over Venezuela were able to live VenTESOL’s spirit through 70 concurrent workshops, 5 plenary sessions, webinars, a book exhibit, among other activities planned for the occasion.
The 33rd VenTESOL National Convention, Breaking Paradigms and Borders in ELT, was held on May 30th-31st, 2015 at Grand Marshall of Ayacucho University, in Barcelona, Anzoátegui State. Around 520 participants enjoyed more than 60 workshops, 3 of which were webinars. 7 plenary sessions and a small book exhibit.
d. Summer Camps
Aimed at providing future English teachers with basic tools for the development of the four English language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, VenTESOL English Summer Camps 2013-2014, took place in Los Teques, Maracay and Tucacas.
The main objective of these camps was to offer pre-service English teachers from Carabobo University, Francisco de Miranda University and UPEL Maracay, a teacher-training university, the opportunity of using and enhancing their oral and written communicative skills in English through different non-conventional strategies. Within this purpose, the program of the event was structured to develop a series of activities to promote participants’ motivation to continuing language and professional training. During the four-day camp, teacher trainees were also sensitized to the culture of English-speaking countries as well as the need for further language practice outside the classroom walls.
Based on the different theories, approaches and models of language learning and teaching, campers experienced the English language through the use of diverse strategies, techniques and activities for the improvement of each language skill.
A guided collaborative development of all the activities took place throughout the camp’s days. The inclusion of recreational techniques in activities related to the environment, cultural and social issues, along with the participation of distinguished guests from different English-speaking countries made a positive impact on all the participants.
These English Summer Camps were designed to show students and teachers the unlimited possibilities of undergoing the processes of teaching and learning the language in innovating and meaningful contexts.
Some of the many benefits for pre-service teachers during these camps are listed below:
• Improvement in linguistic and meta-linguistic abilities
• Increase of cognitive ability such as divergent thinking, concept formation, verbal abilities, listening skills and general reasoning
• Improvement of one's understanding of his/her native language.
• Doors open to other cultures and deeper understanding and appreciation of people from other countries.
• Enhancement of memory, among others.
For that reason, VenTESOL summer camps were devoted to expose students to the didactic possibilities that unconventional teaching settings have in the learning of a second language. During those days, participants engaged in a wide range of activities which helped them not only develop their own language skills, but also expand their knowledge of ELT methodology. By the end of the summer camp, pre-service students were able to communicate both efficiently and effectively by applying cooperative learning strategies as well as autonomous learning tools so as to become independent learners.
e. Grassroots projects for economically disadvantaged students
Reaching out a wider community beyond teachers has always been part of VenTESOL’s vision.
Benefiting more than 120 students and thanks to the amazing ideas and the planning skills of our former and current state representatives, VenTESOL has been able to organize, coordinate and carry out four different projects nationwide. Below, a brief review of each of them:
• The English Program for Young Musicians in La Victoria and San Felipe was a project proposed by Prof. Waleska Ruiz, former Aragua State representative for VenTESOL, and prof. Yeidi Parra. Along came Miguel Pérez, former Yaracuy State Representative and current Communications Coordinator, to replicate and perfect the idea in his hometown, San Felipe. The main goal of this project is to provide English lessons to 70 economically disadvantaged learners from the National Orchestra System in La Victoria, Aragua State and San Felipe, Yaracuy State.
• English Program for Young Athletes – San José Basketball School in Aragua State: The main objective of this project, which finished in July 2015, was to expose 23 students to the target language in preparation for future formal instruction at American universities and communication during their sports activities here and abroad. Learners also developed basic skills through meaningful, cooperative and communicative sessions appropriate to their ages in which they could gain knowledge about U.S. culture, customs and values.
• Proposed by Abilio Mujica, VenTESOL Lara State representative, the English Program as Social Service at El Coriano 1, Barquisimeto, Lara State’s two main goals are to give to 40 economically challenged young learners from El Coriano 1 neighborhood, one school year of English instruction in 2015 in order to support and reinforce the English language the group has been exposed to at high school and, and also to prepare them for future formal instruction at the university through the development of basic knowledge of the language and American culture. That is to say, the project is addressed to this group of 40 teenagers and/ or young adults who are studying at different levels in secondary education thereby improving their probabilities of success at university education in Venezuela.
Did we face any difficulties during 2013-2015? Of course we did and there are still many others ahead! There are many challenges to overcome and objectives to achieve in the near future. First, reaching more towns and cities with more ELSpec visits in 2015-2016 is one of them. Second, since we have experienced how important it is to get connected with teachers everywhere through our social media (Facebook,Ning, Twitter, YouTube, etc), and with the purpose of trying to create a more formal, yet friendlier online community, we are planning to organize the upcoming visits with a strong online component in order to request distance sessions from the very beginning prior to the specialists’ actual visit two weeks before their departure from our country. With commitment, passion for teaching and a deep belief that improving education is the solution to our daily problems, we can overcome any future problems we might encounter in the development of teacher training events.
Enhancing ELT in a country were English is seen as a threat and unattainable is an amazing experience and a reachable goal. Thanks to the US Embassy’s support along with the volunteer work of VenTESOL executive board members, our organization was able to accomplish every single one of the projects launched in 2013-2015: We reached remote areas of the country so as to help teachers improve their practice in the language classroom. We hope to continue working to help boost teaching practice for the better. Not an easy aim at all, but totally feasible if we meet teachers’ needs according to their regional contexts.
VenTESOL is stronger than ever thanks to volunteer work done by its members who are actively involved and committed to its mission. Such volunteerism is not easy as the board of directors is made up by full-time teachers. We also count on the endless support of US Embassy Caracas and RELO Andes Perú, which have helped us carry out projects mentioned above. Special thanks to Mary-Lou Johnson, Sandra Botero, David Fay, Micah Risher and Marcela Raffo for trusting VenTESOL! Thank you a thousand times for helping us enhance education in Venezuela!
What`s next? It is up to you! Join us, send us your projects, be an active part of this once-in-a-life-time experience VenTESOL is. Helping others is the best way to spend – and invest – your free time as well as help our country be the place we all deserve to live in.
The best is yet to come!
Teachers Helping Teachers!
Live VenTESOL’s Spirit!!!!!
Fostering Learner Autonomy in the EFL Classroom - Caracas, 2013
New Trends in Teaching ESP July 2014
English Summer Camp, 2014
Designing Computer-based Language Teaching Materials, 2015
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on behalf of VenTESOL Board of Directors 2013-2015
English Summer Camp
English Immersion Camp 2014
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English Program for Young Athletes – San José Basketball School in Aragua State
English Program for Young Musicians in La Victoria
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