Expanding our Perspectives:

From the Classroom to the Community


October 17-18

Grand Valley State University

Eberhard Center, Pew Campus

The theme of this year’s conference seeks to address the increasingly diverse needs of our membership-including those of our traditional constituents (in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary contexts), and those of professionals working with adult ESL learners in community-based and government-funded programs across the state. Adults comprise a large ESL demographic in Michigan, which resettles more refugees as a proportion of its population than any other state. In 2012, we resettled 3,594 refugees from 26 countries (4% of our population)- the third highest number, behind only California and Texas. In addition, we have the fifth- highest number of registered migrant and seasonal farm workers in the nation (Michigan Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Enumeration Profiles Study, 2013). These immigration and resettlement figures translate into increasing numbers of English learners with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE)—and little or no print literacy—at all levels of schooling in Michigan. Join us, as we explore ways that educators, researchers, and administrators alike can address the unique needs of these students—and those of all of our learners.

–Colleen Brice, Conference Chair

Call for Proposals

The call for proposals ended July 15.  Click here to view the PDF.

Program Preview

We have an exciting program planned, including two keynote speakers who are well known for their work in ESL among low-literate populations—Dr. Patsy Vinogradov and Dr. Andrea DeCapua—as well as an array of papers, panels, teaching demonstrations, and workshops.

Keynote Speakers

Bridging the Gap: Connecting SLIFE with U.S. Classrooms

Dr. Andrea DeCapua 

Friday, October 17

As immigration to the U.S. continues to grow, more and more students with interrupted or limited formal education (SLIFE)enter secondary schools and adult education programs. These learners face major challenges, including the need to develop literacy skills and a content knowledge base, often in a limited timeframe. Beyond this, however, SLIFE come to formal education unfamiliar with classroom tasks and behaviors, and with little or no experience in expected types of learning and thinking. Dominant Western-style pedagogical practices derive from culturally- based priorities for learners and learning, priorities intrinsic to this style of schooling. Educators are often unaware how pervasive these priorities are and how much they shape pedagogical practices. I explore the priorities of both US mainstream educators and those of SLIFE, and discuss how each can accommodate the other’s priorities through a culturally responsive, mutually adaptive approach, thereby reducing the cultural dissonance SLIFE confront in formal educational settings. I conclude by considering how educators can bridge the gap to culturally new ways of learning by transitioning SLIFE from their preferred ways of learning to those deemed necessary for literacy and academic attainment in formal education.

About Dr. DeCapua

Andrea DeCapua, Ed.D, is a researcher and educational consultant doing business through MALPtm, LLC (Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm), an instructional model she co-developed. She has over thirty years experience in the field, having held academic appointments at various institutions, most recently New York University and the College of New Rochelle. Dr. DeCapua specializes in teacher training for teachers working with struggling language learners, and in developing intercultural awareness for classrooms in a global society, offering workshops and institutes around the country.

She has published numerous articles in a variety of journals (e.g. The Bilingual Research Journal, Urban Review, TESOL Journal), and she is the author/co-author of five books. Two of her books focus on students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE): Meeting the Needs of Students with Limited or Interrupted Schooling (2009), and Breaking New Ground: Teaching Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (2011). Her latest book, Making the Transition to Classroom Success: Culturally Responsive Teaching for Struggling Language Learners, which appeared summer 2013, addresses all struggling language learners, both adolescent and adult.

Literacy, Language, and the Lifespan: Tapping our Teacher Know-how

Dr. Patsy Vinogradov 

Saturday, October 18

“Who knows more about this, and how can we work together?” This question has become central to my work in language education. It embodies curiosity and collaboration, and it can lead us to powerful (if sometimes unlikely) encounters with colleagues.

In this talk, I take up the conference theme of “Expanding Perspectives” and “Connecting Classrooms to the Community” from the lens of an inquisitive teacher. Much can happen when we look beyond our classrooms and connect with other educators from different, yet related fields. I'll share two examples of cross-context teacher inquiry from my area of research: adult immigrant and refugee students with little or no literacy in their first languages. These are students who are now living in the U.S. and are facing a double challenge: acquiring English while learning to read an alphabetic print language for the first time. Their teachers must be reading specialists, language experts, and resettlement workers all rolled into one. This is no easy task! Add to this complexity the fact that such learners are largely neglected by both researchers and materials developers, and resources are scarce.

However, from challenge comes innovation. Within our communities, right down the street from many adult ESL programs, early elementary teachers are teaching literacy and language to young new readers every day. Some of their students have extreme difficulty with reading, and the field of dyslexia education has much to offer us as well. I'll share concrete discoveries two teams of teachers made that changed our thinking and our classroom practice for low-literate adult students. When we reach into out to our larger community of educators, our know-how can truly expand. 

About Dr. Vinogradov

Patsy Vinogradov, Ph.D., is a teacher, teacher educator, and the Director of ATLAS, the Adult Basic Education Teaching and Learning Advancement System, housed in the School of Education at Hamline University, in St. Paul. ATLAS designs and implements professional development for adult educators throughout Minnesota.

A language person at heart, Patsy earned a B.A. in Russian Language from the University of Nebraska, as well as an M.A. in TESL, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, Second Languages & Cultures, from the University of Minnesota. Her teaching and research focuses on literacy development and teacher education for adult learners, including adult basic education (ABE) and ESL. She is a frequent international and national conference presenter, invited trainer, and author, largely in the area of low- literacy adult ESL. Her faculty profile and information about recent publications can be found at: http://www.hamline.edu/faculty-staff/patsy-vinogradov/.

Patsy and her husband are raising their children bilingually (Russian/English), and she often presents workshops on multilingual parenting and heritage language maintenance. The Vinogradovs try hard to follow the good advice they share at their website: http://www.multilingualminnesota.org.


In response to feedback from last year’s conference, we're including an increased number of hands-on workshops this year, including a number sponsored by our Special Interest Groups. For a preview of some of the workshops we’ll be offering, click here: Workshops Preview.

Conference Proposal Status

Primary authors will be notified of the status of their proposal by the beginning of September.

Conference Registration

Conference registration is now open online; click here to register.

Friday Reception & Entertainment

We will be serving refreshments twice on Friday, thanks to the generosity of GVSU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, who is sponsoring all of it!

From 4-6 p.m., we will be serving heavy hors d’oevres to sustain hungry travelers as they arrive from cities around the state and check in.

From 9-11 p.m., following the first keynote talk, we will be hosting a reception featuring heavy hors d’oevres, a cash bar, and live entertainment, compliments of the band, Gerund and the Infinitives. The Americana band from East Lansing includes five members who are faculty in MSU’s English Language Center. They’ve kindly agreed to play a two-hour set to cap off the first night of the conference.

So, come hungry -and plan to stay to the end- for great food, music, and dancing. Registration fees include a ticket for one drink. If you stay at a conference hotel, you’ll have only to cross the street (Holiday Inn, downtown) or take the free shuttle (Holiday Inn, airport) to go to bed.

Gerund and the Infinitives

See Michigan’s #1 ESL band, Friday 10/17, 9-11 pm


Blocks of discounted rooms are being held for MITESOL at two hotels - until September 30. To get the conference rate, you need to mention MITESOL and make your reservations by September 30. After this date, rooms will be released to the public at the prevailing rate. 

NOTE: Two big conventions are being held in Grand Rapids the same weekend, so rooms are scarce. Please make your reservations early.

Blocks of discounted rooms are being held for MITESOL at two hotelsundefineduntil September 30. A small block of rooms has been reserved at the Holiday Inn Downtown, which is just across the street from Eberhard Center. A large block of rooms has been reserved at the Holiday Inn ‘Airport’, which is a short drive from the conference venue. Note: the Holiday Inn Airport will be providing a free shuttle to and from the conference site for MITESOL attendees (so, you can stay for Friday evening’s entertainment without having to worry about driving!)

To get the discounted conference rate, you need to mention MITESOL, and make your reservations by September 30. Please book your room ASAP: two big conventions are being held in Grand Rapids the same weekend, so accommodations are scarce. 

Holiday Inn Grand Rapids - Downtown

310 Pearl St. NW Grand Rapids 49504

Call to reserve: (616) 235-7611

  • $125 per night + taxes (single-quad occupancy; King or 2 Doubles)
  • Walking distance to Eberhard Center, downtown restaurants, museums, etc.
  • Free Parking & Free Wi-fi in rooms and public areas
  • Restaurant, Bar, Fitness Center, Pool

Holiday Inn Grand Rapids - Airport

3063 Lake Eastbrook Blvd. Kentwood 49512
Call to reserve: (616) 285-7600
Or book online (Enter Group Code: MIT)
  • $89 per night + taxes (single-quad occupancy; King or 2 Queens)
  • Free Shuttle to & from Conference at Eberhard Center
  • Free Parking & Free Wi-fi in rooms and public areas
  • Restaurant, Bar, Fitness Center, Pool, Spa

Other Accommodations

Grand Rapids is home to a wide variety of overnight accommodations. To search for additional options, click here: Stay in Grand Rapids.

Conference Venue: Grand Valley State University

The conference will be held at Grand Valley State University in Eberhard Center, on the banks of the beautiful Grand River, in downtown Grand Rapids.

Grand Valley State is a public university in West Michigan providing a fully accredited undergraduate and graduate liberal education to more than 24,000 students. Comprising several campuses, including the main campus in Allendale, and the Robert C. Pew campus in Grand Rapids- Grand Valley offers more than 200 areas of study, providing a wide selection of undergraduate majors and graduate programs. For more details, click here: GVSU.


For driving directions to GVSU’s Pew campus & Eberhard Center, click here: Getting to GVSU


Free parking is available on campus in GVSU’s Fulton Parking Lot, on the south side of W. Fulton (see #16 on the Pew Campus Map). Eberhard Center (#7 on map) is across the street, on the north side of Fulton, behind the Keller Engineering Building (#8 on map).

Note: the Holiday Inn Downtown is also pictured on this map (intersection of Pearl & Front Sts.)

Grand Rapids Area

Autumn in Grand Rapids is a beautiful time, and there are many exciting attractions within walking distance of the University, including museums, shops, and breweries (note: GR was voted ‘beer city USA,’ 2014!). This former furniture capital of the world is also host to ArtPrize, a three-week international competition in which 1,500+ artists display their work throughout the city, and the public decides who wins the $200,000 grand prize. For more information about the city, including area restaurants, attractions, and October events, click here: Visit Grand Rapids.


If you have questions, please contact us.

Membership & Registration inquiries:

Jane DeGroot

Membership Coordinator 


Technology/Website inquiries:
Heidi Enck

Communications Coordinator


Exhibitor inquiries:

Sharon Pearce

Exhibits Manager


Other inquiries:
Colleen Brice

2014 Conference Chair


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