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This year ALO7 chose ten teachers as the 2018 ESL Teachers of the Year. Out of those ten, two were selected to travel to Shanghai, Chelsea F. and Lauren T. The practice of choosing more than one ESL Teacher of the Year is common at ALO7 since the company has so many top-performing teachers.

Recently, I had the pleasure of virtually interviewing Chelsea about receiving the 2018 ESL Teacher of the Year award, and her experience teaching with ALO7 for the past three years.

Where are you from? Tell me a little bit about yourself. 

Painting by ESL Teacher of the Year

Painting by Chelsea F.

I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan and currently living in the metro Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. I studied Fine Arts at the University of Illinois where I received my Master’s degree in 2006. I am an artist and a teacher. Prior to teaching with ALO7, I was working as a Fine Arts instructor in a Chinese enrichment academy in North Carolina. I taught drawing, painting and design courses to students PK-8th grade. Also, I owned my own business hosting social painting events for adults and children. I currently teach art classes to elementary-aged students, maintain a private studio art practice, and run a face painting business for children’s entertainment events.

When did you start teaching for ALO7? And, what made you decide to do so?

I began teaching with ALO7 at the start of 2016, shortly after my first child was born. I was looking to get back into the workforce after some pregnancy complications had me on bedrest for the majority of my pregnancy and unable to continue teaching full-time. I wanted to be with my daughter for her infancy and continue with my work as a teacher. My previous experience teaching Chinese children led me towards teaching English to Chinese students online. The option to work from home was a true blessing. I was able to be at home with my daughter for the early part of her life and still maintain a career as a teacher.

What is your favorite part of teaching for ALO7?

The students are my favorite part of the job. I look forward to their energy and enthusiasm each day. I have seen some of my long-term students grow and blossom into beautiful speakers and dedicated learners. That keeps me motivated to continue with this work. Also, the company treats the teachers with dignity and respect and is always improving the operations through careful development and restructuring.

As an ALO7 2018 ESL Teacher of the Year, what advice can you offer to new tutors to help improve their online teaching style?

Take time to reflect on your practice. Write about it, talk about it and share what you do with others. Explaining what you do can help keep you engaged and thinking more critically about the impact you’re having on your students’ lives. Listen to your students and learn as much as you can from them. Take a moment in each lesson to recognize their unique characteristics and don’t overlook the pressure they must be feeling trying to communicate and express themselves to a foreigner. I also recommend having fun. If you are having fun and are willing to be silly this will do some of the magic to relax the student and prime them for learning difficult concepts.

Tell me a story about your favorite teaching moment.

My favorite teaching moments are when I have the “breakthrough” with a shy student. I like the challenge of unleashing a shy student’s full potential. I have had many moments where the classroom environment was a perfect climate of safety and where a shy student was able to overcome their fear of making a mistake in efforts to express their ideas. It’s the big picture of the relationships that I’ve made with students that means the most to me. I have had some long-term students with ALO7 who have taken the time to share their musical or artistic talents with me during a class. I had a particular student named Coco who would play the violin during classes for me.

ALO7 Teachers, Chelsea F. and Lauren T., being interviewed by ALO7 EVP Andrew Shewbart

ALO7 Teachers, Chelsea F. and Lauren T., being interviewed by ALO7 EVP Andrew Shewbart

ALO7 recently flew you to Shanghai to attend a conference as an ALO7 2018 ESL Teacher of the Year. What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of my trip to Shanghai as an ALO7 ESL Teacher of the Year was visiting the Jingrui school and meeting some of our students face to face. The students were very excited to see us and the energy in the school was phenomenal. We were also fortunate to tour some partner schools and visit a Chinese classroom in session. This really opened my eyes to the style differences between Eastern and Western education.

Did you try any new foods during your trip?

On a regular day, I eat a mainly vegan diet. I decided to let go of my usual restrictions while traveling to China and eat freely as my heart desired. I tried so many delicious vegetables and kinds of seafood. I have to say, my favorites were the “street foods” that were sold by casual vendors. I fell in love with warm Tofu pudding, steamed buns and the honey glazed fruit on a stick. I also had some foot-long French fries that were amazing! However, my favorite absolute aspect of Chinese cuisine is actually the varieties of drinks. Tea culture is really beautiful and romantic. I drank as much milk-tea as possible. There were so many exquisite flavors and preparations that ranged from lattes to bubble drinks. I also had the best cup of hot tea in my life at a small music café in Suzhou where we were served High Mountain tea in a clear glass. It was visually stunning!

A big thanks to Chelsea F. for sharing about her path to becoming an ALO7 2018 ESL Teacher of the Year! See the full list of recipients here.

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