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August 2012
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TESOL Advocates Take on Capitol Hill
by John Segota

On 18–19 June, TESOL educators from across the United States met in Washington, DC, to advocate for education policies supporting ELLs and their teachers as part of TESOL Advocacy Day 2012. Now in its seventh year, the program features a full day of briefings and training, followed by a full day of visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. Approximately 45 educators participated this year, with close to 30 U.S.-based affiliates represented.
 

Advocacy Day Media:
Watch videos •  See photos 

 

Naomi Elliot, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), Joan Johnston, and Treela McKamey

Reflecting current legislative activity in the U.S. Congress, the program covered issues affecting both K–12 and adult education. The briefings held on the first day included staff from Congressional offices discussing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as well the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which impacts adult education. The speakers discussed important issues around each of the bills, as well as the views of their offices regarding ESL and the education of ELLs.

Angela Bell from Colorado, Patricia Aube from Massachusetts, and Christel Broady from Kentucky prepare for their meetings with members of Congress

 

In addition, representatives from the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) at the U.S. Department of Education provided an update on the activities of their office. This included discussion around the ESEA flexibility provisions now being enacted by the administration, and other professional development initiatives for the field.

To help prepare for their visits to Capitol Hill, attendees were given information to help them set up their meetings with their Congressional representatives, and they participated in activities to help prepare for their meetings, including a mock legislative hearing, role-playing activities, and discussion of talking points and other background information. A number of accomplished advocates who had participated in Advocacy Day in the past also shared their tips and experiences with those new to the program.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Debbie Vaughn of
Tennessee TESOL, and
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)

 

“The briefings and training were well organized and very helpful,” shared Angela Bell, who represented Colorado TESOL. “I enjoyed hearing the perspectives from those working on Capitol Hill, as well as learning from the experience of those who have participated in Advocacy Day before.”

The following day, participants went to Capitol Hill for their meetings. Each participant had at least two meetings with Congressional offices, while some participants teamed up with others from their state for as many six meetings. Leslie Morris from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found the experience enlightening: “It was empowering to meet with Congressional offices and discuss ESL issues. It not only gives you a greater connection to the democratic process and to elected officials, but a deeper sense of advocacy for our students. The experience was striking—I highly recommend Advocacy Day for all TESOL educators!”

To conclude the program, the participants discussed their experiences and shared what they had learned over dinner. Each of the participants was given information to follow up with not only with the Congressional staff they met with, but also with their colleagues back at home to share what they had learned by their experience.

 

Julia Maffei (l) and
Michelle Bagwell (r) of Texas outside the U.S. Capitol

Michelle Bagwell of El Paso, Texas, captured the thoughts and enthusiasm of most of the participants: “These have been two of the most informative and exciting days in my professional development. This was an amazing experience, and I'm so proud to have been a part of it. I have such momentum—I want to do everything that I can now for my students and fellow educators!”

While Advocacy Day occurs once a year, advocating for your students and programs should continue throughout the year. To learn more about your congressional representatives or other legislative issues TESOL is tracking, go the TESOL U.S. Advocacy Action Center at capwiz.com/tesol.

To obtain information about next year’s Advocacy Day, contact John Segota, Associate Executive Director for Advocacy, Standards, and Professional Relations.

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Table of Contents
TC Homepage
Fostering CBI Through Collaboration
Teaching Spoken Grammar
Lesson Plan: Rhyming, Ordering, & Recapping
TESOL Advocacy Day 2012
Advocacy Update
Association News
Resources
Job Link
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Extended Education Specialist II (Senior Program Coordinator), California State University, San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, USA

Academic Director, EF Education First, Atlanta, Georgia, USA


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