NileTESOL: 25 Years of Enhancing English Language Instruction in Egypt
English language teachers celebrated a quarter century of professional development at the 2021 NileTESOL conference. Under the theme digitize globalize, the virtual event brought together over 3,000 professionals from across Egypt and the globe.
A year into an entirely different educational landscape with a learning curve for essentially everyone, everywhere –especially with an added layer of foreign language instruction. The NileTESOL platform is a nexus point to share experiences and expertise for real, dynamic learning and growth.
Teachers have become the remote frontline workers of this era, and at times in person. Last year, the NileTESOL conference was the only School of Continuing Education (SCE) event that made it in the nick of normalcy in January 2020. And like every year, English language teachers from across the country were bustling from session to workshop, to networking.
Just as much, if not more this year as an online event, English teachers shared with each other their learnings. The virtual format was essential for teachers to take forward their lessons through the new normal digital mode by which they teach. It also enabled more English language teachers from remote areas to access these opportunities and connect with educators throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, as well as North and South America.
The two-day event started off with welcoming remarks from the AUC Provost, SCE Dean, NileTESOL leadership, as well as a keynote by Tarek Shawki, Minister of Education and Technical Education (METE) and former AUC dean of the School of Sciences and Engineering. The minister recognized the value of NileTESOL and how it complements the robust educational reforms currently underway.
With that propelling spark to start the conference, participants went on to select from over 100 sessions on the agenda to partake. The plenaries addressed pressing subjects including the future of English language instruction, the transition from the emergency to the sustainable online learning context, the construct of the ‘native’ speaker, and creating meaningful moments.
Speakers’ presentations engaged teachers on a wide variety of topics. They ranged from how to encourage students to turn on their cameras and interact proactively, gamification and online teaching tools, presentation skills, assessment techniques, blended learning strategies, diversity and inclusion, as well as guidance for students’ continued education. There was also a concentration on teacher self-care and personal-professional development.
The NileTESOL conference helps make good English teachers become great English teachers. As the animated Rania Jabr, AUC Senior Instructor and NileTESOL 2022 Conference Organizing Committee member recounts, “I have seen teachers from a variety of context first attend our events, then come back to present, and later on submit articles to publish. This is the natural progression. They encourage their colleagues to do so as well. The conference is an opportunity to showcases the work of teachers, publishers, and organizations. It creates a seamless transition between teacher education and the classroom. This all positively impacts students in a variety of contexts.”
Further affirmed by fellow AUC Senior Instructor of English Language and NileTESOL Newsletter Editor, Susan Esnawy, “NileTESOL has been instrumental in providing English Language teachers with professional development opportunities that enable them to become great teachers. I have seen evidence of this in their presentations at the conference, other teacher’s feedback in the field on their performance, and in their publications.”
One of the key strengths of NileTESOL is that it is ongoing, yearlong beyond the conference in the form of an association. It is a collaboration between various significant stakeholders to support English language teachers, instructors, supervisors and leaders who work for public, private, international and Al-Azhar schools and institutes across Egypt.
NileTESOL President 2022 and member of the Ministry of Education and Technical Education, Samir Omara highlights the association’s latest activities, “In the past year alone, the association has signed off memorandums of understanding with TESOL Libya, Kuwait, Spain and MEXTESOL. NileTESOL’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs) conducted 43 events and six mini-courses, delivered by100 experts for over 2200 attendees. Our professional development programming offered 20 activities led by 60 specialists. We also awarded over 30 scholarships for membership to various international associations. And so much more in between.”
The lifeline for the association members is driven by the SIGs. They ensure greater participation and benefit to the individual members based on their area of specialty. The current groups include teacher education, learning technologies, testing and assessment, Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL), and professional writing. Although they are segmented into smaller groups, Mai Ahmed Eassa, TEYL SIG coordinator, emphasizes the impact that the macro network NileTESOL collaborators to facilitate effective exchange of needs and services.
Beyond of the conference and association activities, members and participants are also introduced to opportunities to grow with each of the contributing organizations. For example, Ebtihal El Badry, SCE languages director observed, “English teachers cherish the opportunity and their numbers increase every year. Many of them also join the SCE English for math and science diploma and pursue the fundamentals of English language teaching scholarship offered by US Embassy in Cairo’s egional English Language Office (RELO).”
This all translates to better circumstances for English teachers, and in turn an enriched classroom and learning experience. Ghada Alsaket, K-12 private sector representative, notes that members have reported access to more job opportunities and better salaries.
NileTESOL is funded by SCE under the direct supervision of the Career Development Department director, Hanan Fares, who leads the planning, delivery and reflection process of the annual conference and any other major event, as well as some SIGs events and mini-courses in between. The association’s main operational partners include RELO, British Council Egypt, and AMIDEAST Egypt.