Conversations with ESL Teachers Part 3

Tanja blog

My interviewee today is Tanja Rykovska, an energetic and resourceful educator currently teaching in SEE (Skills for Education and Employment Program).

  1. What is your definition of an effective ESL teacher?

Many EAL/ESL teachers work with migrant/refugee students in government funded programs. I believe that the success of an EAL/ESL teacher in this environment should be measured by empathy rather than effectiveness. Organisational skills are also essential when dealing with red tape and compliance while planning ahead takes away some stress and brings focus and efficiency into delivery.

  1. How do you think technology has changed your life and work as an ESL teacher?

Technology has changed my life and work completely! I remember when I started to teach EFL to children about 10 years ago, I used video- and audiocassettes; CDs were not widely available. I used carbon paper to copy flashcards and collected all sorts of magazines for visuals. I recorded BBC English lessons on audiocassettes. A couple of years later, when we used a story-based approach with the children in the classroom, I recorded their dramatised stories on a video camera. Then I made DVDs for them. We used the British Council website for young learners. Sometime later, while completing a TESOL course, I did a significant part of my research online with the help of ‘my dear friend’ Google. Now I am creating online teaching materials to upload on Moodle and learning to use other software that will allow me to transform my teaching.

  1. How have you been educating yourself?

My EFL/ESL/EAL teaching experience is the result of my ongoing professional self-development. I got my first EFL job because no one else was willing to teach English to children who could barely read and write in their first language. The British Council library in the city where I lived at the time became a source of inspiration and resources. I have befriended Google since then and searched for answers to my queries and for inspiration. Online teachers’ communities (,,,, and other) are an amazing source of both. Recently, I also joined some MOOCs (Together Teacher and Teaching with Moodle). My interest at the moment is digital literacy for EAL/ESL students with low literacy skills and that’s what my professional self-development is focused on.

  1. Who are your role models and why?

My role models are some experienced and compassionate teachers I am lucky to work alongside who maintain a ‘student first’ attitude despite increasing bureaucratic pressure.

  1. If you had to start over in your profession, what would you do differently?

Wouldn’t do it. On a more serious note, I enjoy my work and interaction with students. I have been lucky enough to have had opportunities that develop my skills along the way. I was aware of the challenges that involvement in education brings – you need your heart and soul in it. Making time for yourself and your family is a challenge when you are an educator but I am lucky to have a great support network.

  1. What challenges do you see for language teaching in the future (let’s say within the next 10 years)?

Teaching in general is going online. To be able to use available technologies and software might be a challenge. Teaching a language involves interaction. Facilitating interaction on various digital devices while instructing and assessing requires a combination of teaching and IT skills. The development has brought a more pressing need for continuous professional development. Life-long learning has definitely become a vital teacher’s attribute.


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