Academic Programs


Tuition & Financial Aid

Student Experience

Cornerstone UniversityInnovations in Language Learning: Adapting to Diverse Needs

2024 ESL Conference

Join us on April 13, 2024, for the 22nd annual Cornerstone ESL conference, where we delve into the dynamic realm of language education with the theme ‘Innovations in Language Learning: Adapting to Diverse Needs.’ This event will be a convergence of leaders, educators, and volunteers passionate about ESL and special education.

Immerse yourself in enlightening sessions that explore approaches and technologies designed to meet the diverse needs of language learners. From discussions on the integration of adaptive technologies to the gamification of learning experiences and the unveiling of creative teaching methods, this conference aims to empower attendees with the tools to engage learners with varying linguistic and learning needs. Be part of this experience as we collectively pave the way for a more effective language education landscape in our churches and schools.


Register for the ESL Conference at Cornerstone today! This conference is designed to empower you and equip you with resources for teaching ESL, as well as connect you with other ESL learners, educators and ministry leaders in our community.

What Can You Expect?

At the conference, you can expect to network with other ESL professionals in our community. You’ll also hear from skilled TESOL professionals and learn skills that will strengthen your commitment to lasting transformation through powerful and dynamic relationships.


Network With Other Professionals

West Michigan is home to many ESL learners, teachers and ministry leaders. This conference is an opportunity to meet and connect with other ESL professionals in the area.


Strengthen Your Craft

The ESL Conference is an opportunity for you to be refreshed and reinvigorated in God’s calling for your life. Our hope is that this conference reignites your passion for teaching and learning.


Gain More Resources

All conference attendees will receive additional resources they can bring with them back into their ministry, classroom and everyday life.

Conference Information
and Resources

Plenary Speakers

Peter Hoffman, Michigan State University

Peter Hoffman was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is a graduate of Cornerstone University and earned his M.A. TESOL at Michigan State University. He taught English for three years at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Shiga, Japan. In 1992, Peter and his family moved to New York City, where they lived in Elmhurst, Queens – a neighborhood described by National Geographic magazine as the most ethnically diverse community in the world. For the next 17 years, Peter taught ESL at the City University of New York. In his free time, Peter likes to be with his family, take long walks, play chess, read, and sometimes just to sit and think (which his wife calls doing nothing).

Dr. Akiko Ota, Governor’s State University

Dr. Ota earned an EdD in Educational Leadership from Portland State University. She is the Intensive English Language Program Director at Governor’s State University (University Park, Illinois). She also serves as instructional faculty for the MA TESOL program at Cornerstone University.

ESL Conference Sessions Descriptions: 2024

Teaching as a Spiritual Activity [Peter Hoffman, Michigan State University]

Grounded in 35 years of experience teaching English in public universities, this presentation will invite participants to reflect on their own approach to teaching – not so much what we do in the classroom, but how we go about doing what we do – teachers as whole people made in the image of God encountering students as whole people made in the image of God.

Teaching Adult English as Second or Other Language Learners – Adult Learning Theories Perspectives [Akiko Ota, Governor’s State University]

Many of the TESOL professionals who teach adults at post-secondary and/or higher education receive their trainings in the disciplines of second language acquisition, linguistics/applied linguistics, or TESOL, etc. However, adult learning theories, though highly applicable to our adult ESOL students, are not necessarily known. Often the professionals learn those adult education learning theories by experience and figuring it out on their own. This session presents the overview of the major adult learning theories and applications to teaching adult ESOL students. This session also helps those who works K-12 but plans for professional development sessions using adult learning theories.

Discussion about NNESTs (Nonnative English speaking Teachers) [Akiko Ota, Governor’s State University]

TESOL NNEST (Nonnative English-Speaking Teachers) Interest Section has been in place more than fifteen years.

Having been a former adult and international ESL student who became a TESOL professional, the presenter hopes to have an opportunity to share her own stories of transitioning from a learner to a teacher, then an administrator while being an NNEST.

While the presenter uses her journey as an example to touch critical issues/discussion points for all the TESOL professionals need to be aware and practice, audience will be encouraged to share their experiences, discuss challenges and benefits of NNEST colleagues, and/or share future takeaways to help strengthen TESOL field with both native/nonnative colleagues.

ESL, SLD, MTSS, LRE ???: Deciphering the supports for student success [Pamela George, Cornerstone University & Amy Barto, Aquinas College]

Explore ‘Deciphering the Supports for Student Success: ESL, SLD, MTSS, LRE—a session focusing on collaborative strategies for supporting diverse learners. Learn to combine expertise, practice ethical decision-making, and employ high-leverage educational practices. Receive a prep sheet to ensure meaningful collaboration, all aimed at enhancing student success through unity and informed action.

Leveraging Corpus Linguistics in ESL Instruction: Practical Techniques and Applications [Michael Pasquale, Cornerstone University]

Explore effective corpus linguistics application in ESL classrooms, showcasing specific techniques: corpus data for needs analysis, authentic material design, domain-specific vocabulary activities, and data-driven language tasks. Gain practical examples and pedagogical strategies to enhance ESL instruction and meet learners’ linguistic needs.


Session Speakers

Michael Pasquale, Cornerstone University

Dr. Pasquale is professor of linguistics and director of the MA TESOL program at Cornerstone University. He also trained English teachers and taught ESL for the Detroit Tigers Baseball Club (MLB) for 7 years. His specialization is on the interaction between sociolinguistics and second language acquisition. His current research area focuses on corpus linguistics and second language acquisition. He was a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the Universidad Nacional Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo (Huaraz, Peru).

Pamela George, Cornerstone University

Dr. George is an education professor at Cornerstone University. She is renowned for her expertise in training educators to handle the challenges of diverse classrooms. Her valuable contributions to educational task forces at federal, state, and local levels highlight her crucial role in developing inclusive educational policies and practices worldwide.

Amy Barto, Aquinas College

Amy Barto is a Visiting professor of education at Aquinas College. Currently, Amy serves as the President of LDA of Michigan and on the Executive Committee of the Michigan Special Education Advisory Committee. As a Learning Disabilities Specialist, Amy has advocated for families and students with disabilities and other barriers at the local, state, and federal level for close to thirty years.

Brian Pickerd, Cornerstone University

Brian Pickerd is an instructor of languages (German and French) and a teacher trainer at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also teaches German and French at Rockford High School in Rockford, Michigan. Brian earned a master’s degree from Aquinas College in education with a focus on language acquisition and bachelor’s degrees in German, English, French and international studies. His book Scattering Seed in Teaching was published by Wipf & Stock in 2016.

Campus Map and Parking

The 2024 ESL Conference will be held at Cornerstone Theological Seminary on the campus of Cornerstone University. GRTS is building 8 on the campus map.

Download Campus Map (PDF)

Patricia Pickens


MON - FRI: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
SAT & SUN: Closed

Want to Learn More About CU?

Connect With CU