Two Conferences – One Goal

Written by: Ellie Boyadzhieva

The 6th Annual Conference of the Serbian English Teachers Association (ELTA) was held in the capital city Belgrade on 30th May- 1st June under the title: The Classroom that Beats the Odds. It was organized with the support of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia, the British Council and the American Embassy. The venue chosen by the ELTA Organizing team, Sava Centar, was right in the heart of the city, a wonderful location and excellent facilities. It mirrored a wide range of theoretical and practical issues and developments in the teaching world covering a wide range of topical areas in ELT among which Teacher Training, Teacher Development, Teaching Young Learners, Computer Assisted Language Learning, ESP, Business English, Literature, Media and Cultural Studies, Global Issues, Testing, Evaluation and Assessment. A special focus of the Conference was the Teacher Development SIG Day on Sunday, 1 June. The programme of the conference included also other issues that teachers from all over the region chose to share, among which was the co-presentation of Anna Parisi and E. Boyadzhieva devoted to the idea of creating the SEETA platform. Now we are witnessing the results of the appeal for cooperation in the Net as the project has been ongoing since.
The conference was officially opened by Maja Simrak-Grbic – the current then President of ELTA, who was at that time just three months before becoming a mother for the first time and who with her enthusiasm and efficiency evoke the admirations of all present at the conference.

The participants actively took part in various types of presentations, workshops, talks and discussions which totalled over 45. The plenaries were given by internationally well-known practitioners in ELT: Robert Dean, Hugh Dellar, David Hill, Lisa Harshbarger, Robert Hastings, Philip Kerr, Steve Lever, Anne O’Keeffe. A special guest to the conference was Sarah Hannam, the big IATEFL Associates’ Coordinator.

The Annual conference of the Macedonian TA – ELTAM was also held in the capital of the state – Skopje on 24-26 October 2008.
This was for the first time since the establishment of the organization as the first four conferences used to take place in Ohrid – three times and once in Struga. The 5th International ELTAM conference was innovative not only in terms of the venue but in terms of cooperation with other related organizations as well. It was a joint-project of ELTAM, IATEFL and TESOL and sponsored by the American Embassy in Skopje, The British Council and the University American College. The latter provided the venue for the conference.
The pre-conference event was hosted by the Research SIG of ELTAM who invited Dr. Judy Richardson as a key-note speaker and moderator of the event.
Unfortunately Lisa Harshbarger, the Regional English Language officer at the US Embassy in Budapest, who had to open the conference with her first plenary, had had an accident and could not make it to the conference. This gave the audience the chance to listen to Judy Richardson’s plenary, devoted to reading and writing in ELT, followed by the second plenary on Sunday given by David Hill dealing with the essential need of extensive reading for ELT learners. Both plenaries incited a heated discussion on what is the teachers’ role in making youngsters to read in this readless computerized and globalizing world.
In addition to all other benefits, at both conferences there were several Publishers’ & Sponsors’ events, discounts, prizes and awards. A major ELT Resources Exhibitions were organized displaying and promoting the latest titles for the participants to browse through or purchase at special conference prices.
The Organizing committees both in Serbia and Macedonia were helpful, efficient and smiling in unison with the wonderful weather which, I suspect, they must have eagerly begged for.

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