Getting on Board: Giving Back to ESL

group of people around a table
image source:

It was nearly 5 years into my teaching career before I cautiously attended my first executive meeting for TESL Ottawa. I’ve attend conferences, lectures and workshops religiously from the very beginning. It was the best opportunity to meet and get to know other colleagues away from the photocopier. It was energizing to end the day with new tips and tricks for my own teaching toolbox to try out on Monday morning. It was also a chance to assure myself that this is really a difficult profession, but somehow we’ll survive. The worries and complaints I had were shared by others too and suddenly I wasn’t alone in my classroom anymore when others around me on those Saturday mornings felt the same.


For these reasons, I joined my local executive in hopes of bringing more support for teachers. For the next 6 years I took on the position of Program Chair, Affiliate Chapter Representative and President for TESL Ottawa. It has been a fulfilling experience both professionally and personally. A lot of hard work goes into each and every event. I am amazed by the work ethics of the executive members. The feedback from TESL Ottawa members shows where the current gaps are in ESL as well as the future directions we see it heading towards.


The initial hesitation in joining any kind of teaching organisation comes down to questioning what, if anything did I have to offer. My knowledge of all things ESL came from my time in the classroom and the other five teachers at school. Was this enough to contribute to a local membership of over 400? No one at any of the meetings was expected to have all the answers. It was about sharing ideas and having the audacity to bring it to fruition. It was about trying new things and brainstorming ways of ensure that we’re addressing the needs of our members. It is a learning experience, which is why I was hooked.


Learning how to bring professional development opportunities to teachers was challenging, but incredibly rewarding as well. To continue learning, I joined TESL Ontario’s Board of Directors, where I was able to see how a governance board functions. Here, it still echoes the same learning environment but with a much wider scope in looking at the profession as a whole and establishing its position with government stakeholders and sharing best practices with other provincial ESL organization across Canada. It brings together a great diversity of backgrounds and experiences with representation from ESL/LINC, colleges, universities, private sectors, tutors, teachers, professors, administers. At TESL Ontario, everyone has an equal voice.

If you’re wondering how to serve the ESL community in giving back, I urge you to consider joining your local affiliate chapter or TESL Ontario. If you’re willing to share your ideas big or small, join us and you can be assured that the learning never stops.

Want to Join?

Details about how to join the Board are outlined in the membership email, but can also be viewed here

How to apply
  • Nominations to be submitted using the Expression of Interest form and must include a current résumé.
  • Nominations must be received in writing at the TESL Ontario office by July 9, 2017 by 12:00 noon.

Sharon Deng has over a decade of teaching experience in LINC, ESL and private sector settings. She currently sits on the TESL Ontario Board of Directors and had served as President, Affiliate Chapter Representative and Program Chair for TESL Ottawa.


2 thoughts on “Getting on Board: Giving Back to ESL”

  1. I can certainly relate to your journey in volunteering with TESL Ontario. Although a seasoned volunteer, I was hesitant to volunteer for TESL Ontario when I first graduated from my ESL training. However, I too took baby steps, wondering what I’d have to contribute. Ten years later, I’ve served on the Niagara affiliate board, as well as the webinar team, and now am part of the new Employment Connections project for the annual conference. The learning experience for me has been amazing and thoroughly enjoyable. I encourage others to get involved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.