ETAS was founded in 1983 by four teacher-trainers, Miriam (Mimi) Bryant, Heather Murray, Margaret Niethammer, and Silvia Dingwall. Under the guidance of the first President, Mimi Bryant, the first ETAS newsletter and first convention were also planned and realized. This gave ETAS a very good start, and within two years it grew nearly 500% from 70 people meeting in a classroom in Zurich to 340 members meeting in 16 local branches all over the country.
The ETAS organisation offers local support all over Switzerland. Ambassadors, formerly known as Regional Coordinators (RCs), offer events and other networking opportunities with their regions or online. ETAS also currently boasts 8 Special Interest Groups (SIGs) led by SIG Ambassadors that offer support within a wide range of specialist areas, including business, learning technologies, and young learners. Another team providing support through printed matter and other resources is the Publications Team.
The Executive Committee, elected by the membership, coordinates activities and tends to association business on a national level. All these bodies are supported by a paid part-time administrator at the ETAS office in Geneva.
As an Associate of IATEFL, ETAS official representatives and other members attend the annual IATEFL Conference in the U.K. Through the broader scheme, ETAS members, like those of other associations, have the opportunity to become individual members of IATEFL at a reduced rate.
From the beginning, a primary focus has been on providing training and professional development opportunities for teachers of English. Regular workshops and other events are organised on a local level throughout the year, and national events take place twice a year. Collaboration with English Language Teaching (ELT) publishers began early, and now ETAS events attract world-class speakers in the EFL field such as Catherine Walter, Jeremy Harmer, David Graddol, Penny Ur, Scott Thornbury, Michael Swan, David Crystal, Sarah Mercer, Carole Robinson, and many others.
ETAS also provides resources for teachers who are thinking of relocating to Switzerland and/or others who are contemplating entering the field. Articles and documents with links to relevant Swiss websites for further information can be found under the Resources tab.
As ETAS is looking toward the future, participants attending the 2017 Professional Development Day Conference were asked what their vision for ETAS is and/or what they most like about ETAS. Their views can be found in a short three-minute video on ETAS YouTube Channel.
Media and Communications
ETAS has regularly produced publications, firstly in print and now through electronic media. In addition to information on the organisation itself, these publications contain practical and theoretical articles on teaching and language. Book reviews underscore the close relationship with publishing houses. The ETAS Journal, the major print publication, now appears two times a year. In 2000, ETAS launched its first website, which was supplemented by a blog and forum, and currently by twitter, facebook, and and an electronic newsletter which is sent out to members on a monthly basis. Email has replaced paper and to some extent even the telephone as the major means of communication within the organisation.
Working conditions for English teachers
Although by no means a trade union for English teachers – and from the early days, the association has taken great care not to be labelled as such – ETAS has also worked to improve working conditions for English teachers in Switzerland. A booklet explaining the legal situation for teachers of English in Switzerland was one of the early products, and for a time and pension and loss-of-earnings insurance was organized and offered, too. These endeavors demonstrated ETAS’ commitment to assisting teachers who were underinsured and often lacked relevant information which affected their specific needs.
ETAS also supports educational work outside of Switzerland. These Teacher-to-Teacher Projects have been undertaken and supported over the years in different countries such as, Romania, India, and Zimbabwe, and Myanmar.