February 2017
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Patriann Smith, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA & Natalia Balyasnikova, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Natalia Balyasnikova

Dear ICIS members,

How quickly 2016 has flown by! Very soon, we will assemble for the 51st annual TESOL convention in the beautiful Seattle, Washington, USA to care, share, and network. How exciting! In thinking about our current ICIS newsletter themed Cultural Synegy, we take a moment to remind you of our ICIS vision and share a few of the exciting practices that our members continue to explore.

But first, we must welcome Amy Alice Chastain and Roxanna Senyshyn, who are joining the ICIS leadership as members-at-large, and Barbara Lapornik, who will be the next chair-elect. We are happy to have you on board! Amy, Roxanna, and Barbara are joining us at a time when ICIS Incoming Chair, Ramin Yazdanpanah, has drafted a remarkable vision statement that aligns with TESOL’s core values of “respect for diversity, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and individuals’ language rights” (n.d.) and that attests to the critical role of intercultural exchanges between and among TESOL members in ways that can sustain our interest section’s mission, purpose, and goals.

In keeping with the core values outlined in this vision statement, we interviewed faculty member Dr. Lynne Díaz-Rico, who is an advocate for intercultural communication and the role that English language learning plays in this work. Dr. Díaz-Rico’s interview revealed how critical it is for teachers to understand students’ culturally derived learning styles and strategies and bicultural identities while simultaneously implementing culturally compatible, culturally responsive instruction by using intercultural communication to teach English where culture serves as content. She anticipates that teachers will engage in more self-examination as a means of developing intercultural awareness and that students will benefit from increasing communication between native English speakers and English learners made possible by connections across the globe.

Our vision statement’s focus on intercultural exchanges was made vivid in Jessica Geil’s report about her experience at a forum. Jessica’s willingness to engage in a forum where she had few expectations led her to learn much. She learned about the challenges and successes of professionals like herself; that in the Russian Far East, classes consist of small groups of students (fewer than 20) that stay together for 5 years; and that despite the difficulty of students reaching a 785 score on The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) in Taiwan, lowering the standards was not the solution. Gladys Focho’s report on culturally appropriate testing also extended the importance of being familiar with other cultures. In her article, she shares examples about the ways in which examination questions can sometimes put students’ cultural values to the test, leading to failure and frustration. Gladys is hopeful that she can raise teachers’ awareness about this issue so that they can exercise cultural sensitivity in both teaching and testing. We found such richness and hopefulness in reading Jessica’s and Gladys’s articles! We hope that you will, too.

On a final note, as we make final preparations for the TESOL convention in Seattle, we wish to remind you to take a look at our update from the work we are doing to enhance our presence in the social community. Our new online community platform, myTESOL, our Facebook group, and our YouTube Playlist of Films are all exciting ways to keep in touch with us, increase our networking opportunities, and support our vision for increasing our intercultural exchanges in 2017! Do take a look at our Community Update section as you prepare to join the events hosted by our ICIS. We look forward to seeing you, our fellow ICIS members, at your presentations, and we wish you an enjoyable 2017 TESOL convention!


Patriann and Natalia

ICIS Co-editors 2016–2017


TESOL International Association. (n.d.). Mission and values. Retrieved from https://www.tesol.org/about-tesol/association-governance/mission-and-values

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Patriann Smith (PhD) is an assistant professor of language, diversity and literacy studies at Texas Tech University who relies on tenets of intercultural communication in her cross-cultural work to better understand how immigrant teachers to the United States address their ideologies about nonstandardized languages and how these ideologies affect literacy instruction. The intersections of Patriann’s research can be better understood by taking a look at her recently released co-edited Handbook of Research on Cross-Cultural Approaches to Language and Literacy Development.

Natalia Balyasnikova is a doctoral candidate in language and literacy education at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Originally from Russia, Natalia moved to Canada in 2013 to pursue her degree in TESL with a focus on intercultural communication. Natalia writes about her life as a graduate student and a newcomer to Canada in her blog.

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