ITBE at TESOL's Advocacy and Policy Summit 2015


Shane Dunkle, Cory Long, and Lisa Barrett

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First we would like to thank ITBE for the opportunity to travel and participate in the 2015 TESOL Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C. It was quite an eye-opening and powerful experience.

On the first day we received some training from TESOL in the form of what issues were being debated on Capitol Hill and the stances that TESOL has on certain bills like H.R. 5 (Student Success Act) and how to articulately talk about those topics to Senators, Congress people and staffers. We also learned about massive upcoming budget cuts in education, which makes it more important than ever for us to advocate on behalf of our students. The day ended with some lessons on forum and technique when we would go lobby the next day on Capitol Hill. We were eternally grateful for this day as it helped a lot to alleviate the nervousness and anxiety we had about the following day.

Another highlight of this day was meeting all the different TESOL affiliate representatives. Listening to the all too similar, and also very different challenges that are present in our field from many different perspectives, and seeing all the unique ways that people all over the country are dealing with issues and overcoming the challenges both inside and outside the classroom was empowering to say the least! 
The second day was the crazy, hectic, meeting day. We had scheduled meetings with Congressman Dan Lipinski, Congressman Mike Quigly, Congressman Robert Dold, and Senator Mark Kirk. We met with the Legislative Assistant for Education, Ms. Cade Clurman at Senator Mark Kirk’s office.  She assured us that Senator Kirk, having been one of the major authors of the Every Child Achieves Act, is a staunch supporter of education, and confirmed that the senator has done some work in education before, himself.  She explained further, that although Senator Kirk is a republican, he is one of the few who supports increasing education funding as one of the most important measures for building a brighter future for the United States.  Ms. Clurman indicated as well that Senator Kirk would be interested in hearing further from ITBE and its members about issues related to English Language Learners and Teachers. 

We were taken seriously and listened to carefully by all of the staffers. It was quite empowering being able to have the voice of the people being directly heard at the very heart of our form of Government. As we walked around the offices of our elected representatives, we were not the only group of people going in and out of offices and it felt great to see that if there was something that enough people felt strongly about, then some sort of action could be taken right at the grassroots level.

Overall, we were very pleased with the outcome of our meetings, and it is our sincere hope that this dialogue can help us to be better represented in the US government. We went into the whole experience of advocacy not knowing much. Of course we have opinions on the various political issues in our times, but our voices are rarely heard beyond coworkers and friends. We see in the classroom itself some of the struggles our students face as they live, work, and study in this country and how sometimes systems that are in place to help them do not always meet their expectations. Many of us focus more on what we can do for them in the classroom than for what we could do for them outside as well.

Participating in advocacy day has brought two worlds together that seemed very separate before.
We would like to encourage everyone to try it sometime. It is not as hard as it seems. Get to know your local representatives (try these websites:  and Follow how they are voting (which might be different than what they are saying!) and try contacting them if only just to start a dialogue and have your voice heard. It will also help those who have a hard time getting their own voices heard. A lot of our focus is usually what goes on in the classroom, but through advocacy, we can also focus on experiences from outside the classroom as well. That is a win-win for everyone!

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ITBE Link - Summer 2015 - Volume 43 Number 2