A.M.: “I feel incredibly privileged to have been involved in the early stages of IATEFL Poland. I was Chair of IATEFL World at the time of our Annual Conference in Exeter in 1991. Whilst there, I had a meeting with a few of the delegates from Poland, including Ela Jarosz and Anna Gwardyś, where we discussed the practicalities of setting up an associate of IATEFL in Poland. Later that year, I visited Warsaw, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Kraków, to run workshops and have more discussions. My Polish colleagues were very quick off the mark. They quickly set up a committee and elected our dear and greatly beloved friend, Jan Rusiecki, as Chair. By 1992, the first conference was held, and the association really took off. Those were heady times – a wind of change was sweeping through Central and Eastern Europe, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and suddenly, everything was possible. “What larks!” as Joe Gargery exclaimed in ‘Great Expectations’. It is heartening to see that so many of the great expectations have been fulfilled.”
Someone who was involved with IATEFL Poland at its first conference in Karniowice is none other than Grenville Yeo, famous for his excellent summer school in Devon, SOL, which was formed in 1991, in response to the surge in demand for English language teaching in Eastern and Central Europe, and offered basic rates for course attendees. This is what Grenville wrote about IATEFL Poland.
G.Y.: ”I was actually at the first conference in Karniowice, and the following year in Kraków, and was very much introduced to Poland by Jim Wingate, who became our regular summer trainer on the summer courses we offered in Devon. Mark (Andrews) has since taken over that responsibility. Between us and our co-ordinators in Poland, we have been present in all but 2 or 3 of IATEFL Poland’s conferences.
It is hard to remember details of most conferences, but one or two early ones stand out. I recall the draught by the door in the 2000 conference in Kraków, the elevated exhibition area of the Radom conference in 2004, and the ability to fly direct from Bristol to Poznań in 2006!
I was always aware of the money that some of the publishers were able to put into their stands, when we had our tiny, little table, and a few small posters. This was never more apparent than in Warsaw in 2001, when Longman’s (now Pearson) built a huge stage with hundreds of blue balloons for the evening concert by a very well-known singer, (Maryla Rodowicz), who ‘cost a bomb’ from what one gathered!
No wonder most teachers walked past our conference table, but later on, with us offering a free teacher’s course in Devon, and Anna Rogalewicz-Gałucka encouraging teachers that what we offered was different and valuable for anyone learning English, we made some progress.
I would like to think we can be with you in 2022, and carry on from where we left off in March last year, once the lockdown came. Meanwhile, SOL will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in September this year!
Very best wishes for your Anniversary!”
Here’s a tribute from an ex-President of IATEFL World, Marjorie Rosenberg, who has only visited Poland in more recent years.
M.R.: “I had the honour and privilege of being invited to give a plenary, and to attend 2 IATEFL Poland conferences, one in Kraków, and one in Szczecin, as well as an IATEFL BESIG conference in Lublin. It was at IATEFL Poland that I became acquainted with the excellent Associate programme, and got to meet reps from other TAs, an initiative I find to be an excellent way of bringing people together and sharing experiences. The conferences were well-organised and offered a wide variety of talks, providing information and ideas to attendees from a broad spectrum of English-teaching situations. I hope to be able to attend another conference in future.”
From Marjorie, let us move onto another well-known character, who is based in Prague. He runs an Educational Theatre Group – yes, you guessed it – David Fisher.
D.F.: “The Bear Educational Theatre first came to an IATEFL Poland Conference in 2010 - (Bydgoszcz) - and has returned every year since. Poland has come to represent a sizeable chunk of the life of the Theatre Group, and IATEFL Poland has been a big part of that. I am especially grateful for the support and friendship of Anna Rogalewicz-Gałucka, and Peter and Asha Whiley. I have great memories of each of the very well-organised conferences, and have been especially proud to perform evening shows, and to run workshops for the students participating in the public speaking competitions. I hope the Bear can continue its great relationship with IATEFL Poland, and be a part of many more conferences! Congratulations on the Anniversary!”
Next, on our distinguished list of supporters, is a former President of TESOL France, a regular at our conferences, the delightful Debbie West, who will be presenting at this year’s event, on the Saturday afternoon.
D.W.: I, Debbie West, have had the pleasure of being connected personally to IATEFL Poland for 11 years, if my recollection is correct. (Yes, you came with me to Bydgoszcz, from the airport in Warsaw in 2010 – Ed.).
A member of TESOL France, we have been partners, since at least the time I have been involved. Beth Cagnol connected me with IATEFL Poland. I have also had the privilege of being a presenter at the annual conferences, and a judge at the National Speaking Contests, that have been taking place in the last few years, which always provides great pleasure to see and hear the presentations of the young people competing.
IATEFL Poland has had a positive effect on TESOL France, as both associations have been able to give to each other’s membership. The board and its members have also assisted in helping TESOL France grow, as well as see other ways of doing things and being leaders. IATEFL Poland has also become a TESOL International member, and so being a leader in TESOL International, it has been a joy having their presence and participation at the annual conference.
On the 30th Anniversary of IATEFL Poland, I would like to congratulate you on the ways in which you are continually building teachers and leaders in the field of ELT. Congratulations for all you do.
Finally, in this edition, we come to the sixth tribute, which comes from Evan Frendo, who is based in Berlin.
E.F.: First of all, many congratulations to IATEFL Poland for reaching its Pearl Anniversary. Although I am not based in Poland, I have been coming to IATEFL Poland events, off and on for the last 20 years, and have never ceased to be amazed at the enthusiasm, friendliness, and professionalism, that is always present. It is a Polish organisation, but it is also very much an international one, too, and part of the huge family of EFL teachers worldwide. I have been made very welcome at large annual conferences from Wrocław to Warsaw, and from Łódż to Szczecin, smaller IATEFL Poland BESIG events, in places like Rzeszów and Kraków, and enjoyed the company of my IATEFL Poland friends and colleagues at countless publisher events, teacher-training workshops, international conferences in other countries, as well as private visits. Above all, Polish hospitality has allowed me to visit some wonderful places, experience great food, and suffer under the influence of too much alcohol. In that spirit, I raise my glass to IATEFL Poland, and wish the organisation all the very best for the next 30 years and beyond!
Ed: Thank-you, Evan, for such a heart-warming tribute. In fact, we had so many tributes paid, that there was not enough room for all of them in this edition. So, look out for more tributes in the next issue of the E-Bulletin. Whilst the Association can be professional and helpful, as well as effective, it does need its members to contribute to its overall success, and your friendship and enthusiasm are two glowing characteristics to be highlighted in these tributes. So, a big thank-you to you, our members for being great IATEFLers!