By Jenn Peachey

Like you, the people who dedicated their time to BC TEAL struggled through the uncertainty and anxiety of everything 2020 threw at us. It was a hard year all around! At times, it was a struggle for board and committee members to stay engaged, but we did. We felt our positions were more important than ever because BC TEAL is about keeping us connected: to our friends and colleagues, to our professional development, to our students, and to our jobs or studies. For this reason, and because you may have missed it, we wanted you to know that we are, and will continue to be, working hard for you, the BC TEAL MEMBERS.

The highlights from 2020*

Here’s what BC TEAL did, achieved, created or shared in 2020:

  • Created and shared a collaborative One-Year plan for a goal-driven approach 
  • Started implementing our very important Respectful Interaction Guidelines
  • The Vancouver Island Regional Conference (in person!) 
  • Meet-Ups in January and February 
  • Implemented a COVID19 membership strategy (free for unemployed due to covid19, until March 1, 2021). Find more details here.
  • Offered great PD for the age of covid: What’s Working with Remote Language Training in BC; The Emerging Pandemic Intercultural Work Environment
  • The Employment Skills Webinar 
  • Our first on-line AGM
  • Coffee Times and Happy Hours 
  • The Back to School Boot Camp 
  • The LINC Reboot
  • The Inspiring Speaker Series: Laura Baecher (see the video here), Ness Murby (see the video here), Ismaël Traoré (see the video here)
  • Shared a number of job postings, invitations to participate in research
  • Partnered with AMSSA, SIETAR, and others to bring remote learning to our members
  • Brought in new benefits: Black Bond Books, Learn Your English
  • Implemented surveys to get to know you better
  • Encouraged more members to take on leadership roles by joining committees
  • Developed onboarding for new leaders (committees, regional reps)
  • Created and filled the Regional Rep position of Lower Mainland
  • EAL Week, October 2020, with some regional events
  • Created Terms of Reference for the various committees
  • Upped our game on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: featured membership benefits blitz, event announcements, free resources, and more TCF promotions
  • Reinvigorated the BC TEAL Blog 
  • Created Best Practices for video sharing
  • Awarded and disbursed thousands of dollars in funding for instructor PD, language projects and materials development, and refugee education through the TCF
  • Created a Benefits of Membership promotional video for events and TESL programs
  • Supported the admin staff with a work-from-home office, and closed the commercial office
  • Started work on streamlining the understructures of the office to make services more efficient
  • Said good-bye to our Administrative Manager Jaimie as she moved on to another adventure, and hello to Tanya Tervit, her replacement
  • Said a sad good-bye to Alison Whitmore, a dedicated member of BC TEAL.
  • Saw the development of another free resource: Indigenous Peoples and Canada
  • Had a Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 Newsletter
  • Saw the publication of the Vol. 5 No 1 (2020) BC TEAL Journal

Moving forward

Some of the 2020 initiatives happened behind the scenes, so you may not have noticed them. Others we offered for specific sectors of our membership. Regardless, if you participated in, or contributed to any of these achievements, we want to thank you, and hope that you will continue to join in. Some of the projects will continue into 2021, and we will also continue to create new opportunities for you. That’s where YOU come in. 

BC TEAL needs to know what you would like to see happen in 2021. We can only work toward something if we know it is needed. What do YOU want?  And would you be interested in working toward a specific goal as part of a committee? Do you have skills and ideas just waiting for a place to share them? BC TEAL is only as good as the people who dedicate their extra time and energy to make it work. Imagine what BC TEAL can achieve in 2021 if we all work together for our mutual benefits, for our community!

Write to admin@bcteal.org to share your ideas and suggestions for 2021.

*All these initiatives were made possible by the hard work of the BC TEAL staff and Board, as well as the regional reps and committee leaders.

Bio: Jenn retired from her position as Head Instructor, EAP Pathway Advisor, and Global Competence Certificate Facilitator at Global Village Victoria in 2019. After a year of travel and adventure, she is back on Vancouver Island and happily involved with BC TEAL again.


Welcoming through Volunteering: Reflections on a Selkirk College Volunteer Class


by Tyler Ballam

[This article was first printed in the Fall 2016 issue of TEAL News.]

Tell me and I forget

Teach me and I remember

Involve me and I learn

–Benjamin Franklin

I am sure most of us are familiar with the quote above and can agree with the message conveyed. However, as educators, we quite often are able to address the first two lines but have difficulty actualizing the last. The ideas of experiential and transformative learning have seriously gathered steam in the post-secondary world and the concepts of community involvement and volunteerism are (finally) taken quite seriously. Many institutions have begun their own initiatives created, in part, by the students themselves demanding more “real-world” experiences which can help them prepare for life after college or university. As with most things in the world of academia, English as an additional language (EAL) professionals have traditionally been ahead of the curve. I would like to share a story about how my colleagues at a small rural college assisted a group of post-secondary gerontology diploma students from India to adjust to life in Canada through volunteering. I hope that this simple story may provide some ideas to help other institutions develop similar programs to welcome newcomers to Canada while at the same time providing them with opportunities to further develop their skills in a new country.

Firstly, some context is needed. The Selkirk College International department has been running a volunteer class for over 15 years. Throughout the years, our students have been put in various places throughout the West Kootenay Region. These places range from senior-care homes, hotels, bookstores, elementary schools, hospitals, restaurants, and cafes. The concepts behind this class are threefold: provide the students with an experience where they can meet members of the community, gain an opportunity to practise English in a workplace setting, and develop the soft skills needed for future employment.

In May of 2014, we had the opportunity to help a cohort of recently arrived students from India. Although they were not EAL students, the International department was able to bring them into the volunteer program. As nurses in their home country, we soon realized that they had a skill-set already in place, which we had to respect and consider. The choice was made to connect them with senior-care facilities in Nelson and Castlegar. They were to volunteer once a week and their duties were to be explained and defined by the volunteer coordinator at each facility.

Since this course was for credit, assessment requirements were needed to “grade” the students. This was done through weekly journal entries where the students were given a chance to reflect on their experiences. These journal submissions allowed the instructor to see how things were going as well as check on any grammatical hiccups the students may have had. This model of formative assessment was one which met the needs of this particular course while, at the same time, helped to actualize the principles of experiential learning since reflective observation is a key component to Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning cycle.

Before delving into the triumphs of this class, however, some of the challenges must be mentioned. A long list of logistical considerations was needed prior to sending the students to their placements. Firstly, students had to figure out the bus schedules that allowed them to arrive and leave on time. Buses in rural B.C. do not run as frequently as they do in South Asia (or in Vancouver for that matter), so that challenge proved to be the first test. Secondly, the instructor responsible for the class had to set up the initial meetings with the volunteer coordinators in order to clarify the expectations of each institution. As can be expected, this took up some additional time outside of classroom time. Thirdly, since many of these students would be volunteering with those in need of care, RCMP criminal background checks were required. Finally, there was the off-chance that the students themselves would not show up to volunteer and therefore tarnish any relationships the college had with those institutions. Thankfully, the vast majority of the students showed up, flourished, and built stronger relationships between our institutions.

It became evident quite early on that the students were professional, motivated, and engaged. What had happened was that they were in an environment which respected their professional backgrounds and made them feel more welcome in their new communities. Through this experience, the three parties involved (the students, the college, and the senior-care facility) all managed to learn from one another, and it helped to pave the way for future endeavours. One of these future endeavours included the students themselves being willing to continue to volunteer even though the class had finished. They had managed to build up meaningful relationships with the staff and guests of the homes and wished to carry on. Another positive result of this class was that the college’s nursing department created their own volunteer class to be built into the overall post-graduate gerontology diploma program. Through these classes, a template is now in place to help welcome students into the community, respect their backgrounds, and provide them with opportunities to succeed in their studies.

The connections that can be created between students, the college, and the West Kootenay community may have been somewhat easier to facilitate since Selkirk College is in a small, rural area with a low population base. However, I feel that this class concept can be transferable to other colleges and universities in larger areas provided there is the will on the institution’s behalf to help welcome new students (and potential citizens of Canada) to their communities. Although there may be some logistical challenges at first, I have personally seen how the long term benefits of a class of this type have helped the students feel more comfortable in their new surroundings and succeed academically in their courses. My hope is that our story can stimulate more discussions on how we can help involve students in learning. Thank you.


Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Biographical Information

From the Fall 2016 issue of the BC TEAL newsletter:  Tyler Ballam started his teaching career in Seoul, South Korea in 2002. He has taught EAP in Kangnam University, EAL in large multinational companies including Samsung Electronics, and TESOL professional development to English teachers in the Kyunnggi-do school district. In 2012, he started teaching at Selkirk College in Castlegar and went on to instruct students from all over the world.


This article is licensed under a

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Original reference information:

Ballam, T. (2016, Fall). Welcoming through Volunteering: Reflections on a Selkirk College Volunteer Class. TEAL News. Retrieved from https://www.bcteal.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BC-Teal-Newsletter-Fall-2016-Final-2.pdf