May 31, 2011


Overcoming Barriers to English Language Learning and Academic Achievement
by William Jackson, edited by Kisha Bryan

The teaching ability of educators
passionate in the instruction of
the English language is highlighted
by the successes of those of other
languages adapting to the
complexities of a language that
seems easily adaptable, only to find out that
language is a barrier.

Language learning is probably one of the most difficult skills to master.
It is compounded by the simultaneous learning of academic content.
It is through the English language that Florida's over 200,000 ELLs must
achieve mastery of the academic standards as outlined by the Florida
Department of Education. In addition, there are a large number of English
Language Institutes (ELIs) and community colleges that prepare students
to meet the challenges of a higher education curriculum.

Compounded by the idea that the English language is one of the most
complex languages in the world to master, passionate educators have
shown that language is a barrier to learning, TESOL teacher's goal is to
work to decrease those barriers to learning.

The 33rd Annual Sunshine State TESOL Conference was held May 12-13th
in Jacksonville, Florida. This year's theme: Building Bridges: Connecting
Theory and Practice. The conference was recognized by John Peyton,
Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, Mr. Ed Pratt-Dannals Superintendent of
Duval County Public Schools, Pat Willis, Deputy Superintendent,
Cathy LeRoy, Chief Officer of Academic Services and Brenda Trimble,
ESOL Supervisor.

SSTESOL conference in Jacksonville, Florida represented teachers that
are dedicated to facilitating instruction to those of other cultures striving to merge themselves into American society. The first step to accommodation is through mastering the language, in this case developing the English language into an instructional component so that those of ESOL
(English Speakers of Other Languages) can learn, comprehend and apply
their new language skill sets. No other language is as unique and embedded
with linguistic overtones, vocalized nuances and implied vocabulary that
may represent several definitions that invoke different responses.
Learning English is more than learning the pronunciation and definition of
words, phases, and forming of paragraphs from sentence structures. There
is the incorporation of multifaceted words in conversational models with
clarity and comprehension.

Sunshine State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
has been in existence since 1975, but under the origins
to a four state group:
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida TESOL (

There were various modifications, growth stages and adaptations
until what is known now as SSTESOL was formalized. The mission
of the Sunshine State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other
Languages (SSTESOL) is to provide educators access to professional development, educational and instructional resources, personal
interaction with professional teachers, and to provide leadership
and advocacy in language policy issues.

The championing of these essential elements can be seen on a
nationaL, international level where teachers nationally have
contact with educators with international experience and backgrounds.
It is not uncommon for teachers located in educational institutions
here in the United States to share instructional models, best
practices and ritual and routines from the elementary to higher education with teachers from other parts of the world. Through the use of education, this builds the capabilities and abilities of those who come to this county. They have dreams of improving their live, but need the power of education to make their dreams come true; applied to dream building stated by Wendell L. Wilkie, "I believe in America because we have great dreams - and because we have the opportunity to make those dreams come true."

This politically correct statement shows that those with
dreams can achieve those dreams no matter the challenges.
The educational resources are available to help them grow,
but the professionalism and knowledge of educators is a requirement.

The strength of SSTESOL organization is the understanding
of a unification and solidarity to the importance of
teaching English to those who have a relationship with the
United States of America. Through solidarity the development
of a strategic forward plan to provide the best instructional
practices that service TESOL students.
Organizational development, professional development, and
advocacy were identified as three key planning areas.
Currently, SSTESOL has eight active chapters, and membership
is generally between 750-800 members.

The conference hosted this year in Jacksonville, Florida had presenters with national and international experience. The Keynote Speaker Dr. Keith Folse whose plenary was entitled, "A New Direction in Working with Native Speakers" is professor of TESOL at the University of Central Florida.
He is the author of the successful GREATs writing series by Cengage and has taught all skill areas in the US and abroad for many years. Other notable speakers were; Staci Johnson ESOL educator and co-author of three (3) books, Rob Jenkins of Santa Ana College's Centennial Education Center and Hiram Ruiz, Director of Refugee Services in the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Attending this conference for the first time permitted me to gain an admiration and respect for my colleagues in a discipline that has international impact. More countries world wide are transitioning through economic, political, social and cultural changes. The United States is seen globally as a haven, providing opportunities to improve the lives of those who seek educational growth, economic opportunity, freedom of speech and empowerment to take back to their native lands and help develop opportunities for their native communities. There are those
that are escaping the reality of war, famine, political and economic unrest. In order to survive and thrive in the United States the first step is to learn English. This is where the value of a trained and empowered ESOL educator is invaluable for school districts, community colleges, colleges and universities.

Technology integration was also demonstrated by the vast online resources available to teachers. Supporting of the technology demonstrations was Sean Jackson (FAMU)and Kelly Hernandez from Miami Dade College, worked to make sure the technical equipment for PowerPoint, Internet and audio was working properly for the international and American presenters.
Thank you to all the coordinators and volunteers who Worked to
make this a successful conference and student entertainers from
Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and the NEF (Northeast Florida TESOL).

As has been stated by Adlai Stevenson, "America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact - the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality."
This can be applied concerning the importance of TESOL teachers here in the United States. The United States has embraced and set policy to provide educational services to ESOL students to help them in their quest to improve their lives and the lives of their families through educational enrichment and empowerment.

Congratulations to the 2011 President's Award Co-Recipients - Brenda Trimble, Supervisor of ESOL for Duval County Public Schools and Philip Kellerman, established the Harvest of Hope Foundation.

More information about the conference can be found at:

To gain more information access the links below:
Web site: www.

TESOL Advocacy Day
Don't forget TESOL Advocacy Day 2011 - June 6th and 7th

Board Members:
President 2010-2011: Nora Dawkins
Immediate Past President 2010-2011: Cynthia Schuemann
1st Vice President 2010-2011: Patricia Grant
2nd Vice President 2010-2011: Kisha Bryan
Treasurer 2010-2013: James May
Secretary 2010-2012: Betty Green

Conference Contacts:
Conference Chair: Pat Grant
Program Chair: Kisha Bryan
Publisher/Exhibits: Teresa Lucas

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