WITESOL is committed to advocating for the rights of English Language Learners.  An executive board member position is dedicated to furthering WITESOL’s efforts to communicate with local and state policymakers and local government.  The board member who holds this position receives a travel stipend to attend an annual TESOL International Advocacy Day.

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31 January 2017

Dear ,

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

These words by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sound more relevant than ever to the TESOL community, as we witness with increasing dismay the impact of the Trump administration’s latest decisions. Friends and colleagues, we cannot and must not be silent.

Last week, the President of the United States issued a series of executive orders that have a direct impact on TESOL professionals, their students, and their communities. One set of executive orders authorizes constructing a U.S.-Mexico border wall, eliminating federal grant money to sanctuary cities, hiring 5,000 more border patrol agents, and ending “catch-and-release” policies for undocumented immigrants. Another executive order imposes a 120-day suspension of admissions to the United States for people who have been granted refugee status and visas, and a 90-day ban on travel to the United States from citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan.

The immediate effect of these orders has been devastating to the populations we serve, in particular international students, immigrant students and their families, and our own TESOL community. The spirit of these orders goes against the core values that guide our work as an organization:

  • Professionalism demonstrated by excellence in standards, research, and practice that improve learning outcomes
  • Respect for diversity, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and individuals’ language rights
  • Integrity guided by ethical and transparent action
  • Commitment to life-long learning

TESOL International Association has issued a public statement strongly opposing these executive orders. Although the impetus for this statement has been the events unfolding in the United States, we recognize that policies aimed at marginalizing immigrants and excluding refugees are becoming increasingly commonplace worldwide. To help you respond to and learn about these issues, we have  provided a comprehensive list of tools and resources on the TESOL website, that you may use or adapt to ensure equitable treatment of your students and their families.

Please rest assured that TESOL International Association will actively oppose any proposed policy that seeks to discriminate, diminish, or weaken our communities of English language learners and educators.

To this end, the association is taking the following steps:

  1. We have set up a special discussion group in myTESOL called “Impact of U.S. Travel and Immigration Changes,” where we encourage you to share stories about how these recent executive orders have affected your ability to promote quality English language teaching. We also hope that you will use this group as a venue for sharing constructive actions teachers can take.
  2. We are exploring possibilities for joint action with other organizations serving English language learners and educators, including the filing of an amicus brief as part of lawsuits challenging the executive orders.
  3. We are organizing informational events as well as discussion forums as part of the upcoming TESOL International Convention in Seattle, 21-24 March. These events will address this unacceptable climate of hostility and celebrate Seattle as a sanctuary city. More information will be forthcoming in the myTESOL group mentioned above,and on the Convention website.

We encourage you to speak up whenever possible about these issues through public forums, blog posts, online comments, and opinion pieces. We also encourage you to become involved locally and support organizations that defend equal treatment under the law. It is important that we as professionals not be “silent friends” to those we serve and work with.

Dudley Reynolds
TESOL President
Rosa Aronson
Executive Director
TESOL International Association
1925 Ballenger Avenue, Suite 550 | Alexandria, VA 22314-6820 USA
+1 703.836.0774 | Email | Website

Power of Words: Deficit Discourse and ELLs is an interesting article that may help you be a stronger advocate for your ELL students.

WITESOL President, Lori Menning, Participates in TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summit in Washington D.C.

Lori Menning, WITESOL Advocacy Chair, shared advocacy information in the offices of the 5 members of our Wisconsin congress she met with during the TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summit on June 23, 2015. WITESOL members and EL advocates are encouraged to familiarize themselves with this information as they provide a voice for students in their districts throughout the state and beyond.


A Congressman in My Classroom:  Making Connections

A Guest Post by Lori Menning

As Advocacy Chair for WITESOL, I attended the past three TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summits in Washington, DC. During these powerful summits, I participated in grassroots activities led by John Segota and had the opportunity to meet with my local members of congress on Capitol Hill. These meetings were sometimes challenging. So the congress members could make connections, I shared current happenings in my high school classroom, school, and district. I also invited them to visit my classroom and meet the ELLs.

Inviting the Congressman to Visit

Each year, 8th Congressional District Congressman Reid Ribble has dedicated time to meet with me in his Washington, DC, office. With each visit, he learned more about our bilingual program and how recent educational changes in our state directly impact the students. He always had questions, because my students are children of his constitutents in New London, Wisconsin. In the hopes that the congressman would make time to visit my bilingual classroom, I remained in contact with the staffers in his Wisconsin office, and I was thrilled to receive notification that Congressman Ribble would be visiting us!

Preparing for the Visit

My students were aware of my annual visits to Washington, DC, and my meetings with our local representatives on Capitol Hill. Each year upon my return, I share pictures, stories, and updates with my students highlighting my experiences. Therefore, I had to do very little to prepare my students for his visit; I have been updating them all throughout my advocacy journey. The only specific preparation I did before the congressman’s visit was to have them write questions they would like to ask him if given the opportunity. Most questions they selected where about his job responsibilities, about his daily life in DC, and also about recent events they heard in the news. In addition, I told them to prepare to introduce themselves, sharing a bit about how they came to New London, along with their language experiences.

The Visit

During his visit, the congressman was eager to hear from our bilingual students and learn about their language and culture. He was surprised by the variety of literacy levels in the two classes he observed, along with the incorportation of the WIDA Standards for ELLs and goals connected to their ACCESS English proficiency test results. He learned how ELLs have the challenge of learning both the academic language and content while acquiring English. He shared his personal experiences with language and literacy, such as when he ran a roofing company, which had one-third Mexican employees, and when he needed an interpreter for international travel.

After observing the class and talking with students, the Congressman shared that he reads 2 hours each morning and truly enjoys reading to learn. The students were curious to hear about his experiences reading digital books versus print books (he still prefers print books). Students asked questions on current events, and one student asked a question on behalf of his history teacher.

Making ELLs a Priority

When it was shared that Congressman Ribble would be coming to my bilingual classroom, my school administration and some other classes hoped to have a few minutes of his time. Although he acknowledged their interests, he also confirmed he was in New London to his spend time in my bilingual classroom; this made the students feel very special. The Congressman’s visit was confirmation that my voice is beng heard on Capitol Hill, and this collaboration is a first step.

As an advocate for high school bilingual students, it is crucial we work together to seek opportunities. My goal is for the students to see that they can be change agents. Their voices can be heard, and they can make a difference. I want my students to know that I am an advocate for them and for bilingual education, and, therefore, I model the work that they, too, can do.

As advocacy chair for WITESOL, I continue to seek to connect our members with their passions as we work to build a board composed of teacher leaders. I believe it is critical not to seek people to fill positions but instead to connect our members with their passions. Four years ago, when I was asked to serve as advocacy chair, it was because of the advocacy I do for my students and bilingual education on a daily basis. As I share the progress I made in making connections on Capitol Hill, thanks to the training I received with John Segota during the TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summit, I hope other ELL and bilingual teachers will also share their stories with members of congress. We can make a difference!

On 27 March 2015, Lori will present on “Incorporating Technology to Present Nonfiction Text” in the Electronic Village at the 2015 TESOL International convention in Toronto, Canada.

Bilingual Classroom Receives Visit from Congressman Ribble

Congressman Ribble Visits Bilingual ClassThis article originally appeared in the New London Press Star on Thursday, October 9th.


2014 TESOL Advocacy and Policy Summit