Michelle Minnie, English Teacher

From South Africa

A veteran English teacher for more than 20 years, Michelle was inspired to teach by some of the great teachers she had who made lessons come alive with humor and passion. In her classes, she believes in the power of really listening to her students, who provide her with the information she needs to tailor instruction to meet their unique needs. Engaging topics and activities inspire her students to continue discussing, learning, and growing even outside the classroom.

Can you share a bit about yourself?

I am a South African citizen currently residing in Durban, South Africa. I have a BA in Theology and I am TEFL qualified. I have taught students from China, Saudi Arabia, and South America. I have completed Bridge’s Teaching Business English Specialized Certification. I have been working with Bridge for almost two years.

What is your inspiration for teaching?

Teaching is my passion. I have been teaching English for more than 20 years. I guess my inspiration comes from some of the great teachers that I had when I was a student. I admired teachers that made lessons come alive with their knowledge and passion for the subject. They were animated and humorous and made learning seem so effortless. I decided that I wanted to be the kind of teacher that created a comfortable, happy, and easy learning environment.

How do you tailor your lessons to meet the needs of your students?

In order to tailor my lessons to meet my student’s needs, I listen. I really listen to what they want to achieve while doing a course and I tailor my lessons accordingly. I believe that creating an open communication channel between the student and the teacher creates a relaxed and open learning atmosphere. I listen to my students and give them a safe space where they can speak freely. I listen when they tell me about their challenges at work. I listen when they tell me about their children and their families. I become a part of their lives.

As a result, many students tell me how they think about something I said while we were having class or how they told their colleague or their boss about a topic we discussed. This means that they are thinking about English outside of class and their focus on English is not just for 90 minutes when they come to class.

What languages do you speak?

I speak English, Afrikaans, and a smattering of Chinese. I found Chinese very difficult to learn because of the tones and pronunciation of the words. I couldn’t hear the tones and so I couldn’t reproduce what I couldn’t hear. Consequently, I have a true admiration for people who learn English!!

What is a memorable teaching experience you can share with us?

I would say my most memorable or proudest moment as a teacher was when one of my Chinese students took my advice to go into teaching rather than secretarial work. When I first met her, to be honest, her English was horrible! But after spending a lot of time with me and being my “translator” she really improved dramatically. Today, she is the proud owner of an English Language Training Centre in China.

What sets Bridge apart from other schools?

I really found Bridge by chance. After 15 years of living in China, I returned home to South Africa, and I found Bridge during an online search while looking for work. I took a chance. I knew nothing about Bridge. It was a huge chance and one of the best decisions of my life.

Working for Bridge has meant incredible support from the staff, flexible hours, amazing students, and a phenomenal teaching experience. The way our classes are conducted using the Pearson interactive platform and our attention to getting students to focus on speaking is what sets us apart from other schools.

What are some challenges of teaching Business English?

I think something that all Business English teachers should remember is that students are also people. They have work issues and personal problems that they deal with on a daily basis and therefore, I believe it is important to be sensitive to your students’ needs and moods.

Sometimes they need to talk about a work challenge or a home problem. Once they have “vented,” they are in a much better frame of mind to learn. Personalizing your class and seeing your students as human beings with feelings is a vital part of being a successful teacher.