I heard the acronym IATEFL for the first time only in 2010 at the age of 32, which was 8 years after finishing my M.A. in English. I was attending the 41st annual international conference of ELTAI (English Language Teachers Association of India). Suddenly the desire to attend the IATEFL conference conquered me. My mind was longing to visit the UK, its Highlands …the Thames …the Bard’s Stratford upon Avon … and so on.
The ELTAI conference was really my gateway to the ELT world. At the conference I saw Steven Herder over a Skype call, addressed to all conference attendees.
Then I, a high school teacher in a village in Kerala, India began to speak with many many teachers from all over the world, including with Steven Herder. I hosted the first webinar series in the state for the school students and teachers. Steven Herder, Chuck Sandy , Barbara Sakamoto, Scott Thornbury and others talked about the formation of the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi). Steven invited me to test their ELT products and that process resulted in making me a mentor for iTDi . Then with him and other iTDi members I did a number of webinars / Skype sessions as speaker/host/attendee . My students were really blessed to speak with great English teachers from around the world.
In 2014 when I attended the TEC conference, I was not in a position to control my thirst to attend the IATEFL conference. I met George Pickering there and he warned me of the chances of failure while applying for a UK visa. I took the decision to apply independently for the visa to attend the IATEFL Manchester conference 2015 because of the thought that if I failed, I could have kept it a secret. But unexpectedly I got the visa and then Dr. Elango, General Secretary of ELTAI, assigned a duty to me… to represent ELTAI at the Associates Day.
At the Associates’ Day in Manchester Central, Carol Read invited me to speak about ELTAI projects in India. I was thrilled to speak in front of David Crystal, a living legend of English. The conference really opened a new world to me ….a world of English language teachers, professors, publishers and curriculum designers. I could see many of my facebook and twitter friends in person.
When I met the Ray Tongue scholarship winner there, the seed of winning a scholarship began to grow in my mind. My friend in India, Aneesh Koirambatta, watered that seed. When I reached home after the conference, I began to prepare to apply for the Ray Tongue scholarship for the 50th annual IATEFL conference in Birmingham. When I uploaded my application, I didn’t think I had any chance of winning it. But again, as a SHOCK, the letter from Eryl Griffiths came informing me that I won the scholarship. When my school authority knew this, they conducted a big ceremony to congratulate me. And you won’t believe, more than thirty-five functions were being held in my district to receive me!!! I was the first person in my state (Kerala) to win an IATEFL scholarship!!
During the conference, I could visit Stratford-upon-Avon with my friends. Alison Schwetlick, the editor of Voices could see the writer and photographer in me and she asked me to apply for the position of conference reporter for the next three conferences. So I was lucky to get selected as the official reporter of the 2017 Glasgow conference and I had a splendid conference there. From a faraway dream, IATEFL is now my second home, an inspiration for my friends in India and around the world…
See you in Brighton !!
Syke A.K. is a writer, presenter and teacher trainer, currently a TEA fellow of U.S. Department of State at Claremont Graduate University, past winner of the IATEFL Ray Tongue Scholarship and Mentor for the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi). He has been teaching English for over 15 years in schools and colleges in India.