About TESOL Banner

The History of TESOL International Association

This history of TESOL International Association, formerly Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, was written by James Alatis, a founding member of TESOL and the association's first executive director.

The Early History of TESOL 

The organization was created out of professional concern over the lack of a single, all-inclusive professional organization that might bring together teachers and administrators at all educational levels with an interest in teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL).

Pilot Meeting, September 12, 1963 

At the April 1963 annual conference of the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs (NAFSA) held in Pasadena, California, the suggestion was made that Charles A. Ferguson of the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) call a small conference of representatives from various kinds of ESOL programs to determine the advisability of a unique, more inclusive organization for teachers of English to speakers of languages.

ATESL of NAFSA 

Late in April 1964, at the annual NAFSA conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the English Language Section renamed itself the "Association of Teachers of English as a Second Language, a section of NAFSA," after discussion of whether the Section should remain part of NAFSA.

First National Conference on the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages 

On May 6-9, 1964, the first conference on the teaching of ESOL took place in Tucson, Arizona attracting more than 700 participants, far more than expected.

Conference Meeting in Chicago, August 6, 1964 

The next official meeting on the TESOL conference took place in Chicago on August 6, 1964.

NACTEFL Decisions 

The National Advisory Council on Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (NACTEFL) had been concerned with the question of available ESOL personnel for some time.

Ad Hoc Committee, Chicago, January 30, 1965 

As a result of the NACTEFL decisions of May and October 1964, an ad hoc committee representing professional organizations, state educational systems and individuals concerned with the teaching of English to speakers of other languages met on January 30, 1965, at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago.

Second Annual Conference on the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages 

The first item on the agenda at a special business meeting held at the conference was a report by Harold B. Allen of the needs of teachers as reflected in the replies to the "Survey of the Teaching of English to Non-English Speakers in the United States," conducted by Allen under a grant from the U.S. Office of Education on the Teaching of English to Non-English Speakers (TENES) in the United States.

Third Annual Conference on the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages 

During the business meeting of the Third Annual Conference at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in New York in March 1966, the proposed constitution was presented to the conference participants.

TESOL Charter Members 

TESOL acknowledges the educators who founded the association in 1966.

References and Resources