Recently, I had the opportunity to chat virtually with Tara M., one of 10 online ESL teachers to receive the 2018 Teachers of the Year award from ALO7. Having worked closely with Tara on a variety of side projects for ALO7, I was honored to have the chance to ask her about her path to ALO7 and subsequent journey to becoming a top online English teacher.
Where are you from and what did you do before becoming an online English teacher for ALO7?
I live in West Virginia in a small, rural area with my husband and three children. The closest big city is over an hour away.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2000. By trade, I am a Dental Hygienist, and I worked in dental offices for 17 years. During my time as a dental hygienist, I also taught dentistry at the college-level. In addition, I have taught many after school, elementary programs.
Why did you choose ALO7 and why do you stay?
In May 2017 when I decided online teaching would be good for myself and my family, ALO7 was one of only two companies that I applied to. I applied to both companies simultaneously. The other company chose not to hire me, and ALO7 did. ALO7 could see my potential as an online English teacher when the other “big” company couldn’t. Now, a year and a half later, I have a high QC score, and I’m one of the 2018 Teachers of the Year. I will continue to stay with ALO7 until they no longer want me! The lessons and courseware are fun to teach, and I enjoy conversing with my students each day.
How do you feel about being selected as one of the 2018 Teachers of the Year?
Firstly, I was shocked. I had no idea my classes were being enjoyed and looked upon as ideal classes. I simply go to work teaching every day and do my best to have fun and encourage my students to learn the English language. I am grateful to ALO7 for noticing that I am passionate about my work.
Tell me about one of your favorite teaching moments.
I had an awesome student named Ben. His English was really good for only being 9 years old. One day, we were practicing sentences in the lesson, and I said, “These sentences are too easy for you Ben.” He replied quickly with, “It’s so easy, a baby could do it.” I just thought it was great he knew this popular phrase in English. It made me laugh so much!
What are the differences between teaching native speakers and Chinese children? Is it harder or easier, why?
I think for me there really hasn’t been much of a difference that was necessarily hard. If I had to mention something, it would be that I want to be sure I never offend my students in any way. Obviously, our cultures are different and what would be fine and acceptable here in America, may be offensive to them. So, when I first began, I was sure to do some research and learn what gestures and words might be best to avoid during the lessons.
How do you prepare for your classes?
I strongly recommend spending 10-20 minutes the previous day preparing for your next day’s lessons. Many of my lessons, I have taught numerous times, so it’s like clockwork for me. I am always prepared with an abundant number of props, pictures, games, and activities for students of all ages. There are times when I have a new lesson which I’ve never taught. When this happens, I review the lesson plan and courseware, and I then become inspired as to what additional content I will do with the students for fun and to enhance the lesson.
What advice would you give to a new online English teacher just starting out?
Probably my best advice for new teachers would be to practice as much as you can before your lessons. Go through the courseware and review it thoroughly. Sometimes there are words that the students haven’t learned yet and I will find additional resources like pictures to help further explain these words. Being prepared always makes me feel more relaxed. Also, be sure to review the lesson plan before each lesson so that you hit all of the goals for the lesson.
How has teaching for ALO7 changed your life?
ALO7 is just an awesome company to work for. All the staff at the headquarters in Shanghai are extremely nice and accommodating. In addition, getting the opportunity to meet people from all around the world is not something many people can say they can do in their own jobs. I’ve met so many great fellow tutors, parents, and children. So ALO7 brings me great joy and pride as well as a great sense appreciation of the world and it’s various cultures.
What do you like to do when you’re not teaching for ALO7? In other words, what do you do in your free time or what are your hobbies?
I enjoy baking and cooking. I like trying new recipes. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with making yummy foods using more healthy ingredients. We have a big pontoon boat and love going boating in the warmer months. My family and I also enjoy traveling anytime we can.
Are you inspired to become a top online English teacher? What tips of Tara’s do you plan to use to reach your goal?
Dalissa McEwen is passionate about education and believes that learning is a lifelong pursuit. When unable to find educational resources in her own community, she founded an educational co-op for over 100 families and had articles on education published online. Prior to jumping into the field of online education, one of her favorite jobs was working as the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine focused on art, music, and culture. She’s also worked in the field of social media for the past 25 years.
Currently, Dalissa is ALO7’s social media manager and blog editor. In her free time, she volunteer teaches art at a local center for Latinx immigrants, and she shows her personal artwork in galleries.
She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, USA, and TESOL certification.