Tesol Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece – The 21st Annual International Convention – Teach and Seek

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There is a wonderful conference coming up in Thessaloniki, Greece, on March 29-30 – organised by the hard-working and tireless team of an amazing association, called TESOL Macedonia-Thrace.

First of all, here is the dream team:

  • Chair – Roger House
  • Vice Chair/Treasurer – George Topalis
  • General Secretary – Anastasia Loukeri
  • Membership Secretary – Nathan Pratt
  • E-bulletin Editor – Margarita Kosior
  • Convention Secretary - Fani Dafnopatidou
  • Member-at-large – George Raptopoulos
  • Member-at-large – Emmanuel Kontovas
  • Member-at-large – Efi Tzouri
  • Member-at-large – Elsa Tsiakiri
  • Member-at-large – Aspa Georgopoulou

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The two-day conference has a lot of exciting events:

Plenary Talks

  • Kieran Donaghy – Using Film to Teach English in a World of Screens
  • Dr Terry Lamb – Perspectives on 21st Century Language Learners
  • Carol Griffiths – Using Narrative as a Strategy to Teach Language
  • Vicky Loras – The Human Touch

I am so honoured to be doing my first plenary talk ever, and in Thessaloniki as well, where I lived for almost four years and went to university!

Pecha Kucha Session

An event not to miss on Saturday evening! There will be not one, not two, but SEVEN Pecha Kucha sessions! I am so excited about this. The MC for the Pecha Kucha will be Margarita Kosior, who is also the E-Bulletin Editor for TESOL Macedonia-Thrace.

The Pecha Kucha presenters are:

And there will be lots of workshops and talks during the two days of the conference. Here is the Preliminary Programme 2014, so you can choose your sessions.

I am looking forward to it – this is going to be a conference definitely not to miss!

Thank you so much, everyone at TESOL Macedonia-Thrace!

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Presenting the Plenaries – Part Three

Vicky Loras:

Another super plenary speaker will be with us in Bratislava, on June 7-8, 2014! Gabriela Lojová will be focusing on the learner. Will you miss this amazing plenary? Join us at the Ekonomická univerzita v Bratislave!

Originally posted on ELTforum.sk Conference 2014:

Gabriela Lojová

Gabriela Lojová

We are excited and happy to announce our third plenary speaker for ELTForum.sk 2014: Gabriela Lojová, who you might just know if you attended last year.

About Gabi

Gabi is an associate professor at the Department of the English Language and Literature of the Faculty of Education, Comenius University in Bratislava. Apart from teaching courses on English grammar, her research interests and educational activities are focused primarily on applied psycholinguistics, psychology of foreign language learning and teaching, and FL teacher training. The aim of her work is the humanization of foreign language teaching and looking for more effective ways of teaching English.

Her written work

Gabi’s books include ‘Foreign language grammar teaching: theory and practice’, ‘Individual differences in foreign language learning’, ‘Learning styles and strategies in foreign language teaching’ (with Kateřina Vlčková – Faculty of Education, Masaryk University, Brno, CZ) and ‘Theoretical foundations of teaching English in primary…

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On a PhD Journey from Turkey to Arizona – Interview with Osman Solmaz (@osmanaz)

Osman has presented both in national and international conferences

Osman has presented both in national and international conferences

I am thrilled to have an educator I admire very much on my blog, not only for his teaching and his sharing, but also for his studies and blogging as well! I would like to introduce you to Osman Solmaz – originally from Diyarbakır, Turkey – now in Tucson, Arizona for his PhD studies.

Vicky: Thanks so much for accepting my invitation for this interview, Osman!

Osman: Thank you for the offer! It is my pleasure to be part of this!

Vicky: Thank you so much – I admire you so much as an educator! My first question is that exactly, how did you decide to enter the world of education – has it always been a dream of yours?

Osman: I had (still have) an amazing teacher of English that helped me a lot to become who I am right now. I think the influence of the teachers like him affected my decision; because I have personally witnessed how a teacher can have a deep impact in the lives of his/her students. Besides, I have always had an interest in learning languages and foreign cultures. Even though I started learning English at high school, I loved the whole process of developing a competence to express myself in another language. I hope to help my students to enjoy this process and much more as much as I did.

Vicky: You are also contiuing your studies – you are doing a PhD in Second Language Acquisition & Teaching at the University of Arizona. How did you choose this specific program? How are you enjoying it so far?

Osman: Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) is an interdisciplinary doctoral program in which 17 different departments participate. So, when you are enrolled in a program like this, you have a chance to collaborate with almost 80 professors. Even though this rich variety of options can be challenging for students, the steps to take in your PhD quest in the program are clearly stated. Needless to say, it is one of the best programs in the country partly thanks to its unique nature. Therefore, SLAT was in my radar from the first day I came across the program on the web. It is my second year at the moment here and I have truly enjoyed the people, the program, classes, professors, and beautiful Southern Arizona so far. People in my program are really friendly and they make us feel like a family. For example, we have had a Halloween party few weeks ago and it was mostly for international students to experience the Halloween culture. We have a Thanksgiving dinner on the corner!

Vicky: Before Arizona, you were in your beautiful country, Turkey. Can you tell us what you were involved in while you were there?

Osman: I studied at the department of English Language Teaching at Dicle University in Diyarbakır (hometown), a historical and vibrant city in southeastern Turkey. After teaching English to adults in a private course and then high school students at a private school, I have lectured at the university for a couple of years before Arizona. While teaching at the department of foreign languages, I received my M.A. degree in Applied Linguistics / ELT from Dicle University. I hope to be back once I am done, but it is early to speak yet.

Osman and his students (English language teacher candidates) while reaching out to the students in a rural village as part of a community service project they developed together.

Osman and his students (English language teacher candidates) while reaching out to the students in a rural village as part of a community service project they developed together.

Vicky: You engage a lot in social media. How did you become involved in them, and how do you think they help educators?

Osman: When I posted my very first tweet, I had no idea how powerful this tool would eventually be. I must admit that I was very lucky to come across #eltchat which helped me grow up as a language teacher and introduced me to a great group of colleagues with similar interests. I think of the social media as a giant and efficient teachers’ room where educators are constantly in touch. Social media helps educators become better teachers since the engagement and activity on the ‘virtual teacher room’ help us be exposed to education-related news and materials all the time. I think this makes us become critically aware of the process of learning and teaching. In the meantime, social networking allows users to form friendship and give us some friends to chat and hug when we attend a conference, instead of just presenting and coming back home. The process of getting involved with potential conference participants starts long before than it used to be and I think it is great! Last but not least, I believe we all should try to understand the core promise of how a technological tool can assist us with our teaching. It is Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest today, but there may (and will) be different technologies in the future and we should prepare ourselves for them. Therefore, I am interested in researching the connection between technological tools and how we educators can make the most of it.

Vicky: You also have a beautiful blog, idiolectica. I love how you incorporate various topics – apart from teaching, you have literature and recently you added a new category, Joys of Life. Can you let us know what inspired you for the name of the blog and what inspires you to write?

Osman, enjoying the beautiful Antelope Canyon in Arizona

Osman, enjoying the beautiful Antelope Canyon in Arizona

Osman: Thank you! I made up the word idiolectica! I haven’t personally seen that word anywhere. Idiolect is the unique linguistic system of an individual and –ica is “a collection of things that relate to a specific place, person etc.” (-ika in Ancient Greek). This makes me come up with the word idiolectica referring to the collection of things related to my own linguistic system. I chose this because I am thinking aloud in my blog and I like writing about the things I read and come across. In addition to that, my individual perspective is clearly reflected on all the blog posts (except guest posts). I think living in a foreign country, being enrolled in a graduate program far from home, having various interests, and surely reflecting on educational / linguistic / sociolinguistic issues are among the factors that make me write. It is definitely not a typical educator blog but I hope people like it and encourage me to continue writing. About Joys of Life, there are many small things in this life that can make us happy and happiness is most valuable when shared. That is why I started that category and I want to continue sharing the joys of life!

Vicky: That is so important and thank you for reminding us and helping us focus on all the great things in life! What would you like to tell all the educators who are reading your interview right now?

Osman: As teachers, we should have the desire, passion, and the knowledge to help our students become better learners. In order to achieve this, we must be great learners ourselves. Remembering our teachers being proud of us for being who we have become and students appreciating our efforts help a lot along the way.

Vicky: That is an amazing statement to close our talk. Thank you so much for this interview and I hope we meet up in person soon!

Osman: I thank you for helping educators meet educators through those great interviews and I am sure we will meet in one of the language-related events very soon!

With all her love for education and collaboration: Interview with Ika Chieka Wibowo

Ika Wibowo

Ika Wibowo

I am delighted to present an educator from Indonesia in an interview she has given me: Ika Wibowo from Indonesia! I connected to Ika on Facebook from my first days there, about a year ago and I admire her for her passion to teach, connect and share! Over to Ika.

Vicky: Ika, thank you so much for accepting my invitation for an interview on my blog!

Ika: It is a great honor to be invited for an interview on your blog, Vicky.

Vicky: For those of our readers who meet you for the first time, can you introduce yourself?

Ika: My name is Ika Sari Lestiyani Wibowo. But, please call me Ika. I am an English Language Teacher at one of the English Schools and also at my own English School in Depok, Indonesia.

Vicky: That is great, Ika – you teach and run your own school! How did you make the decision to become an educator?

Ika: I think it will be very long story if I tell you all about myself. So I will you my short one. I’m being honest that after I graduated from University I did not want to be a teacher or an educator, as most of my family members are teachers. I tried to work at the office as a Public Relation Staff. But, after a few months I felt my heart was not there. Then, I decided to apply a job as a teacher at an English School, New Concept English Education Centre. In NC I feel like I am home. I enjoy every moment with my students. Until now, I’ve been teaching here at NC for about 8 years. “Don’t only teach your students but also educate them”; that is what my father always reminds me of. Here I am. I am proud of being a teacher and an educator.

Vicky: And we are all happy you became an educator! What do you like the most about your work? What are the challenges you sometimes face?

Ika: Being a teacher make me always feel young, as I have to always light my effort to share new knowledge and experience to my students. By sharing I will always be cleverer. Those are two things I like about my work. Indonesia is not an English-speaking Country, that’s why there are still many people who think that English is not important. So, most of students feel that they shouldn’t learn English seriously. This is a big challenge for me as an ELT. I have to always support my students to be willing to learn English then they will love it. Never give up.

Vicky: Let’s move on to social media. You use Facebook and other platforms to connect with teachers all around the world, and you are very active as well, sharing a lot of information and links. How did you become involved in this way of connecting in the first place?

Ika: The first time I knew about learning and sharing through social media was from the iTDi Workshop in February 2013. I met some great English teachers from other countries such as Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, Chuck Sandy, Eric Kane, Yitzha Sheila Sarwono, Adi Cerman and Karl Millsom. Yitzha is the first person who introduced me to the PLN; then I met you, Vicky Loras. I learned a lot from you. Then, I fell in love with social media and I made more new friends after that.

Indonesia, Ika's beautiful country (Image from http://www.lonelyplanet.com)

Indonesia, Ika’s beautiful country (Image from http://www.lonelyplanet.com)

Vicky: Thank you so much, Ika – I really appreciate your kind words and I am very happy we have connected! Moving on to conferences now. You are presenting at a conference in Indonesia very soon. Would you like to tell us what your talk will be about and what you are looking forward to?

Ika: You are right, Vicky. At the end of this month I am having a group presentation at The TEFLIN Conference at University of Indonesia with Nina Septina and Budi Azhari Lubis (both of them are ELTs and my friends in the iTDi Community). We will be guided by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto. It’s my first time for me to join this kind of conference. It’s challenging for me. My short talk will be about my personal development as an English teacher after I joined iTDi Community.

Vicky: Where do you get your inspiration for your teaching and your talks?

Ika: All of my ELT friends at iTDi Community, my ELT friends from the social media and also all of my students in my school and my students at the social media are my big inspiration for my teaching and my talks.

Vicky: What is your dream for the future?

Ika: In the future, I have some dreams which I have to pursue. The first, I want to learn more seriously about teaching – learning in order to be a better teacher. The second, I want to join seminars in other countries and meet all of my ELT friends in this social media. The last, I want to build a Free English School in my home village.

Vicky: They all sound amazing plans, and your last plan sounds wonderful too. I hope they all come true! And to close this interview, what would you like to tell all the educators reading your interview?

Ika: To all the educators who reading my interview, I just want to tell you something:

“ Teach with your heart and soul.”

Vicky: Thank you so much, Ika! I hope we meet each other in person soon.

Ika: You are always welcome dear Vicky. I hope so. I am looking forward to meeting you in person, too. Thank you for all the readers.

Ika's students after they have made robots!

Ika’s students after they have made robots!

Goal 1: Define Your Moment #30goalsedu

Shelly Sanchez Terrell has posted the brand new, fourth cycle of her 30 Goals Challenge! 30 inspiring goals, to remind us of what we are doing well, what we need to restart, improve on, start doing for the first time…here is Goal Number One – Define Your Moment!

I would like to dedicate this post to the amazing Rose Bard, an educator from Brazil, who is an inspiration to myself and many others! Rose and I discuss our edu-moments on Skype almost every Sunday. She is the kind of person who is the definition of this goal. She is living her moment! A million thanks to you, Rose!

Those of the readers that know me face-to-face or from our connection on social media know that this year has been pivotal in my teaching career, as I have made my dream of re-opening a school reality. In a different country: Greece before for ten years, now Switzerland. English teaching in the previous one, that and teacher training, as well as events for children and teachers in the new one. My sister Eugenia and I said let’s do this and we did! With difficulties, but the daily satisfaction of doing things we love and the way we love doing them, as well as collaborating with amaizng students and teachers worldwide, makes up for any hardhsip and gives us strength and motivation to keep going.

This is our moment that we wish to share with educators everywhere:

- Do you have a dream? Go out there and grab it, start it and don’t be afraid!

- Are you stuck in a routine of teaching? Change it and talk to others about how they have changed theirs as well.

- No or very little financial resources to do things? There is a crisis looming almost everywhere in the world now and all governments are cautious. There are so many free resources online and so many educators we can be inspired by, that no crisis and no problematic government can take away our strength and motivation to give our students our very best.

- Keep up developing professionally! Nothing else can give us the oxygen to keep our teaching going. Just think of how you feel when you leave a conference or workshop where you have learnt a great deal and interacted with other educators.

- Do something new. Eugenia and I are planning our very first international event on bilingualism and multilingualism this September, with great speakers and we are expecting lovely educators to join us! We are so happy and excited about this.

So, for all of us, wherever we are in the world, this is our moment – let’s go!

Let’s go

Make no excuses now

I’m talking here and now / I’m talking here and now

Let’s go

It’s not about what you’ve done

It’s about what you’re doing

It’s all about where you’re going / No matter where you’ve been

Let’s go!

Through the Eyes of the Student Tutors: Yeditepe University Writing Center by Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur

Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing

Deniz and Ceren giving a presentation on Academic Writing

I am very honoured to have this blog post by two amazing young ladies, Deniz Aryay & Şehnaz Ceren Cessur, who are student tutors in the ELT Department of Yeditepe University. I was introduced to them by their outstanding professor, Ece Sevgi – and was delighted to meet them in person at the ISTEK ELT Conference in Istanbul, last April. Here, Deniz and Ceren write about the Writing Center they have in their university, an amazing programme! Over to Deniz and Ceren, who will surely become great educators.

Yeditepe University in Istanbul is one of the most prestigious universities that tries its best to help its students prepare for their professional lives. It is an English-medium university.  This has its own downsides and difficulties since some of the students enter the university with no or little knowledge of English. Even if they spend a few semesters in preparatory classes trying to master English as a foreign language, they may not become proficient enough to cope with the language level in their classes.

This is the reason why some universities here in Turkey have followed the lead of their counterparts in other countries and established Writing Centers in the aim of fostering the students’ language ability in one of the productive skills, writing. Writing Center at Yeditepe University is a unit which helps students by editing their written work, giving feedback, and guiding them to correct their language mistakes. The use of error code, multiple drafts, and progress tracking system aims to develop learner autonomy and raise awareness about the points to consider in the students’ written work.

Yeditepe University Writing Center does not only help students but also supports academicians at the university. It offers a free edit service to support and encourage academic publications in any field. It is the only unit at the university that organizes Creative Writing Contests. We now have a brand new website (http://writingcenter.yeditepe.edu.tr/) where you can find information about the Writing Center, and a wiki space (http://yuwritingcenter.wikispaces.com/) where we post written tutorials about academic writing. To us, having a Writing Center is more than a luxury; it is an essential unit at a university teaching in English in a non-English speaking community.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Mirror Mirror on the Wall (From left to right: Secil Uygungil, Eda Demirci, Merve Karaca and Ezgi Ozel)

While opening a Writing Center is not an original idea, Yeditepe University Writing Center has done something for the first time by allowing its students to become members of this family during the course of their studies. The Student-Tutor Program is a pioneer programme in this field, and has significant benefits for the chosen students. These selected student tutors, who are students of English Language Teaching, and Translation and Interpreting Studies Departments work voluntarily at the Writing Center Office to help prep and undergraduate students with their written assignments. They are chosen meticulously with a suggestion from their Academic Writing instructor, and then receive training on how to give written feedback before they start offering this service at the Writing Center.

Under the supervision of experienced tutors working for the Writing Center, student tutors also prepare and present academic writing workshops for the university students and faculty. You can meet many of our student tutors at ELT conferences held in Istanbul. Four of our student tutors, for example, were concurrent keynote speakers at ISTEK ELT 2013 Conference with their talk Mirror Mirror on the Wall…, and shared the stage with Ken Wilson, Herbert Puchta, Teresa Doğuelli, and Jamie Keddie.

Word of the Week and Other Ideas for Business and General English – BELTA Day, 2013

(Photo by Krishnan Coenen)

(Photo by Krishnan Coenen)

On June 1st, the 1st BELTA Day took place. BELTA, the Belgian English Language Teachers’ Association, was formed in January 2013 by James Taylor, Mieke Kenis and Guido van Landeghem and since then many people have joined the board: Jurgen Basstanie, Ellen de Preter, Krishnan Coenen and myself as Editorial Officer of the blog. I was therefore honoured and moved to present at the 1st BELTA Day, which was an amazing experience. I saw fantastic sessions, learned a great deal and met amazing educators, from Belgium but also worldwide!

Here is the slideshow of my presentation:

And here are some notes:

BELTA Day 2013 Presentation – Useful Notes

Literature Strikes Back! – Guest Post by Dimitris Primalis and Chryssanthe Sotiriou #iatefl13

Dimitris Primalis

Dimitris Primalis

Dimitris has been teaching EFL for 20 years. His experience covers a wide range of groups including young learners, teenagers, adults, exam prep classes and Business English. He has also written 5 test booklets for Macmillan and is a freelance materials designer. He also served as TESOL Chair and very successfully ran this year’s TESOL Greece Convention.

Chryssanthe has obtained a BA in English Literature from the English Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and a postgraduate diploma with distinction  in Translation from the University of Mons-Hainaut in Belgium, being a scholar of the ‘Alexander Onassis’ Foundation.chryssanthe

They will also be presenting Literature strikes back! The return of a vanishing art or how to teach literature with technology at IATEFL Conference on Wednesday , 10th April at 15:05 (Hall 11b).

Thought that literature is dead with the advent of technology?  Shouldn’t books be permanently exhibited in history museums next to dinosaurs and other fossils? Can a computer whiz kid be persuaded to read a romantic novel written by Daphne du Maurier?

For those of us who thought that literature had been wiped out by the invasion of technology in our daily teaching, the answer is : literature is too hard to die!!!

Web 2.0 tools, YouTube clips and social media/collaborative platforms seem to have become powerful allies of books in teachers’ efforts to stimulate learners ‘  interest and initiate them in the magical world of words.

Brought up in a world that gadgets are deified, teenagers  only find it natural to spend more time tapping or clicking; browsing webpages rather than reading the masterpieces their parents and parents once loved. Is mere exposure to genres found on the internet enough to help our learners enrich their vocabulary and use proficiently a wide range of linguistic features that will need later on in their personal and professional life? Let’s compare a typical story on Facebook and one in a book. They may both narrate a similar story but they employ different means of illustrating the story line. The former may feature videos or photos, emoticons and chunks of language whereas the latter uses  a wide range of words to convey feelings, describe actions and background and convey messages. Students can benefit from both worlds provided that teachers adopt a clearly structured methodology. It is pedagogy that makes the difference and technology is its most powerful ally.

Apart from enriching lexis, literature can also serve as a stimulus for discussing ideas and morals while provoking heated debates on eternal dilemmas. Love, friendship, struggle for  wealth and power, leadership, corruption, ethics are only a few of the issues that  are raised through literary texts and our students cannot afford to miss them.

Literature empowers, enlightens and broadens horizons … it simply allows you to dream and use your critical thinking instead of reacting mechanically.

Thank you so much, Chryssanthe and Dimitris!

Blogging as Reflection, Teaching and Learning – Presentation for TESOL Greece 2013

Vicky TESOL GreeceI was very honoured to present for the first time at this year’s TESOL Greece Convention. Here is my presentation, as well as the notes the participants received at the end. Many thanks to those who were there and everyone for their support!

TESOL Greece Presentation 2013 – Useful Notes

Conferences, Workshops and Swapshops – PD in Focus 1

(from bottom left) Tyson Seburn, Steve Muir, Fiona Mauchline, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and myself at TESOL France

(from bottom left) Tyson Seburn, Steve Muir, Fiona Mauchline, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and myself at TESOL France

After last Sunday’s webinar for BELTA Belgium, I have decided to start a series of posts, each one focusing on every point raised in my presentation, both for novice teachers and experienced ones. As I mentioned in the webinar, a good teacher is a constant learner – so regardless of the years one has been teaching, Professional Development should always have a pivotal role.

Let’s start with the first point – which is also one of my favourites: conferences, workshops and swapshops, the latter being a new kind of event and one that I find very interesting.

  • First of all, it helps tremendously to know which events we will attend and where. As we are all educators and work hard to earn our income, it is crucial to plan our events based on our budget. There are so many things going on, either at our own local level or internationally. An easy and practical way to find out where various conferences are going on is to look at Tyson Seburn‘s amazing ELT Calendar on his blog.

Second, it also helps to be a member of an association as we can get a lot of perks, such as free attendance to events, or at a discount (even the magazine or newsletter, electronic or paper). It is impossible to be members of all the associations we would like to, but nowadays most of them are affordable and allow us to register for multiple ones.

Now, on to the whywhy should we attend all these events? Don’t we already have enough to do, besides teaching, marking, preparing?

  • These events serve as a boost, a nice charge-up of our skills, ideas and motivation! A lot of educators including myself feel fully charged after a conference or workshop. You are just ready and looking forward to using the ideas you got in our own classroom, changing your methods, experimenting to see how the students will respond. Sometimes it might be the case that these ideas don’t work, but at least you have tried something different.
  • Suggest ideas! A lot of sessions, or workshops, are highly interactive – the speakers include the audience as well.So that way you can come forward and mention an idea you have used in your own classroom, or how you would use the idea you just heard from the speaker. Instant feedback. (I just love these sessions where everyone can take part!)
  • Conferences are not only the sessions themselves. Breaks are amazing opportunities to meet new people or come together with people you already know and talk with them, share your own experiences and compare your contexts, share ideas you got if you have attended different sessions. Networking, as it is called. Some of the best discussions I remember having have been during lunch or coffee breaks.
  • You can listen to great speakers from all around the world. How great is that? : )
  • Present! It might seem intimidating (and I am definitely far from being an experienced speaker) but it is a great experience. It is a great opportunity to share your ideas with others and do something new.

Swapshops: They are a relatively new kind of event. What happens there is that everyone can present an idea of their own – a lesson plan, idea, technique that they see has worked for their classrooms and would like to exchange with the other teachers. Usually it is a timed presentation 7-8 minutes, or more. It is so interesting! I love how everyone participates and the enthusiasm is contagious! You can leave a swapshop with a lot of ideas.

Any other reasons you consider conferences and events as a great way of developing professionally? Feel free to add a comment.

Presenting at the ETAS AGM and Convention, 2011.

Presenting at the ETAS AGM and Convention, 2011.