The mission of the Sunshine State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (SSTESOL) of Florida is to provide leadership and advocacy in language policy issues and access to professional development opportunities, resources, and lively interaction in a professional network at all levels.
Decisions on social, political, and economic issues that affect teaching and learning for non-native speakers of English occur every day. These decisions range from funding allocations in a specific school to the passage of state or federal legislation with the potential to create or to dismantle entire instructional programs. The role that professional organizations can play in influencing policy makers and the voting public, therefore, has become increasingly important. Advocacy has been an integral part of the Sunshine State TESOL’s mission since the early 1990’s.
At the planning retreat in July 1999, the SSTESOL Executive Board drafted a strategic plan to take Sunshine State TESOL into the new millennium. The plan was designed to reflect SSTESOL’s mission and included three components: organizational development, professional development and advocacy. At the following board meeting in September 1999, a motion was passed to change the name of the Sociopolitical Affairs Committee to the Advocacy Committee and to add an amendment to the bylaws to include the Advocacy Committee as a standing committee of the organization. The motion was presented and approved by the membership at their annual meeting during the May 2000 SSTESOL Convention.
The Role of SSTESOL Advocacy
It is the belief of SSTESOL that advocacy efforts should: (1) identify areas of concern relative to language teaching and learning at various educational levels in Florida; (2) disseminate information concerning these issues and solutions; (3) publish position statements in support of primary issues or in opposition to key issues as appropriate; (4) encourage participation of the membership as advocates for their students through workshops at SSTESOL conventions and other forms of dialogue; (5) promote the needs of our students through our expertise based upon credible academic research, our experience with language learners, and our knowledge of a substantive body of literature relative to the principles of language teaching and learning; (6) call upon the expertise of consultants regarding pending legislation if such a need arises.
As SSTESOL entered the 21st century, the board has continued to revise and implement their three-armed strategic planning process. Advocacy efforts have also continued with the first SSTESOL Advocacy workshop conducted by John Sagota of International TESOL at a SSTESOL Convention, periodic updates of advocacy issues published in the SSTESOL Messenger, new appointments on the Advocacy committee, joining an advocacy E-Forum list serve, and developing an Advocacy Home Page with multiple linkages on the SSTESOL website.
Ultimately, the organization seeks increased visibility as representatives of TESOL professionals in our state and as guides to all who seek to improve the quality of education for our students.
Written by Patricia A. Ellis, Ph.D.
Chair, Advocacy Committee