In this series of three posts, we ask our new committee members to share their thoughts about why they chose to join the MaWSIG committee. The second post comes in the form of an interview with Heather Buchanan, Joint Events Coordinator (and soon-to-be MaWSIG Coordinator).

Heather, why did you join MaWSIG?

MaWSIG was founded back in 2013, when I was writing part-time for the Navigate series (Oxford University Press), and teaching an MA module in materials development, so the launch couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’d been attending the IATEFL conference more or less every year since about 1995, and looked forward to it every year for a professional refresh and catch-up with old colleagues and friends. The more I went to the annual conference (and presented there), the more I came to realise how much I was learning from it. I was delighted when MaWSIG started up, because it meant there would be opportunities to get to know more like-minded people and, of course, deepen my knowledge of materials.

As a MaWSIG member, I’ve had the pleasure of attending nearly all the PCEs, which are always a fantastic start to the annual conference. Along with my long-standing friend and partner-in-crime, Julie Norton, I’ve given presentations at a range of events, including the PCE, the Showcase days and one-day MaWSIG events. I also spoke at a MaWSIG/ReSIG webinar a couple of years ago. Looking back, I can see that I started out learning from others, but was then able to make contributions to the events myself, which was rewarding. The whole experience has been enriching for me – as well as being fun. There is always a lot of laughter at MaWSIG events, and I always leave them feeling challenged, inspired, and part of a friendly and supportive community.

Why did you join the MaWSIG committee?

I’d been thinking about volunteering for IATEFL for a few years. I’ve benefited so much from being part of IATEFL, and then the MaWSIG community, that I decided it was time to step up my involvement, partly because it was time to give something back, but also because I know that the more you put in, the more you get out. I started looking out for vacancies, and when the Joint MaWSIG Events Coordinator role came up, I decided this was my opportunity. I already knew some of the committee members, and so I knew it would be fun. Additionally, I’ve organised various professional development events before, such as small-scale conferences and webinars, so I had some experience to draw on.

What’s it like being a MaWSIG committee member?

I’ve been a committee member since last summer, and my main achievement to date has been heading up the organisation of the ‘festive get-together’ that we held on Zoom in December. I was strangely nervous, but the rest of the team were incredibly reassuring and supportive.

The work comes in fits and starts, but we are always very busy around the time of an event – making sure everything is carefully planned, liaising with speakers, doing technical practices, publicising the event, and so on. Obviously, the main highlights of our year are the PCE and the main IATEFL conference, so a lot of work goes into planning these. This year, I think everyone is excited to be going to a face-to-face conference again, and the line-up at our PCE in Belfast is fantastic. I can’t wait!

How do you feel about taking over as MaWSIG Coordinator?

Help! What have I agreed to? I probably feel like many people who take over this kind of role – a mixture of excitement and trepidation. But although I am relatively new to the committee, I know I’ll be fine with the support of the wonderful MaWSIG committee behind me.

MaWSIG has always done a great job of including voices from different materials writing roles, practical skills development, perspectives on materials for different purposes, and consideration of underlying principles and related research. There’s also the all-important networking that we all benefit from. I don’t see why any of that should change, but we will look for new ways to stay fresh. I am looking forward to taking over the role in May, and finding out from our members what they would like from MaWSIG in the coming months and years. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Heather Buchanan is a lecturer in language education at the University of York, where she teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students taking courses in Education and TESOL. She has many years of experience leading MA courses in English Language Teaching, as well as training and assessing for Cambridge CELTA and DELTA. In addition to her teacher training and education work, Heather has co-written materials for Chinese schools and Ethiopian teachers, and is co-author of Navigate B1+ (Oxford University Press). She is interested in all things materials, particularly the dynamic interplay between theory and practice, having recently co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Materials Development for Language Teaching with Julie Norton.