April 10, 2020

James Papple, TESL Ontario, Canada,

Henrick Oprea, BrazTESOL, Brazil,

Susan Gaer, CATESOL, USA,

Grazzia Maria Mendoza, TESOL International Board of Directors/HELTA Honduras TESOL, Honduras, Suzanne Rajkumar, ACTION TESOL Caribbean, Trinidad, and Tobago,

Maria Trapero, Mexico,

"I will treasure this activity forever and hope that when you have an idea, you share it with others, you never know... maybe there is someone out there who thinks alike, and together you can run an activity like ELT DAY FOR PUERTO RICO." —Online Presenter

On Sunday, January 26, 2020, a group of over 90 ELT professionals all across the globe gathered virtually to help Puerto Rico through a 24-hour Online Teachers Conference titled ELT Day for Puerto Rico. The beautiful and resilient Caribbean island was in a slow recovery process after the 2017 hurricane that left much of the country without power and severe damage to its infrastructure. However, the country was again devastated when earthquakes wreaked havoc on Monday, January 6, 2020. Several Latin American, Caribbean, and North American associations and affiliates worked together with EFLtalks to host this online conference. The event was a great example of building knowledge and expertise on global citizenship, which brought the TESOL community together in solidarity.

Through the efforts led by these affiliates and associations in contacting colleagues and experts, over 90 presenters from over 50 different countries volunteered their time and efforts to contribute. Presenters donated time and knowledge to help raise over $3,000 in support of the relief effort. Each of the presenters delivered spirited, 10-minute online talks or 30-minute plenaries with the goal of raising funds for the Puerto Rican Office of the American Red Cross. One of the presenters stated, "As a brand new online presenter, for me, it was a way to leave my comfort zone […], but most importantly, it was going to help our colleagues in Puerto Rico raising awareness about the power and responsibility teachers have." By mid-day of the conference, the event had already surpassed the halfway point of the goal.

The audience was as diverse as the presenters, with dozens in attendance in each of the separate presentation blocks. Even though the conference was organized in short order, the presentations went off mostly without a hitch. The topics examined issues in ELT, as well as global citizenship, transformative learning, education in crisis and conflict, and the promotion of peace through language teaching, among many others. The audience was definitely in for an academic treat!

The Process

EFLTalks was the platform used to ensure as many participants as possible were able to attend over the 24 hour-long mini-conference. EFL Talks generously provided free access to the highest number of participants (1000 from other platforms) and the possibility to have blocks of sessions. Moreover, organizers were familiar with the platform as it had hosted TESOL affiliate and IS events in the past. EFL Talks' track record with TESOL influenced the decision to use this platform for this event.

It was essential to choose a trusted charity, and the decision was made to select the Puerto Rico Red Cross. This funding mechanism was chosen due to its ease of service and as a recommendation from Puerto Rican colleagues. It was essential to consider their input in every step of the procedures. Donations went directly to the fund and were managed in-country, without third parties being involved, allowing for a transparent process.

The project had several stages starting at planting the seed for collaboration through a WhatsApp group set up back in 2018 at the HELTA TESOL conference, to the 24-hour online conference. It is essential to highlight that the commitment and availability of all the volunteers were precious, with people dedicating long hours to the task. The hard work paid off, as the mini-conference attracted over 1000 attendees.

Final Reflections

These efforts can be easily replicated in other contexts when there is a need for such action. The organization of a collaborative, international event requires time and organizational skills, plus high levels of motivation. Additionally, having collaborative documents in place and making them available to all those involved can be a tremendous value to the dedicated ELT professionals going beyond the classroom and borders to help.

With tremors and aftershocks still affecting Puerto Rico, relief efforts are still badly needed. For those that were unable to make the live talk, the site continues to raise awareness of the situation in Puerto Rico. If you missed the live presentation, the EFLTalks website is hosting the videos along with hundreds of other valuable resources.

Araceli Salas has a Ph.D. in Language Science and an MA in ELT. She is a teacher educator and researcher at BUAP Mexico. Dr. Salas is an editor at various journals in the field and has been involved in TESOL for the last six years. She is the current Chair-Elect for the EFLIS. Her research interests are teacher education, ESP, Discourse Analysis, and Leadership in ELT.

Henrick Oprea- BrazTESOL, Brazil, has been working in education for since 1997. Since then, he has worked as a teacher-trainer, Director of Studies, university professor at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels, college counselor, project coordinator for high school students, and high school principal. His primary focus is on education and teacher education. In this regard, he gives workshops and talks in Brazil and other countries, both online and in-person, with a keen interest in technology and its applications in education. He is a Google Certified Educator who is continually looking for ways in which technology can support methodology in the classroom. He is currently the president of BRAZ-TESOL, the largest association for teachers of English in Brazil, and is working alongside outstanding professionals from the field of ELT in Brazil to foster better training and opportunities for other English teachers.

Grazzia Maria Mendoza is a US DoS Alumna, recognized for project development for teachers. She has 27 years of TESOL field experience and research interests that include CBLT, Methodological Improvements PD. She is the founder, Past-President, current advisor of HELTA TESOL (Honduras), a representative of the Latin America Regional TESOL Group, Board Member for TESOL International Association and an Education Specialist for the US Government USAID Honduras

Glenda Gallardo is a highly experienced EFL teacher, teacher trainer, and educational consultant who has been working in the field of language and language development for over 20 years. She has worked with a wide variety of levels and students from schools, language centers, and universities in Peru and England. Currently, she works for Universidad De Lima and Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, teaching on-site and online courses. Ms. Gallardo has a professional degree in Foreign Language Education from IPNM – UPCH, holds the CPE, TKT CLIL, and has completed MA TEFL studies at FUNIBER. In addition to teaching, Ms. Gallardo is a Cambridge Speaking Examiner and freelance speaker in conventions, seminars, and conferences in Peru, Bolivia, and Honduras. Finally, Ms. Gallardo is the coordinator of the IATEFL-Peru Learner Autonomy SIG.

James Papple is an EAP Manager at York University English Language Institute, a past chair of TESL Ontario, and is presently on the board for the CCLB and the ANPC. With over 20 years of experience, and a Masters in TESL from Brock University, he is an avid presenter both locally and abroad. Jim is an author of two EAP textbooks and enjoys tinkering with educational technology as well as exploring vocabulary acquisition.

María Trapero is passionate about education and believes in the importance of the role of the teachers and the difference they make in their students' lives. As a teacher, a teacher trainer, an educational consultant, and an inter/national speaker, she devotes her professional life to the English Language Teaching field and advocating for teachers serving as a member of TESOL, the Latin American TESOL Group, and as a former President, Mexico TESOL.

Susan Gaer is a Professor Emeritus of ESL, the current CATESOL president, and a presenter at TESOL and other international conferences around the world. She is a Google Certified Innovator who enjoys sharing her technology integration knowledge with teachers and students. Her service experience includes Chairing the TESOL's CALL IS, Nominations Committee, and the standing committee to rewrite the nomination committee rules for TESOL in addition to serving on both the TESOL Technology and Professional Development Committees.

Suzanne Rajkumar is one of the 2019 Tesol International Ambassadors, Assistant Coordinator ACTION TESOL Caribbean- Trinidad & Tobago, Regional Secretary ATC, Innovator of the CBC Codebreaker ESL game, Vice-president II of Honduras Tesol with over 29,000 teaching hours accumulated teaching both adults and young adults custom-designed ESL classes focused on meaningful learning, currently pursuing a Masters in Applied Linguistics & TESOL.