College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

AMTESOL Conference Explores Cultural Identity, Language Learning

Educators are set to gather at the University of Mississippi next week for the Alabama-Mississippi Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Conference. Hosted by the UM Department of Modern Languages, the conference is scheduled for Jan. 29-30 at The Inn at Ole Miss. The event will feature presentations and workshops from renowned scholars in the fields of intensive English programs, bilingual education and cultural identity, as well as research presentations from graduate students at UM and other area universities.

The AMTESOL Conference is designed for grade school teachers who have foreign students in their classrooms, and English as a Second Language educators, said Esim Erdim, conference chair and director of the UM Teaching English as a Second Language program.

“The objective is to get teachers together from kindergarten through 12th grade who are trying to teach English language learners and work with them, as well as faculty who are teaching English as a second language,” Erdim said. “It’s a way to work with high school teachers and also ESL teachers as well as sharing information between high school teachers and university faculty. We want to share the latest research on how to teach English at various levels, how to teach a second language at various levels, different strategies and methodologies, and different ways of dealing with students of different cultures.”

The conference’s keynote speaker is Bonny Norton, professor and distinguished university scholar in the Department of Language and Literary Education at the University of British Columbia.

Norton will discuss language teaching and identity issues, Erdim said.

“I teach a course in cultural identity and cultural dimensions, and (Norton) has several books out there on these subjects,” she said. “This has been an issue that we have a lot of research on, but we as teachers have not really addressed language learning as an identity issue. We’ve addressed it as learning skills, developing strategies and wanting to know more about another culture and another language.”

“Now we’re becoming more aware of a situation where people learning a second language are going through identity crises in terms of trying to figure out where they belong or in terms of not being able to relate to their first language and culture, so this is becoming a major issue in education now and people are beginning to see it.”

The conference also features presentation workshops from Diane Carter, who teaches English as a second language at two Indianapolis high schools, and Susan Spezzini, assistant professor of English language learning at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The workshops take place in the mornings, and teachers have the option of attending concurrent sessions in the afternoon.

Both presenters will discuss integration of cultures in the classroom, Erdim said.

“Dr. Spezzini is going to be discussing multicultural education, which deals with bringing together people from different cultures in the classroom,” Erdim said. “Carter’s presentation deals closely with people coming from different cultures but also using the strategy of storytelling and creating works of art to help with learning strategies.”

The afternoon sessions will also feature a representative from the Mississippi Department of Education, who will discuss testing and assessment issues that English language learning students are involved in at the K-12 level, she said.

More information and conference registration can be found at or by contacting Erdim at 662-915-7915. To check the conference hotel availability, visit