Skip to main content

Strategic Use of the TESOL Convention as PD

by Laura Baecher |

It’s time again for the annual TESOL International Convention! This March 2022, it will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA and it marks a return to in-person conferencing! However, the benefits of virtual participation will be retained so that more attendees worldwide can experience the breadth of the conference experience.

Attending conventions might be, well, one of the more “conventional” ways to engage in professional learning. In prior blogs, I have spoken about the almost limitless opportunities that are now available online to educators seeking professional development at their own pace, on their own time, and of their interest.

However, there is something really magical and inspiring about attending a conference in person. It’s a combination of the serendipity of who you wind up sitting next to and speaking with, the excitement of seeing our “TESOL Stars” in person, the pure adrenaline of racing up and down the long corridors of a convention center to get to a session, and the inexplicable joy of making a TESOL friend with someone from a completely other part of the world.

I turned to my virtual community of practice to see what others found valuable about the TESOL Convention as professional development, tips and strategies they use to maximize the learning opportunities, and their advice to first-time attendees. Here is what some of them had to say!

Araceli Salas


Every time I go to a TESOL Convention it is like going home, that is my academic family, the people with whom I share hope for a better world through our profession. Meeting with TESOLers is the best way to energize myself, keep going and working hard.

Margi Wald


First timers— It is a big conference and can be overwhelming. Don’t overdo it or you’ll be exhausted by the middle of Day 2. Choose/create a content/skill thread and go to related presentations. Schedule in breaks/networking time in the exhibit area. I attended my first TESOL Convention in 1993, and I haven’t missed one since. The Convention has given me so many opportunities to build my career and my CV but most importantly my community within the field. It has been a game-changer for me. I am indebted, and I look forward again this year to meeting up with old timers like me, Convention regulars, and newcomers alike to keep that community alive and growing.

Hanaa M. Khamis


TESOL Convention, St Louis 2001, was my very first international professional development experience where I presented and attended. I learned all about pre-convention institutes, plenaries, panels, talks, demos, workshops, poster sessions, among all other forms of presentations. I met my lifelong mentors and role models. I met my memorable friends and colleagues in CALL-IS [Computer-Assisted Language Learning Interest Section]. I visited the Job Fair, not to mention Book Exhibit where I collected all those lovely freebies:-) There and then is when I faced a blizzard and a near-death experience, after which I came back home revived and a brand-new person.

Grazzia María Mendoza


For TESOL educators it is the professional hub to learn, collaborate and grow. For me personally it’s my home away from home! A tip that I learnt during the 3rd convention I attended, choose the sessions based on a specific interest you have for your classroom that year. For example, if you want to strengthen your students’ reading skills choose sessions related to the topic, if your interest is research then attend those that promote research… etc.

Nikki Ashcraft


My best tip is: Talk to people. When you arrive early to a session, introduce yourself to the people sitting around you. You already know you have something in common with each other because you are all English teaching professionals! Ask them where they work, what sessions they have been attending, or what Interest Sections or Professional Learning Networks they belong to. It’s easy to start a conversation.

Monica Baker


Conferences are opportunities for professional rejuvenation! Time away from the classroom, surrounded by amazing educators, gives me an energy boost. I return to the classroom afterwards feeling inspired … and this benefits my students!

Stacy E Brown


As kids we had opportunities to go to camp and other settings where we could explore ourselves, different topics, new perspectives, and develop relationships outside of school and work. As adults, those opportunities are minimal. TESOL has become that for me. It is also an opportunity for us to collaboratively support and co-develop an organization that shapes and features our field which is often overlooked.

Kristen Schaub Lindahl


I like to go to sessions that are relevant to my research or teaching interests and also choose some that are completely new to me in some way. Also, attending the IS [interest section] and PLN [professional learning network] meetings is a great way to meet and network with people with similar interests.

Heidi Faust


I think the first thing is find your people, your interest section, PLN [professional learning network], etc. Part of the experience is the relationships and colleagues that you will stay connected with long after Convention. Going alone and going to different sessions is always great learning but the relationships keep you stretching all year long.

Luciana de Oliveira


In addition to going to sessions and plenaries—don’t forget the plenaries!—find time to hang out with your colleagues and friends. Make coffee/tea, lunch, and dinner plans so you can catch up and enjoy beyond the conference sessions themselves, which are always fun!! When you meet new people and exchange business cards, add a note to the back of each card you get to identify how/where/in which circumstance you met that person because by the end of the conference you may have many cards and may not remember how you met!! That has helped me a lot over the years!!

Justin Pierce Baldwin Gerald


I get to find radical co-conspirators who want to make a better world and challenge hierarchical ideologies.

Kate Mastruserio Reynolds


My advice: Have business cards available, even if you have to print your own, and enjoy it!! So much good learning in a caring community!

James Papple


I always like dropping by the affiliate booth, because you learn so much from all the different associations that are there.

Michelle Campbell Benegas


I get the app as soon as I can and I click every session that looks interesting. When I arrive, I have a menu of exciting sessions to attend—sometimes more than I can make it to.

Christine Carriero Passarelli


I’m attending this year and I feel it’s an opportunity to make connections on so many levels—meet people who are like minded and ready to share ideas and resources that will increase educator stamina in the classroom and field! I’m so excited to attend!

Thanks to all who shared their top approaches to making the most of the Convention, and I hope to meet all of you TESOL Blog readers either in Pittsburgh or online!

In the comments, share any experiences you have had with the TESOL Convention!

About the author

Laura Baecher

Dr. Laura Baecher is professor of TESOL at Hunter College, City University of New York. Her research interests and publications relate to teacher education, including educational technology in teacher learning, observation and coaching for English language teaching, and professional development in TESOL. Her recent books are Using Video to Support Teacher Reflection and Development in ELT and Reflecting on Problems of Practice in TESOL. She has served as chair of TESOL International Association’s Teacher Education Interest Section, an English language specialist for the U.S. Department of State, and president of the New York State TESOL affiliate.

comments powered by Disqus

This website uses cookies. A cookie is a small piece of code that gives your computer a unique identity, but it does not contain any information that allows us to identify you personally. For more information on how TESOL International Association uses cookies, please read our privacy policy. Most browsers automatically accept cookies, but if you prefer, you can opt out by changing your browser settings.