Distinguished Contribution Award

2021 Distinguished Contribution Award Recipients

Shirley Graham

Shirley started her career in 1994 as an ESL teacher overseas and then in Vancouver. She has been certified by TESL Ontario since 2003, and has been the Education Officer for ESL/LINC/LBS at the Ottawa-Carleton DSB since May 2010 and concurrently launched the PBLA pilot as well as being appointed to participate on the CLARS advisory committee.

As the Education Officer of ESL, LINC and LBS in the Department of Continuing Education, she learned about the importance of the transition opportunities for newcomers from ESL/LINC to LBS and then on to higher education, or to enter the workplace. As the lead school board in implementing PBLA, she recognized the validity of PBLA for ESL and LINC program quality assurance. As a participant on the CLARS advisory committee she was part of a process that saw the alliance of the provincial and federal governments in an assessment system that benefitted newcomers as well as LINC and ESL programs. But most importantly, she met other program managers and key stakeholders from across Ontario that allowed for rich discussion and debate regarding programming to enhance effectiveness and efficiency of language delivery aligned to the CLB. These connections have been instrumental in her personal growth as a program leader. She was active on the Board of Directors of CESBA for 5 years and served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for 3 of those years. Since 2005, Shirley has had the honour of being on the Algonquin College TESL/FL Advisory Board. 

Prior to her current role with the OCDSB, she was the project manager at World Skills Inc. where she implemented an ELT project, the Workplace Language Training Program that continues to this day. While in that role, she also developed the ELT for Entrepreneurs curriculum and oversaw the development of 8 other ELT curricula. During this time, Shirley was trained as a CLBPT Language Assessor. This was another feather in her cap in understanding this vital first step in newcomer integration.

In the area of curriculum development, a 2013 collaboration with Ottawa Public Health led to the development of a series of 27 lesson plans developed by LINC instructors, including several OCDSB staff, to mitigate the decline of newcomer health. In this same vein, she also engaged with the Algonquin College TESL/FL Program, specifically with the students of the Curriculum Development course, to develop first drafts of curricula including ESL for the Construction Trades, ESL for Active Living and more. Most recently, Shirley led a team from the OCDSB that developed the ESL for Adults with a Developmental Disability curriculum.

Shirley’s greatest endeavor has been in the area of partnership building with other community leaders in Ottawa working collectively to ensure success for shared clients.

James Papple

James Papple is currently an Associate Director at York University’s English Language Institute, who has over 20 years’ experience as an EAP educator. During that time he has demonstrated a commitment to the field and is active in a variety of English Language Teaching communities.  

Over the course of his career, James has volunteered with TESL Ontario to support professional development in Ontario, Canada, and internationally.  He first joined TESL Niagara as an Affiliate Representative and shortly after that as Chair.  Additionally, he was Chair of the TESL Ontario Board of Directors from 2015-2017.  He is the current co-chair of TESL Ontario’s College and University Committee, which has supported the return of TESL Ontario’s Research Symposium at this year's conference.  

After his time as Chair of the Board of TESL Ontario, James joined TESOL International’s Affiliate Network and Professional Council (ANPC) to extend the community building that had started with TESL Ontario.  He is currently Chair of the ANPC where he helps to support TESL/TESOL affiliates to collaborate and connect with one another. He also serves on the Board for the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks, which supports a common and uniting framework across the country.

James has co-authored Academic Inquiry 2 and wrote the workbook to the Culture Link series: O Canada, both from Oxford University Press Canada.  He has also been a reviewer of texts for several publishers and a reviewer for TESL Ontario, and TESOL International as well as for the BC TEAL journal, TESL Canada Journal, and the Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics.

James is excited to be currently serving as a new membership coach with TESOL International, helping to give back to the teachers and organizations that have given so much to him.


Nominations for the Distinguised Contribution Award are accepted in the spring/summer each year and winners will be presented with their awards at the TESL Ontario Annual Conference each fall.