IATEFL Chile, from the beginning
An Impressionistic Recollection

The idea of launching the Chilean Chapter of IATEFL “IATEFL Chile” had been discussed by the British Council and Chilean British Cultural Institute for some time. However, at a meeting held during the 4th Latin American British Institutes Conference (LABCI 4), in Santiago in 1991, attended by Chilean EFL personalities of the time and Dr. Roger Bowers (British Council, UK) and Adrian Underhill (IATEFL, UK) we finally managed to get our IATEFL act together and form a Steering Committee to define an action plan.

Soon after that, Miriam Rabinovich, ICBC Santiago and María Isabel Bizama, then BC English Language Officer, launched IATEFL by inviting Liliana Baltra, Academic Director of the Chilean North American Institute, Santiago to join them in a joint venture.

This initial committee invited university ELT Departments to a meeting where they were informed of this idea and given details of this worldwide organization, which we felt, would help to form links for the support and development of English language teaching and professionals in Chile. A provisional Organizing Committee was formed then and the first IATEFL Conference was planned for 1992.

Miriam says ” The original idea was networking and bringing together everybody related with EFL, to share EFL experiences and expertise in an open and non-competitive way. So, we invited EFL teachers from all walks of academic life – including wannabe teachers, translators, EFL students and teachers-in-training, bookshops, you name it. We were amazed at the response.”

That same year there were a series of meetings at the British Council, and an Executive Committee was formed with Miriam Rabinovich (British Institute) as Chair, María Isabel Bizama (British Council) as Vice-Chair, Liliana Baltra (North-American Institute) as Director, Rosalba Enríquez (Association of British Schools in Chile) as Secretary. The late Moyra Varela who represented the bookshops and private language institutes then joined us.

In 1992, we held our first Conference, with the sponsorship of local EFL institutions and bookshops on the premises of Universidad Educares. It was a two-day event, with consecutive presentations by local talent and one UK guest speaker, Jane Willis. Some 200 people attended this event, twice as many as we had originally expected and catered for. The second Conference was also held at Universidad Educares.

Because of the numbers, later on we moved to premises kindly provided by the Corporación Cultural de Las Condes, and we were there for another two Conferences. Some UK-based speakers of yesteryear were Richard Rossner, Adrian Underhill, Jeremy Harmer, Herbert Puchta and, many others.

In these conferences the support of the main Santiago booksellers such as Books and Bits, Eurotext, Libreria Inglesa and lately Special Book Services and of publishers such as Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Pearson, Richmond-Santillana and other British and American publishers represented in Chile has been fundamental to their success.  Their representatives on the committee in the person of Maritza Khebian, Cecilia Gomez and others put in a great deal of work to make things run smoothly.

In order to keep more closely in touch with its members and keep them informed of new activities IATEFL- CHILE began publishing a Newsletter in 1996 under the direction of Tony Adams. The circulation list was about 950 people.  The cover of the first issue was a photograph of the Diego Portales building and the message was obvious: we have grown. Liliana Baltra, and a group of collaborators, which included Paty Angoy, Isabel Ambler, Cecilia Gomez and Marcela Moya, among others, edited the second issue as well as the next five.

The enthusiasm and dedication of Liliana Baltra as Editor of the newsletter plus a great deal of effort from the editorial committee turned the IATEFL- CHILE Newsletter into a proper magazine with articles sent from British and American professionals. It also included papers and collaborations from many Chilean teachers and professors

The Newsletter was mainly financed through advertising.  Unfortunately this income was seriously affected by the worsening of the economic situation in the late 90’s and the venture had to be discontinued.

Work on formulating the statutes of IATEFL-CHILE started in 1997 under the presidency of María Isabel Bizama.  One of the important features of the statutes was the creation of four “Founding Member” members of the committee.  These are the British Council, The Chilean British Cultural Institute, the North American Chilean Cultural Institute and the Association of British Schools in Chile.

It was felt that these institutional members, with very diverse interests, would avoid the association taking a narrow view of it’s role and also ensure its continuity despite the possible varying enthusiasm of the committee.

The proposed statutes were presented to the members present at the 1998 conference.  For various reasons the path to obtaining legal recognition (personería jurídica) was far longer than anticipated.  It had been hoped that they would be ready for the conference in 2000.  When this was not the case it was decided not to hold elections in the conference as, we thought, they would only have to be repeated shortly once the statutes were approved.  After many delays the Committee had to transfer the responsibility for the approval of the statutes to a new lawyer and the statutes were finally approved in 2002. This enabled the Association to take out “personería jurídica”.  This very important step enabled IATEFL-CHILE to become more independent from the institutions that support it and to set up its own financial structure.

The conference in 2000 followed the familiar trend in having more delegates and more speakers than the previous one with a total of over 650 people attending.  There were speakers from many countries and despite some hiccups in the registration process the conference went very well.  This was due to the very great effort made by every member of the committee.   One of the features of the 2000 conference was the number of delegates who were nominated for scholarships for study stays in England of varying lengths of time.

The committee felt that IATEFL-CHILE had more of a role to play in the development of English teaching in all its aspects than a biannual conference and a Newsletter.  With this in mind the first regional conference was organised in October 2000.  After her very warm reception at the 6th.IATEFL Conference Sheelagh Deller was invited back to give seminars in Santiago, la Serena and Arica.  The idea was that the seminars would be a meaningful INSET experience and not the brief talk that takes place in a conference.  We were able to carry this out successfully in Santiago and La Serena but unfortunately the visit to Arica had to be cancelled.  The seminar was on SENCE.  A lot was learned at that time and we decided to invite Seth Lindstromberg to Chile to carry out seminars in Santiago, Viña del Mar, Concepción and Valdivia in April 2001.  This tour was successful and showed what can be achieved with this type of initiative.

IATEFL-CHILE’s mission statement was created in 2002 and reflects the broad intentions of the Association.

IATEFL-Chile’s Mission is to promote continuing professional development to achieve the effective teaching and learning of English in Chile, and foster networking within the English teaching community.

The first National Conference took place at the Catholic University (Campus San Joaquin) during winter break in July 2003. It was inaugurated by the Minister of Education, Sergio Bitar and attended by Horacio Walker, Director of the Inglés Abre Puertas programme.  There were many talks and workshops as well as an exhibition.  Over 200 hundred people attended and it was a great success.

The British Council has hosted the web page for IATEFL-CHILE since 1996 and this has been a significant means of disseminating information about events.  You are now reading this on our own web site, which will bring a greater sense of identity to the Association.

Defining IATEFL-CHILE membership has always been a bit difficult.  For a long time those people who attended the conference were considered the members at that time and were asked to vote for the new committees during the meeting held as part of the conference.  Very few, if any members renewed their membership in the years between the conferences.  For this reason, while waiting for the statutes to be approved, and to keep as many people as possible in contact with IATEFL, the committee considered anyone who had been to an IATEFL-CHILE conference or seminar a member. This was clearly not a satisfactory way to proceed the committee has tried various ways of recruiting a membership more permanent in its commitment and this remains an important goal.

To this end various programmes of talks and workshops have been organised but attendance was disappointing and they were not continued.

As the conferences and the other IATEFL activities grew so did the work involved.  For the 6th conference María Isabel Bizama was taken on as Conference Programme Co-ordinator, she repeated this role for the 7th conference as well.  Once the conference was over and we embarked on a continuing series of activities it was essential to have a paid part-time assistant to help in running the association in such matters as co-ordinating seminars, answering mail, organising maintaining the database, preparing mailings, etc. María Isabel was able to fill this role for some months and then Liliana Baltra, took over this role for a lengthy period, she was followed by María Teresa Hurel and María Inés Furst.

IATEFL-CHILE does not have a fixed office. For a long time, under the presidencies of Miriam Rabinovich and María Isabel Bizama the British Council acted as the IATEFL-CHILE office and for five years this role was carried out by the Educational Centre of the Association of British Schools in Chile when Nigel Blackburn was President.  Later, under Virginia Pichilaf’s presidency it was run from the ICBC branch in Darío Urzua.  When the statutes were approved it was necessary to have an official address and the Association of British Schools in Chile offered theirs at Juan Montalvo 80, Las Condes.

IATEFL-CHILE managed to get itself on a firm financial footing that has enabled it to carry out ventures with financial risk such as the Newsletter and the Regional Seminars through the realistic pricing of the conferences, both to delegates and exhibitors, with respect to the value of the event and secondly the continuing financial support of the British Council which over the years has contributed very generously to IATEFL-CHILE by sponsoring speakers to our conferences.  We are very grateful for this generous contribution to EFL in Chile.  We must also mention the continued support of the other founding members the Chilean British Cultural Institute and the North American Cultural Institute

In 2002 the British Council sponsored the attendance of Virginia Pichilaf and Nigel Blackburn to the ELTeCS regional Workshop, “Developing Effective Teachers’ Associations”, in Lima, Peru.  This very valuable experience was repeated in 2004 when Carolina Bañados and Mary Jane Abrahams attended the Seminar on Teachers Associations in Bournemouth UK in June 2004

Many people have been on the IATEFL – CHILE committee over the years.  They have contributed a really significant amount of their time, effort and enthusiasm to the Association.  They have not let the idea die and, in 2004, have put the Association in a position to play a significant role in the current effort for Chile to become a country with a strong international second language in a relatively short period of time.

Past Presidents

Miriam Rabinovich        1991 –1995
Maira Isabel Bizama     1995 – 1997
Tony Adams                 1998
Nigel Blackburn            1998 – 2001
Virginia Pichilaf             2001 – 2004
Claudia Raffo                2004 – 2006

Cecilia Gómez              2006 – 2008

Laurie Henderson         2009 – 2011

Past committee members, in alphabetical order:

  • Tony Adams
  • Isabel Ambler
  • Patricia Angoy
  • Liliana Baltra
  • Carolina Bañados
  • Gertrud Bargsted
  • María Isabel Bizama
  • Nigel Blackburn
  • Betsy Davis
  • Rosalba Enríquez
  • Eliana Guastavino
  • Eric Hamilton
  • Thom Kiddle
  • Paula Julian
  • Maritza Khebian
  • John Knagg
  • Marcela Moya
  • Virginia Pichilaf
  • Adriana Pineda
  • Miriam Rabinovich
  • José Sepúlveda
  • David Stokes
  • Moira Varela
  • Eduardo Vásquez


This attempt to write a history of IATEFL Chile has been contributed to by:- Liliana Baltra, Carolina Bañados, María Isabel Bizama, Nigel Blackburn, and Miriam Rabinovich

Please let the committee know if there are any errors or omissions so that they can be corrected.  Anecdotes and recollections are most welcome!