Highlights from TESOL 2015 in Toronto, Canada

Building Bridges Without Crossing Borders

Every March, the ESL Library team attends the annual TESOL convention. In recent years, the convention has taken us to many American cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Portland.

This year the convention was in Toronto, Canada. This was convenient for our little publishing team. We didn’t have to cross any borders (funny, since “Crossing Borders, Building Bridges” was the TESOL theme this year), and we were able to meet local subscribers and publishers to learn more about what Canadian teachers want and need.

TESOL 15 was also an opportunity for us to welcome new and old publishing and teaching friends to our home and native land. As always it was a fun, educational, and productive week at TESOL. Here are a few highlights from this year’s trip.

What we loved about Toronto

Our team came from as close as Waterloo and as far as away as Vancouver. It was much easier to find our way around this year, and we had no trouble using our cell phones.

  • The food. There was no shortage of delicious food this year. Our favorite restaurant was a Thai place called Khao San Road.


  • The convenience. It was a cold week in Toronto, and the indoor PATH came in very handy. We didn’t even need coats!

View from Delta

  • The view. We stayed next to The Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The view from the 39th floor at the Delta was spectacular.


What we loved about the TESOL 15 Convention

  • The sessions. We attended useful sessions on teaching vocabulary, learning the Canadian Benchmarks system, keeping young learners moving, and more. We also gave our own presentations about ESL Library and Sprout English.
  • The TESOL app. We didn’t open the heavy book we received at the registration desk this year. Maybe it’s time to go paperless?
  • Free ice cream.

Free ice cream

What teachers loved about ESL Library

  • Our booth. We matched our booth to our website design this year, and our creative efforts paid off. Even the TESOL organizers came by to offer compliments.

ESL Library Booth TESOL 15

  • The T-shirts. We wore colorful ESL Library tees to promote the cheerful and approachable nature of our team. This was a big hit!
  • Our new site. The feedback was very positive, and it was a pleasure to showcase the redesigned lessons and features.
  • The convenience. A number of enthusiastic teachers came by to tell us that ESL Library had saved their lives. Nicoya from the Applied Language Institute in KC, pictured below with our designer Robyn, told us she used ESL Library exclusively when her textbooks didn’t arrive for six weeks.

Nicoya and Robyn

Ben and Patrick

What teachers want to see on ESL Library

One of the most important reasons to attend the TESOL convention is to talk with teachers face-to-face. Here are some of the requests and suggestions we received this year.

  • Canadian Benchmark materials
  • Materials on punctuation
  • More beginner-level materials like our new Barack Obama (beginner)
  • Academic Word List lessons
  • The option to print with Canadian/American spelling
  • Better options for using ESL Library with online students
  • More Living in English lessons (update older ones)
  • Interactive lessons with student access
  • The ability to comment on our blog as a signed-in ESL Library member

I looked back at last year’s post and was happy to see that we made many things happen after TESOL 2014! In fact, 2014 was probably our most productive year.

Share your own requests in the comments below, and help us build the site that teachers need.

The ESL Library team

Our team from left to right: writer Tara Benwell, designer Robyn Shesterniak, editor Tanya Trusler, and CEO Ben Buckwold

See you next year in Baltimore!


Leave a Comment ↓

  1. Bulgan says:

    May 03, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Hello ESL team!
    I am very happy that I heard so much news about Tesol conference 2015 from you guys. I am so excited watching wonderful pictures that you ‘ve taken. I really liked your one sentence. ” Maybe it is time paperless!” . I mean last year I was at Tesol conference 2014 in Portland .Oregon. That time the big and hard book was given me. So i recognized and wrote that sentence was really liked me.
    Also I want to thank you for sending me amazing lessons . Every day I try to use your materials on lesson. Thanks a million Guys .

    • Tara Benwell says:

      May 04, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Bulgan,

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a kind message. I think those TESOL conventions books should be optional now that the app is so good. Here is a related post about going paper-light in the classroom: bit.ly/ELTchatPaperLight

      We’re so happy to hear that you are enjoying your ESL Library subscription!


    • Tanya Trusler says:

      May 05, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Bulgan,

      I completely agree with you and Tara—the TESOL program book should be optional! I didn’t open mine once because I used the app the whole time. Paperless or paper-light makes so much more sense these days.

      Thanks for taking the time to tell us how much you enjoy ESL Library, Bulgan! It warms the heart. :)


  2. Tara Benwell says:

    Apr 06, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Do you want to join this conversation? We would love to see you on Twitter.

  3. Johan says:

    Apr 06, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Btw Tara, when doing our comments, the system mentions that our email addresses wouldn’t be published … but that is not the reality! Can someone pse correct that? Thanks.

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Apr 06, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      I don’t see your email address.

      • Johan says:

        Apr 15, 2015 at 12:37 am

        Hi Tara. Well, I can’t see your and Tanya’s email addresses either, but I can see all the other members’ addresses who’d left comments here! Okay, it’s not a big issue as I am convinced the ESL Library members all fall in the civilized category. Was just mentioning it as that’s what the system tells one when making a comment. But in hindsight now, pse forget about it as it’s really not an issue. I shouldn’t have raised it! Apologies!

        • Tara Benwell says:

          Apr 15, 2015 at 2:59 pm

          We’d like to correct it, if you see a problem, Johan. I do see the website of people who comment if they’ve added one (when you click their name). If you have time, can you please contact the office with a screenshot of what you see. Please mention the browser you are using. Thanks!

  4. Johan says:

    Apr 06, 2015 at 3:37 am

    Hi Tara!

    Nice to chat with you on another forum (where do you get the time for all this?!). After going through your TESOL-2015 highlights (thanks so much), I’d like to make a few comments too. Great pics; thanks for sharing. Now one knows what all you guys look like (which is nice as one have some dealings now and then)!

    1. Firstly, it sounds like the annual TESOL-conferences are open to all involved in the TESOL-“industry” (like us common teachers too!) – is that correct? How do you select them? On a basis of “first come, first serve”, or is it just a matter of affording the costs for attending?
    2. Great that you would include more Beginner-level materials. Our students virtually start their university year as beginners in terms of their speaking and listening skills despite 9 to 12 years of English ‘education’ at school. Many of them often struggle with even the Intermediate stuff.
    3. Membership costs ‘only’ $55 – “and that’s for everything”?! Pse tell Ben not to think all of us regard that as too low! In my country’s currency that’s more than 600 units and I hope the price wouldn’t be raised soon! [And no, I can’t use the currency of the country where I teach due to restrictions to online banking facilities; but besides that, some of us aren’t teaching to stash up the cash, and some have salaries to just live decently every month without swelling the account back home!].

    Finally, I don’t like to compliment just because it’s the polite thing to do (and besides, you guys have received sufficient compliments on the new site anyway!). But I’d just like to say thank you to people who give much of themselves and their time to make teaching more simple, but exciting, for ordinary teachers like myself (and our students). As I make use of ESL Library lessons extensively in my lesson schedules each term, ESL Library shares each little success my students achieve in our classes. So, maybe I should congratulate you guys …! Thank you.

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Apr 06, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Johan,

      1. Yes, the TESOL conferences are open to any teacher! We were having a related #ELT debate on Twitter this weekend. Why don’t more schools pay for teachers to attend? Our team is always so inspired after attending conferences (whether in person or online – the IATEFL conference is coming up and I always attend online). Some schools do help pay for professional development. Others can’t afford to. Many teachers pay their own way, and submit proposals to present.

      2. Thanks for your info. We receive many requests for beginner-level materials, and we hope to add at least one new beginner lesson a month in 2015.

      3. You make a great point. At the conference, many teachers and administrators are surprised how little an ESL Library subscription costs for a full year. They often think it will only give them access to some parts of the library. However, we also have many teachers who thank us for offering the subscription at an affordable price. Many teachers like you have to pay out of pocket.

      Thank you for your sweet words, Johan! Keep up the great teaching.

      Cheers, Tara

  5. Tanya Trusler says:

    Apr 01, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    It’s great to hear from so many teachers. Keep the comments and requests coming!

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Apr 02, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      It was fun being a student with you last week, Tanya! Thanks for your great review about the TESOL 15 session on keeping students moving. bit.ly/keepmovingESL

  6. Susan says:

    Apr 01, 2015 at 11:44 am

    How about writing some lessons about famous poets?

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Apr 01, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Susan,

      Great idea! I’ll add it to our list.

      In our Famous People section we have a lesson on Maya Angelou and one on Shakespeare. Let us know if there are any specific poets that you think your students would find interesting. How about Wordsworth, Frost, and Dickinson?

      We’ll also be adding a few lessons to our Writing section on How to Write a Short Story and hopefully one on poetry.


  7. Val Brown says:

    Mar 31, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Team – I love your website too! I teach English 1-1 to Japanese home-stays in Australia. I’d love to see more dialogue reading (aloud) lessons – the students I have read and write English very well, but don’t learn much pronunciation in their education system. So everyday topics (Intermediate level) that are of interest to young people – mostly in their 20’s. Thanks, and keep up the great work!

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Apr 01, 2015 at 12:36 am

      Hi Val,

      Thanks for taking time to leave this comment. It’s very useful to hear what types of materials our subscribers need the most. Everyday Idioms 3 is currently in editing and will be coming out soon. It features a group of young people living in New York City. I think this series will be fun for you to use. Stay tuned!

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Feb 19, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      It’s been almost a year since this post, and we’re gearing up for TESOL16 in Baltimore.

      I wanted to let you know that our Everyday Dialogues section has audio now! You’ll find 37 lessons with professionally recorded audio here. https://esllibrary.com/courses/76/lessons

      Everyday Idioms 3: Moving to New York is also available with audio: https://esllibrary.com/courses/102/lessons

      It’s fun to look back and see how many of our goals we’ve accomplished since the last conference. Some are still in progress. We hope to see some of you in Baltimore this April.

  8. Lavinia Belli says:

    Mar 31, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    I teach in Norway and love your site. I would love even more to have a section with writing frames and sample texts.

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Mar 31, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      Thanks, Lavinia! We’ll be adding more lessons to our Writing Section. We’ve had nice feedback about it, and many requests. Let us know if you have any specific needs. https://esllibrary.com/courses/74/lessons

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Feb 19, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Your wish is our command! Check out the Writing in English section, which has grown quite a bit since March 2015! These lessons come with Sample texts. https://esllibrary.com/courses/74/lessons The next lesson will be How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph.

  9. Eric Roth says:

    Mar 31, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing your materials and experiences. Like many other English teachers, I appreciate your discussion starters and mini-debate lessons where students can exam controversial topics like gene-patenting, banning trans-fats, corporate responsibility, gender inequality, and reforming marijuana laws. Your lessons bring a fresh perspective to contemporary topics that reflect both student interests and concerns. I am very glad that our paths crossed again in Toronto.

    • Tara Benwell says:

      Mar 31, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks for stopping by our blog, Eric! It’s always a pleasure to chat with likeminded teachers and writers. Let’s talk more about doing a joint session at the next convention. Keep in touch!

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