Four faculty members from Bethlehem University’s English Department, namely Ms. Paola Handal, Mr. Layth Awwad, Ms. Maram Daboub, and Dr. Anita Bright, actively participated in the NILETESOL 2024 conference in Cairo, Egypt held on January 23-24. The conference, hosted at the American University of Cairo, brought together over 3000 English educators from 30 different countries.

Ms. Paola Handal and Ms. Maram Daboub jointly presented on the topic “Motivating Palestinian Teacher Candidates: Elevating English Language Proficiency through Inquiry-Based Learning.” In their session, they explored what happens when teacher educators engage in inquiry-based learning with teacher candidates whose entire educational experience has been focused on memorization and tests. Built around decolonizing methodologies, this English for Specific Purposes work takes place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, focusing on the pedagogical shifts implemented by course instructors.

Mr. Layth Awwad shared insights into “Fostering Palestinian Students Autonomy Through Multimodal Instagram Poetry in EFL Education.” In summary, Mr. Awwad’s presentation explored what unfolds when English learners self-publish Instagram poetry as part of their coursework. Palestinian university learners and teachers leveraged Instagram’s multimodal environment as a means to foster an agentic poetic community, empowered to explore taboo topics, critically reflect on internalized societal masks, and re-symbolize their cultural identities.

Dr. Anita Bright co-facilitated two workshops.The first, titled “Mirror, mirror, on the wall: Centering identity in language learning,” focused on guiding participants to discover ways teacher and learner identities inform and shape our educational practices. In this interactive workshop, Dr. Bright and her colleague, English Language Fellow Mary Goodrich (Jordanian University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan), facilitated three fun, introspective, ready-to-use, highly adaptable activities, intended to create deeper understandings of ourselves as educators and of our students.

Dr. Bright co-facilitated a second workshop with Fulbright Scholar Dr. Jennifer Green of Al-Balqa Applied University in Amman, Jordan, titled, “Using wordless Books to Engage and Empower Language Learners.” With a focus on supporting learners of all ages as they engaged with wordless books, Drs. Bright and Green guided participants through exploring various texts, and generating creative ways to scaffold instruction for a range of students. 

Beyond their presentations, the faculty members actively participated in various workshops during the conference, gaining valuable insights that they plan to implement in their classrooms. Moreover, the four faculty members had the unique opportunity to meet with the renowned Egyptian novelist, Ms. Ahdaf Soueif, at her home in Cairo. During this meeting, they engaged in discussions about the challenges faced in Palestine, fostering a cross-cultural exchange of ideas and experiences. 

This conference not only served as a platform for sharing innovative teaching methods but also facilitated networking and collaboration among educators from diverse backgrounds.