Pearson English Global Teacher Award 2019 winner for Europe & Central Asia, Tetiana Kulynok is the emblem of a great educator. She has made it her mission to engage her students and make them active citizens in the community, even when times are tough.
Jeremy Harmer, author and methodology legend in the ELT arena, spoke to Tetiana during IATEFL Kiev to find out more about her experiences and what she’s been doing in the classroom.
Introducing Tetiana Kulynok
Tetiana’s passion for education was ignited at a young age. Her parents were teachers, so is her sister and she herself has been teaching English in a secondary school for eighteen years. Not only that, but she’s been a volunteer in a number of Peace Corps’ summer camps.
She loves creating authentic lessons for her eighth-grade students and uses materials she finds online. She also loves using songs, incorporating English culture and inspiring her students to read. One of the best things for her is that she gets to keep learning throughout her life.
“That is what makes teaching for me one of the best jobs ever!” she says.
But perhaps what makes Tetiana most inspiring, is her persistence in the face of adversity. She talks to Jeremy about volunteering in the community as well as encouraging her students to give back to others in difficult times.
It’s this determination and love of her community that meant Tetiana was crowned one of the winners out of over four hundred applicants.
As competition judge, Jeremy Harmer said he was deeply moved by Tetiana’s commitment to education in the face of difficult situations – and how important it is to keep hope alive.
How she supports her students
Tetiana believes that it’s our role as teachers to share knowledge with our students in school. But she also believes we should empower our students to learn outside the classroom and become “active members of our society” through volunteer work. Thanks to these projects she’s seen her community change for the better.
The key for Tetiana is also believing in what she does. She says it is the role of the teacher to get to know and understand the students – especially those with psychological issues.
“We see and feel our students more than anybody else,” she says – and this puts teachers in the best position to know how to help them, she continues.
Participation is not about expecting 100% engagement from all the students all the time, but about building relationships with them. As her experience shows, you never know the influence you will have on them in the future.
She tells the story of an orphaned student who struggled academically at school. Despite a good relationship and her best efforts Tetiana couldn’t engage her. The student attended the lessons but didn’t participate or submit any homework. After graduating high school she moved to a foreign country to work. The student later returned to thank Tetiana for help as an English teacher.
“She said…‘those phrases I remembered from school actually helped me to survive in this country’. She also asked for some links and some help because she wanted to go on with studying.”
While this isn’t a typical academic success story, for Tetiana, it’s just as valid as achieving an official certification.
Though you can never predict what impact you’ll have on your students, you will have an influence on their lives in some way or other. In this student’s case, she has been inspired to continue learning. Who knows what positive things this will bring to her life in the future?
Why English is so important
Speaking English is like becoming another person for Tetiana. She loves the fact that there are things she can only express in Russian and Ukranian, and there are other things she can only express in English, “but I become the whole person when I speak… these languages” she says.
Tetiana also loves the challenge of learning English. She sympathizes with her students and their difficulties and tries to improve her own English every day.
“I always feel nervous about this… so when I choose a song for them to work at fluency I spend the whole evening at home doing the same because I have the same problems as they have, and we do this together and all my family does too,” she says, laughing.
The role of the English teacher
For Tetiana, the role of the English teacher is to inspire, support and help connect one generation with another.
“Teachers come from an older generation but they are always kids, they are are always children. The teacher is this link between generations,” she says.
Thank you to Tetiana for taking the time to speak to us. You can also find out what Pablo Santos (winner of North and Central America) and Arata Nishio (winner of Asia & Oceania) have been up to.
Want to follow in the footsteps of Tetiana, Pablo and Arata? Applications are now open for the 2020 Pearson English Global Teacher Award!