All posts by Heather Donnelly

Rev-Up Reading with Graphic Novels and Comics

This comic was created at by Heather Donnelly

January is typically a time when people are looking forward – considering new goals and new approaches. In this post, however, I’ve decided to look back. I’m revisiting some of the information I gave in my very first professional development activity for TESL Ontario: a webinar I co-delivered in 2016 entitled Getting Animated: Graphic Novels in the ESL Classroom. My hope is that this blog will encourage readers to find ways to incorporate graphic novels and/or comics into their 2023 teaching practices.

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New Job? No Problem

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I recently began a new role – a coordinator position – and it got me thinking about what I need to do to get off on the right foot.  Here are three suggestions I came across in my research that will be useful in any TESL work environment. In this blog, I want to discuss 3 keys to a successful transition into new employment.

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SOS: Tackling Mid-Career Malaise

People sometimes joke about having a midlife crisis yet the truth is, research shows midlife (i.e., approximately in your 40s) is when people really do experience the lowest satisfaction in their personal and professional lives. This is a stage of life during which many have the highest financial burdens and the most at-home demands.

Canadian TESL professionals also experience malaise mid-career. In a study on the reflections of three mid-career ESL teachers in Canada, one participant noted she had “gone a little stale.” Another felt she had “plateaued professionally.” Experts say the signs that you are experiencing malaise can include feeling lethargic, disinterested, and unmotivated. You may be asking yourself questions like Is this truly what I’m meant to be doing with my life?

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Navigating Ontario’s EAP Sector (Part 2)


In Part 1 of this 2-part series, I discussed how people can get their foot on the Ontario English for Academic Purposes (EAP) ladder.

In this post, I discuss ways to climb the EAP ladder. As I stated in Part 1, much of what I say will likely be pertinent to other TESL environments. 

Climbing the ladder

In general, ESL work in Canada is precarious, and this situation also applies to the EAP sector. Recent research by Corcoran and Williams (2021) found that Ontario EAP programs offered more part-time and temporary contracts than any other province/territory. One consequence of this situation is that there are many highly educated and experienced EAP instructors competing for very few full-time opportunities. So, to make your mark, you have to bring your A-game. 

Below are my four suggestions for situating yourself effectively for advancement. 

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Navigating Ontario’s EAP Sector (Part 1)


2022 marks a professional milestone for me: one decade as a contract instructor within Ontario English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs. The last ten years have seen me criss-cross the province undertaking assorted contracts for eight post-secondary institutions. Every college/university I have worked for has had a unique culture and slightly different approach to academic preparation for English language learners. However, some common themes have emerged about how the Ontario EAP market seems to operate.

In a two-part series, I will share insights about navigating a career in EAP that I wish I had realized from the start. I am confident much of what I say can apply to other TESL environments too.

In this first blog of the series, I discuss how people can get their foot in the door.

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Tip for TESL Career Advancement: Be Visible! 

Are you a part-time ESL/EAP instructor hoping to step into fulltime employment at your institution? If so, you are not alone. Recent evidence shows most ESL/EAP instructors in Canada are sitting in the precarious part time employment boat with you and are hoping to advance.   

Perhaps you are wondering how you can distinguish yourself from the pack? One method of distinguishing yourself is to have workplace visibility. 

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Stand Out and Stay Ahead in the TESL Market

Marathon running race, many runners feet on road racing, sport competition, fitness and healthy lifestyle concept

Even during prosperous times ESL professionals in Canada encounter precarious employment: contract work, limited hours, and no/minimal benefits (Breshears, 2019). TESL graduates often struggle as they enter the field with limited knowledge of how to navigate the diverse segments of Canada’s TESL market (Wu, 2019).

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