California's 41st Annual CATESOL State Conference is taking place this weekend, April 22-25 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. This is a site easily accessible from the San Jose International Airport, with a shuttle available to ferry conference-goers back and forth. The theme of this year's gathering is “Teaching and Learning in a Global Community”, meant to inspire global perspectives around current teaching methods and practices. As arbiters between international cultures, ESL professionals will be reminded of the need to balance diverse stances, traditions, and learning styles in this aim. The latest on a diverse range of topics in English language teaching will be on offer this year through interesting plenary sessions, hands-on workshops, and panel discussions.

While TESOL conferences are great for exploring what's new in the field, it's also a wonderful time for professional networking. This year's gathering should be no slouch, with networking being facilitated on two fronts. There is a rich array of casual, non-ESL related activities planned for attendees, such as yoga and dance classes, card games, a comedy show and a movie night. These events are to be free and fun, with refreshments! This is a perfect chance to let off some steam after a long day of professional discussion and networking, and to enjoy the company of our peers. This year's conference will also provide extra emphasis on reaching out to those ESL professionals who have been hit with difficult times by the recent economic downturn through reduced or eliminated teaching hours. To keep the proceedings more relevant for these colleagues, the conference organizers are stressing several panels that address the needs of job-seekers, both internationally and here in the United States. No CATESOL Conference would be complete without the excellent Job Fair, which will be available this year. Make sure to bring your resume!

Of particular note this year will be the conference's Electronic Village, a forum for exploring the newest frontiers in digital technology and their applications to language teaching. Visitors will be able to learn about leveraging these resources via product demonstrations, interactive presentations, and hands-on workshops. There will also be specific events geared around real ESL professionals sharing how the best leverage certain websites and software programs in their classrooms in creative and clever ways. These sessions are meant to be interactive, with participant input and lots of question asking. This folds in nicely with CATESOL's Material Swap, an online forum that allows working professionals to post their best ideas and should become a fun and interesting resource for teachers.

In many ways, the 2010 CATESOL Conference in Santa Clara should be an exciting event for all English language teaching professionals. Total immersion in the latest technologies and teaching practices going on right now is available to all attendees. Resources are on offer to those of us seeking work in these harder economic times. And almost critically, there are fun and interactive social gatherings to allow us to come together as peers and colleagues and enjoy each other's company.