September Teacher Interview – Vicky Loras

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Vicky Loras for my first ever monthly Teacher Interview.  I decided to interview teachers so that readers would be able to find out a bit more about real teachers around the world.  Vicky Loras is a prominent blogger and user of Twitter.  You can find her on Twitter @VickyLoras.

Vicky Loras, born in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada, teaches English language and literature to students of all ages.  She has been teaching English for a total of almost fourteen years. For ten years, Vicky and her sisters (Eugenia and Christine) owned an English Language School in Greece, The Loras English Academy, but she has now moved with her eldest sister to Switzerland.  She writes a blog on education at http://vickyloras.wordpress.com

So, without further ado let’s start the interview.

  1. Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into teaching.
I was born in Toronto, Canada to Greek parents who moved to Canada when they were very young. I have two sisters, one older, one younger than me and we are all ELT teachers! We had an English language school in Greece for ten years (I have been teaching for a total of almost fourteen) – the Loras English Academy. I was very sad that the school had to close down – but I have been living in Switzerland for three years now and I love it!
I got into teaching by accident, actually ; ) As long as I remember myself, I wanted to be a lawyer – I watched all the series with courtrooms and lawyers and imitated them, learned legal language by heart and pretended to defend my clients and yell “Objection, your honour!” in my bedroom. When the time came for me to do my university entrance exams, I did really well but missed Law School for 0.3% of a point. I was heart-broken. My grades allowed me to pass in the Department of Englsih Language and Literature – I was not so excited at first, but I fell in love with it later on and I have never looked back!
  1. You have a BA in English Language and Literature.  How did this degree prepare you to become a language teacher?
Even though my love for literature is tremendous, most of the courses I chose were in Language and Linguistics. I learned a great deal from fascinating professors. We had the great chance to have teaching practice twice while we were in university. I loved that experience and it played a big role later on, as the things I was afraid of were nothing to worry about, and the weaknesses I found I worked on to improve.
  1. You used to own a language school in Greece with your sisters.  Tell me a bit more about this.

As I mentioned before, we opened the Loras English Academy and it was only me and my eldest sister Gina at the beginning, with a big office split between us and 23 students. We worked seven days a week, from 12 to 15 hours a day – we shared sandwiches, made coffee for each other and helped each other out as much as we could. We were even our own secretary, accountant, cook, typist, everything! Then our students started to multiply, so we needed more teachers…and rooms! Our youngest sister Christine came aboard, and then more and more… at the time we closed it (the eldest and I would move to Switzerland), we had thirteen more teachers and 203 students of all ages. Gina’s husband was given a permanent position in Switzerland so she had to move there with her children. We had to close down the school, as the accountant told us it would be difficult for Gina to be the manager from far away…it was one of the most difficult decisions ever. But it had to happen and sometimes good things come to an end. I also decided to move to Switzerland, as the educational system is excellent. I am happy here.

  1. What’s the most memorable thing that has occurred in the classroom?

Lots of things…small and bigger things – a dyslexic child realising how well he is doing, that his eyes light up and fills with motivation! An adult who has come to class without any knowledge in English, being able to communicate with foreign colleagues later on. A little boy asked me once: “When do we finish our lesson?” “In ten minutes – are you tired, S?” I asked him. “No, I want it to finish, so I can hug you!” he said. It totally captured my heart!

One event I remember, not related to education, was a strong earthquake we had once – no damages, but it really shook the place. I had three children in my group at that time and they all knew the drill – they immediately dove under the table with me and we all held hands. That was one of the moments that I realised how much we are attached to our students and, no exaggeration, we are their parents for that short time they are in class.
  1. You are now based in Switzerland.  How does this country compare to teaching in Greece?

It is much different, regarding my teaching style first of all. The students want and demand (in a nice way) a direct correction of their mistakes, even if that means interrupting their train of thought – I used to correct on the spot in Greece too, but sometimes left it for after they finished so as not to cut them off or discourage them by correcting them constantly. Here I teach mainly adults and they really want correction all the time, if possible. I found it hard at first – now I am doing better, I think!

  1. How would you go about promoting autonomous learning with your learners?

I share experiences of my learning with them. I am learning German at the moment (self-taught for now) so I tell them what works for me, what motivates me and so on. They like that. I also inform them about any new technological developments that they can use when they are not in class and they find it fun. They even find tools I have never heard of, so I am learning alongside them as well!

  1. One of your main educational interests includes diversity and culture.  How would you go about incorporating culture and diversity in the classroom?

I have pictures and posters in my classes of people from all over the world, their lives and culture. The children bring in things from their own cultures as well and so do my adults. We have Martin Luther King Day in January and I talk about him even to the youngest ones. They understand a lot and they really start to think. Children have the loveliness to embrace all people and differences, which we say is beautiful!

  1. Do you have any plans to continue professional development?

Yes – apart from going to workshops, conferences and seminars, I am going to apply for a MA in Linguistics this year at the University of Berne – I hope I am accepted! I am looking forward to returning to school very much. I love learning and I think this will give me a lot of new experiences.

  1. Finally, what advice would you give another teacher that has just started teaching?

I would advise them to trust their hearts and not to worry if something goes wrong in class. It can happen no matter how many years you teach and it can be a great learning experience for the teachers first of all and for the students as well. These moments are a good opportunity for us to reflect and try out new things. In addition, I would advise new teachers to do their own thing and not be worried about leaning on the coursebook in every step – it is a wonderful tool, but as I learned when I was a student teacher, it is okay not to start right away with page 148 if something else comes up and the students are still learning. Last but not least, to continue learning – with other teachers at conferences and workshops and also on social media – they have totally transformed me as an educator, even eleven years after I started my teaching career. I have used Twitter and other platforms and have learned and continue learning a great deal.

Thank you Vicky for your invaluable contribution and insight into teaching.  Best of luck for the future.  If anyone would like to be interviewed with next month, please contact me.

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