The 26th TESOL Macedonia – Thrace & Northern Greece Annual Conference

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As a person who is addicted on CPD and loves attending conferences I have often wondered what makes a conference worth attending. Could it be the top–notch plenary speakers, the innovative presenters, the enthusiastic audience, the desire to share ideas with colleagues or simply the excitement of reconnecting with old friends and the opportunity to establish new friendships? Having all the aforementioned qualities, the 26th Annual International Conference of TESOL Macedonia – Thrace & Northern Greece, entitled Hands – on: Solving Classroom Issues managed once again to maintain its special position among the annual ELT events and this year, this particular topic with its emphasis on practical matters urged us to deal with everyday classroom situations and with how to find and apply efficient problem-solving techniques. Leaving all other qualities aside, the reason why 26th Annual International Conference of TESOL MTh will stay out in our memory is because it was held in a fairy-tale atmosphere!


Report by Roving Reporter, Ms. Vasiliki Lismani


As TESOL MTh Chair, Maria-Araxi Sachpazian, was opening the conference, the whole city of Thessaloniki was being covered in snow! True, the weather conditions caused some practical problems and considerable worries regarding the dreaded possibility of delays and cancelations; however the TESOL MTh board did their best to make these days special for all of us. Despite the weather forecast about extreme weather conditions (which was proven more than accurate), colleagues (presenters and attendees) not only from Greece but also from other countries (Bulgaria, Canada, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, Serbia, UK, USA) ignored the warnings and gathered to participate in a high standards event which honored and promoted the idea of English language teachers’ continuing professional development.


All plenary talks dealt with a special aspect of ELT and following the conference topic offered invaluable insight and approaches to a variety of important class issues. After Ms Sachpazian’s warm welcome, the conference officially started with Marjorie Rosenberg’s plenary entitled Making Lessons memorable, a sought-after quality for every educator. Later in the afternoon Dr Nikos Sifakis, who never gave up on actually arriving and presenting at this conference despite the great difficulties he came up against, explained how the pedagogy of teaching English as a foreign language has been formulated recently through the notion of English as a lingua franca and the significance of promoting intercultural awareness and communication. The second day started with Dr Thomai Alexiou talking about Vocabulary in young learners’ context and ended with Dr Anne Margaret Smith sharing with us her passion for inclusive education in terms of Specific Learning Differences.


Regarding the concurrent sessions, the speakers covered a wide range of aspects of ELT targeting students of different age groups (from nursery classes to adult learners). Classroom management and discipline, students’ engagement and participation, self-assessment, reflection, the importance of teaching humanistic values and of course creativity are only a few of the topics that the international presenters focused on during these two days. Naturally, every event has its very special moments that go beyond the presentations and the workshops and make it even more memorable. The highlights of this particular conference  would definitely include:


The Pre-Conference Taverna Event was held as always on the Friday before the start of the conference and gave us all the chance to reconnect with old acquaintances and make new connections with colleagues from different countries in a relaxed and informal atmosphere, which made our sharing our ideas and enthusiasm about ELT much easier. All members of the board who were present at the dinner, from Chair Maria-Araxi Sachpazian, Vice-Chair Maria Theologidou, Treasurer Linda Manney and Member Alexandra Vatzidou were once again the perfect hostesses and made sure that everyone had a great time. Ms Sachpazian, in her short address to the presenters, representatives of TA, members of TESOL MTh and their significant others mentioned how important it is that we all make time to come from different corners and show that we are all in TESOL united


01-Photo-01-Representatives-with-TESOL-Board-members.jpgOn Saturday morning, during the introductory welcome speech Ms. Sachpazian presented the representatives of the affiliate TAs who came to reaffirm the strong bonds among the members of the global ELT community. This year, TESOL MTh had the pleasure of hosting and featuring Bridget R. Schvarcz, from Israel, the official representative of ETAI which is the latest TA to become an affiliate of TESOL MTh, Marta Bujakowska, the official representative of IATEFL Poland, Dragana Adric, from Serbia, the official representative of ELTA – Serbia and Theodore Lalos, who represented TESOL Greece. When addressing Mr Lalos, Ms Sachpazian highlighted the strong, long-lasting bonds between TESOL Macedonia – Thrace and TESOL Greece, which she called the “mother” organization. In their short talks, all representatives focused on the paramount importance of the co-operation among the ELT communities in order to promote the aims of English as a foreign / second language education in the demanding social and cultural landscape of the 21st century. All representatives of TAs gave presentations which were well-attended and gave rise to   more discussion on crucial ELT issues.


TESOL Macedonia-Thrace, Northern Greece is also well-known for its tendency to support projects led by educators. This year, Ms. Irene Stroumpa-Xanthea and the much loved project “Your thoughts on Greece’’ were hosted at the exhibition area of the Conference.


The Saturday Wine and Cheese buffet hosted at the Bissell Library, which was lavishly sponsored by Burlington Books was an opportunity for all participants to come closer and enjoy delicious food and some great wine after what must have been a tiring and eventful but also very thought-inspiring and productive day.  


On Sunday afternoon the members of TESOL MTh gathered at Bissell Library for the Annual AGM which gave an opportunity to the Executive Board to present the Fiscal Report for the past year and also present the plans for TESOL MTh to branch out and develop even further. Ms. Sachpazian was proud to inform members that this year TESOL MTh will be presenting on the IATEFL Associate’s Day their Internship Programme which has been running for three years and gives a chance to students of the English Departments of all Universities to volunteer for TESOL MTh. Finally, after the AGM, Pinewood School treated participants to coffee and cake right before the concluding plenary.


The end of the 26th Annual International TESOL Macedonia – Thrace, Northern Greece Conference left us with a bitter sweet feeling. We should be used to it though, because it happens every single time we spend a weekend with great colleagues attending such an important event. Once more, we were leaving Thessaloniki with our mental luggage much heavier, our hearts full of enthusiasm and excitement and our minds full of fresh ideas to put in practice for our students’ benefit.  Goodbyes are always hard to be said knowing that some of us will meet again in a year or more, in Thessaloniki or somewhere else - it is true that the ELT community brings the whole world together. So, a big thank you to TESOL Macedonia – Thrace who brought us all together and hopefully we will all meet again at ACT on 22nd and 23rd February 2020, for the TESOL MTh 27th Annual International Conference, ‘’ELT Reimagined’’. 


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