Teacher Feature #3

Name: Cynthia T. Luna

Nationality: Swiss, American, Trinidadian cyn pic

How long have you been teaching? 

I started teaching formally in September 2012. Once started, I realized that I have been teaching in one way or another all my life.

What are you teaching?

I teach mainly Business English to young international undergraduates from all over the world. In February, I also started teaching Communication Skills to the same students in their second semester.

What certifications do you have?

I have an M.Sc. in Communications (Public Relations) and a Bachelor’s degree in French language and literature. I also have a professional interest in the written word, as well as an interest in the personal growth that takes place when you realize that you are no longer translating from your mother tongue into a new language, you are actually thinking in it! (I’m also in the process of learning German–the language of my new home.)

How did you get into teaching English?

Rather by chance. I needed to find a way to return to Switzerland for personal reasons and stumbled upon an ad for a part-time English teacher. One thing led to another.

Where are you currently working? What kind of contract are you working under? How long have you been working there?

SBS-Swiss Business School in Kloten-Zurich hired me to teach English to first-year undergraduates as a Freelance Instructor. It’s part of their academic credo to have instructors with real-world experience impart their experience and knowledge to young people. The idea is that instructors keep their day job, while teaching one or two two-hour classes per week. Contracts are up for renewal right before the beginning of each semester. I’ve been with SBS since September 2012 and just started teaching Spring semester courses in February 2013.

Where else have you worked?

I have traveled quite a bit around the United States. When I lived in Washington, D.C., I worked for a few advocacy organizations where I provided publicity and PR support for initiatives that were important to me. After a few years, I also moved to the island of Maui (Hawaii) where I headed up communications for a community media television station that launched several interesting initiatives involving building community support and adopting social media tactics. Just prior to moving to Switzerland, I was part owner and general manager of a start-up restaurant–what an experience!

Where do you prefer teaching English?

Wherever and whenever lively conversation takes place.

What do you love about teaching English?

English has become the lingua franca for so many, I have noticed. Add to the fact that American media — so widely exported — has over decades managed to cultivate a wide and varied audience. I am amazed to hear that a Swiss girl who lived in the Philippines loves Twilight, and of course, don’t forget the South American fellow who grew up in Europe who absolutely loves Star Wars. And who doesn’t know that Mr. Bond likes his martini shaken, not stirred?

What are the advantages to teaching for you?

Still being connected to what’s going on in the world around you. It’s also a great exercise towards learning and remembering what ultimately motivates people to do things. I am constantly looking for ways to keep lesson materials fresh and engaging to encourage conversation in the classroom. I wasn’t a fan of the top-down, one-way communications lesson model when I was a student, and I’m even less of a fan now, as an instructor. The students seem to respond and learn better from a two-way model.

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you?

Teaching is so important, yet the pay doesn’t really entice some of the world’s most talented and knowledgeable people to carve out some time from their lives to share their wisdom with our youth. The pay makes one wonder why as a society we seem to value the profession so little.

Do you like teaching English? Why?

I love teaching English, and I’m so thankful to have such an intimate and varied relationship with the language. There is a precise word for so many things. I love how English has historically drawn from Latin, Saxon and Greek influences, and continues to draw from other cultures today. I love being able to tell a native French speaker, for example, that we share words with them.

Do you do another job?

Yes. I also freelance as a communications/PR consultant and write articles and blog posts for small publications and small and medium-sized businesses. I’m always on the hunt for new challenges.

I want to give a very big thank you to Cynthia for sharing her rich experience as an English Language teacher.  You should check out Cynthia’s blog over at http://www.livingincyn.com.  There you’ll find interesting posts that Cynthia writes about food, culture, writing, and of course living life to the fullest in Switzerland.

Teacher Feature #2

stephanieName: Stephanie Thomas

Nationality: French-American

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching in France since 1996, though not always to the same public.

What are you teaching? EFL/ESL

I’m teaching EFL to middle school students. Having done both, I have to say I’ve always been a bit dubious about the EFL/ESL distinction.  English as a foreign language is meant to be for people living outside of English speaking countries, and English as a second language for those living in a country in which primarily English is spoken (think teaching little French kids in Normandy VS teaching Mexican laborers in California–just an example)I think the ESL/EFL distinction is artificial and our focus as teachers has a lot more to do with the WHO and the WHY. Who are we teahing and why do they need to learn English? Do they know why (think those little French kids again) ?

What certifications do you have? 

Besides a Master’s degree, I have a *TEFL certificate and a *CAPES.

How did you get into teaching English?

Unlike a lot of people, teaching English was my first choice. Of course, back in college, I thought I’d be teaching literature and writing to native speakers! Never mind. Girl meets boy and they move to France. Girl gets job teaching English. And likes it.

Where are you working? country, school, companies, etc.

I’m working in a French middle school, in the private system.

What kind of contract are you working under?

I have a permanent contract. It’s so permanent that we call ourselves “lifers,” except in this case, I can decide to leave the “prison” through the front door while I still have some dignity left.

How long have you been working there?

I started in September 2012!

Where else have you worked?

I worked for a couple of training companies offering mostly business English courses, from 1996 to 2008. Afterwards, I set up on my own for a few years–it was financially rewarding, but I missed having colleagues and someone else to call up late payers.

Where do you prefer teaching English?

My favorite courses were small groups in companies, probably for the social aspect as much as anything. I also liked intensive one-on-one courses–just a week with a good set of really precise objectives. That was fun.

What do you love about teaching English?

In my current position, the students can be really endearing, and their breakthrough moments are really special. When a kid gets up in front of the class to talk about his last vacation, and he’s red as a beet and stutters through it–it’s very satisfying to see him smiling at the end, proud. It takes a lot of hard work to get even some of the students to that point!

What are the advantages to teaching for you?

Teaching in companies allowed me to more or less set my schedule, particularly with individual students. I never had to worry much about missing a day, as we could always reschedule. This flexibility was really important to me as my family grew (and grew…). In the school system, I like having a set salary and lots of time off with my kids.

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you?

Again, corporate language training was much different from school teaching. I loved teaching adults, but I think being privy to certain personal information about my adult students (they tended to share freely) made the job challenging in ways I wasn’t equipped to handle. I don’t mean to be enigmatic, but it was largely these “intimacy” issues that drove me out of corporate training. In my school, I also have access to information about my students, but I think it helps me understand them better and teach more effectively. Sometimes it’s just plain depressing, though.

Do you like teaching English?  Why?

I like it most days. I can think of things I’d rather be doing, but they don’t pay for plane tickets. I like to think I’m making a difference to some of these students, igniting an interest or uncovering a talent.

Do you do another job?

I’m a devoted wife and mother of 4 awesome kids; these are the things, I hope, I’ll be remembered for. That… and my irregular verbs rap. It rocks.

*TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  TEFL is one of the certificates required to teach English abroad.

*CAPES stands for Certificat d’Aptitude au Professorat de l’Enseignement du Second Degré.  This French diploma is needed to become a civil servant teacher in middle and high school.

Big thank you to Stephanie for sharing a bit of her teaching experience with us.

Teacher Feature #1

TS BeijingName: Trenee Seward

Nationality: American

How long have you been teaching?

I began my teaching career in 2004 after acceptance into the Teach for America program. The interview progress was rigorous and probably one of the most difficult interviews I’d ever experienced at that time. I began my career as a Special Education Resource Reading/English teacher for students in grades 9-12. Most of my students were functioning well below grade level and considered “at-risk.”

What are you teaching? 

After several years in special education, I decided that I wanted a break—a drastic change even. Since I’m in my thirties, unmarried, and child free, I thought I should see more of the world. That said, I applied for a position with Disney English and flew all the way to Beijing, China for a year’s contract as a Foreign Trainer (read: English teacher for primary students). Working for Disney English has its drawbacks, but overall the kids are well-behaved.  We incorporate songs and games into every lesson, and I am still able to easily track student progress. Since I don’t consider myself a morning person, the hours are also great. I work Thursday through Monday and my hours vary. Only once a week am I ever at work before 9am.
What certifications do you have?  EFL, ESL, and/or other?

I have TEFL-C, Special Education (Early Childhood -12), and Generalist (Early Childhood-4) certifications. I held a probationary ESL certification, but never completed the test.

How did you get into teaching English?

I’ve always been passionate about reading and writing. When I entered the teaching profession, my goal was to inspire students who claimed to hate just that—reading and writing, especially those students that most other teachers or schools had already given up on.

Where are you working? country, school, companies, etc. What kind of contract are you working under?

I’m currently teaching for Disney English in Beijing, China. I’m on a 15-month contract. I wear a uniform and name tag to work each day and am provided with specific content that I must follow. I am still given the flexibility to add games/activities and I determine how long each activity must take. We follow a certain set of routines and attend center meetings twice a week. I teach classes at a variety of levels and class sizes also vary.

How long have you been working there?

I just completed my 6-month evaluation. They are pleased with the work I’ve done thus far. I get better everyday. 🙂

Where else have you worked?

Teaching wise, I’ve worked for Houston ISD and 2 charter school districts. I’ve also worked with special needs students at the university level.

Where do you prefer teaching English?  TS DE2

In a classroom. 🙂

What do you love about teaching English?

I love exposing students to stories that capture their interest, especially struggling learners/readers.

What are the advantages to teaching for you? 

I love the summers off. After I work hard for an entire school year, it’s nice to have a summer to enjoy travel, reading, and doing whatever things interest me most. I know I’m supposed to say something inspiring here, but as teachers we constantly use our brains and teacher burn-out is always a concern. Breaks are a nice way to re-charge and re-invent yourself for the upcoming school year.

What are the disadvantages to teaching for you? 

Unsupportive parents, student misconduct, and you never really stop working are major disadvantages. Your day might end at 4pm, but you go home and continue to plan, grade papers, and contact parents. You’re also more than a teacher—you’re a counselor, parent, social worker—and oftentimes teachers don’t receive the respect they deserve for all these hats, especially pay wise.

Do you like teaching English? Why?

I do enjoy teaching English. It gives me a chance to use my degrees in English, but most importantly, with each lesson, I learn just as much as my students.

Do you do another job?

Not now, but in the States I was also a résumé coach and fiction writer.

TS DE1

Trenee SEWARD is also a successful blogger on WordPress at http://naysue.wordpress.com where she writes book reviews primarily about and by black people.  Visit ‘black girl lost…in a book’ for interesting bookish information and all on upcoming notable releases that you may have not heard about.

I thank gratefully Trenee for accepting to take part in this collaborative effort to present interesting teachers doing different things in different places.  I hope this helps people understand better the life of a teacher, as well as encourage those that are contemplating joining the profession.  Look out for the next Teacher Feature at the end of February.