Nina Ito, academic coordinator for the American Language Institute (ALI) at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), has been sworn in as the 44th president of California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (CATESOL), the largest affiliate of TESOL in the United States.
The first CATESOL president from an Intensive English Program (IEP), Ito was given the president’s gavel recently at the organization’s annual conference in Oakland. Her term will run through October 2013.
“My goal as president is to just keep inspiring young people to join CATESOL,” said Ito, who began on campus as faculty member in ALI in 1995 before assuming a staff position. “So many graduate students don’t know about this organization. Some professors really get students involved and others don’t. So, my goal is to continue to contact all the professors I can and ask them to tell students what a great opportunity it is for them to get involved right when they are a graduate student. Then when they graduate, they’ll have that on their resume, and that’s what’s going to help them get a job.”
Founded in 1969, CATESOL is a nonprofit organization open to anyone concerned with the teaching of English as a second language (ESL). Members of CATSEOL range from teachers at all levels to university students, aides and administrators in California and Nevada. There are currently more than 1,800 members of the organization, whose mission includes increasing awareness of the strengths and needs of English language learners and encouraging respect for linguistic and cultural diversity.
CATESOL is one of more than 100 TESOL affiliates in the United States and abroad. Its focus is to promote professional competence and standards in the teaching of ESL, monitor educational policy, and represent the needs of ESL teachers and students to decision-making bodies such as school districts and state legislatures.
Ito’s personal journey in the field began at Bowling Green State University in Ohio where she earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Spanish. She then went to live in Spain more than 30 years ago, where she taught English as a foreign language (EFL) to make a living, finishing at the Instituto Internacional (International Institute). Near the end of her eight-year stay in Madrid, she gave a few presentations at TESOL Spain.
Later, Ito earned a master of arts in the Teaching of English as a Second Language (MATESL) program at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), during which time she submitted a proposal for TESOL 1993, never expecting it to be accepted, but it was. Finally, upon arriving in California, through the mentoring of the assistant director at the ALI at CSULB, she gave her first presentation at a CATESOL Los Angeles Regional Conference in 1996.
“When I moved here, the assistant director of ALI told me I should join CATESOL, and I said, ‘What’s CATESOL?’” said Ito, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident. “I knew TESOL, which is the international association, from when I lived in Spain. I had been active in TESOL Spain, and when I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, I had gone to a few TESOL conventions, but I didn’t really know too much about the affiliates around the United States.”
Since she began her involvement with the organization, Ito has served on the board of directors as the Intensive English Program chair, on nominating committees and as chair of the 2007 CATESOL Los Angeles Regional conference. Now, as president, she feels it’s her obligation to continue to get the word out about the benefits of the organization.
“I am so grateful to the colleagues and professors who encouraged me to get involved in our professional organizations, and now I try to mentor anyone who will listen to me,” she said. “I can make my mark by really getting the word out that this is a great organization to join and it will help them. The conferences are a great way for students to network and to meet notable people in our field.”
To learn more about CASTESOL, visit its website at http://www.catesol.org.