Knowing English is an invaluable skill in the business world. Cristina talks about the power of learning English and the difference she’s been able to make in the lives and careers of many of her students as a Business English teacher. She also discusses her individualized approach with each of her Business English students and how that helps them succeed.
Hi, Cristina! Where are you from?
I was born in Argentina, grew up in New York, and moved back in my 20s and have been in Buenos Aires ever since.
How did you get interested in teaching English?
I majored in language at my college in NY. I then was hired for a geophysics research company job in Argentina. I was hired because of my language skills; being bilingual opened a lot of doors for me professionally. I hadn’t lived in Argentina as an adult and was curious, so I took the job and ended up staying.
How long have you been teaching English?
I have been teaching for the past 17 years. I have taught Business English to employees of multinational companies like Turner, British Petroleum, Pan American Energy, and Pluspetrol. I also worked for a very long time teaching English to employees at Siemens.
Why do you prefer to teach English to adult students?
I have never taught children. I’m not the type of teacher for a school class setting. I feel much more comfortable with adults who have clear and specific needs regarding their language learning. Most kids are somehow forced to study English, and very rarely do they see it as fun or entertaining. Besides, the schools’ curricula are sometimes very structured and old-fashioned. I experienced it with my own children when they went to school.
I like to have a level relationship with my students, and watching them enjoy our classes is a great incentive for me. Moreover, adults appreciate the help I can give them and are very grateful. I have made lots of good friends among my students, friends which I keep to this day.
What do you do when you get a new student?
I have a one-on-one meeting with them where I do an assessment and evaluate them. During this interview, I have them speak however they can, and then I design a target for them. I ask questions like:
What are some lessons you do with your intermediate or advanced students as a Business English teacher?
When my students have a very strong level of English, I often try to teach them something other than just English. For example, I had a student whose English was very advanced, so instead of giving her a vocabulary or grammar lesson, I created a lesson around the artist Frida Kahlo and her life. Not only was she learning English, but she was learning about art and history!
What are some lessons you do with your beginner students?
Oftentimes, my beginner students come to me and insist they don’t know English, and I tell them that they know more than they think!
One activity I tell them to do for homework is to bring me a list of English words they see on the street. Instead of looking at their phone, they should look around for English! Anytime they see an English word, they write it down and we will discuss it in class the next day because sometimes they’ve heard of the word but they don’t know the meaning.
Why did you originally take the 120-hour Teaching English Online course?
The world changes. You have to keep up with it if you want to be part of it. One of my major loves is traveling. Now that my kids are grown, the ability to teach English online gives me the opportunity to work anywhere I have a good internet connection. I also want to move out of the city and closer to nature, and being able to teach remotely will give me the opportunity to do so.
What do you love most about teaching?
You meet people all of the time. The best thing I find with teaching another language is that you are giving people, especially young people, a tool that will be invaluable for the rest of their lives. Speaking another language puts you in a very different position in the world.
Can you tell us about a time you made a difference in a student’s life?
I have had the unique opportunity to make a difference in many of my students’ lives. I have helped aspiring flight attendants learn English so they can find a job. I’ve also worked with students who have not had a general education, so I helped them just learn the basics.
In particular, one of my students who I worked with for three years was able to progress from beginner to advanced. He worked so hard on his English that, eventually, he was able to get a scholarship to Columbia University, the Ivy League research university in New York City where he studied law. He is now a lawyer working in mediation law. We still keep in contact to this day! I have been very lucky to maintain relationships with most of my students.
Do you have a teaching philosophy?
The way to teach is through listening. How do you learn your first language? From listening to your parents and others around you. Reading and writing come later.
How have you adapated to the coronavirus crisis?
The coronavirus crisis has shown me that it was a very intelligent decision to get certified as an online teacher last year. Fortunately, and under the current circumstances, I have been able to keep working from home and have more work than ever! Lots of people have taken advantage of online classes, particularly English classes, so I cannot complain as far as my work is concerned. Using the extra time at home to learn something is a very wise decision.