The Pearson ELT Teacher Award was launched to celebrate dedicated and innovative teachers around the world. Read on to find out more about the winner for the South America region, Ornella Valentinuz, from Argentina.

The students that Ornella and her colleagues teach live in a small town called Colonia Avellaneda, near Paraná, the capital of Entre Ríos, a central province of Argentina. It is not easy for the students to meet or communicate with people from other countries because many of them don’t have an internet connection or are unable to travel into Paraná. However, Ornella and her colleagues devised a solution – they invited students from other countries to visit the pupils at the school.

Ornella says: “My colleague, Gisela, and I made contact with an association called AFS Intercultural Programs, which places students from different countries in Paraná. They helped us to arrange for students from the United States, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Sweden to visit our school for a day. To mark this we created a number of “las primeras jornadas interculturales” – the first intercultural sessions.

How the sessions inspired English learning

“Our pupils students had a great time meeting the other learners,” says Ornella. “For the first time in their lives, our pupils had the opportunity to be in contact with students from other countries and use English as the global language to communicate.”

To facilitate the sessions, Ornella and Gisela organised a number of activities. For instance, the visitors were invited to write English words on posters and taught useful expressions such as “I love you”, “hello”, “goodbye”, “see you soon”, “thank you” and “welcome”. The students then practised pronouncing the words.

Another activity involved the Colonia Avellaneda students preparing questions in English, which they then asked the visitors. They also spent time describing their home town, using phrases made up of the existential clause “there” and different vocabulary about places. For example: “there is one supermarket” and “there isn’t a shopping centre”.

Ornella says: “The best part was when they were able to have conversations and interchange topics about their own cultures and traditions, and about the education system in each country.”

“The day was an invaluable, relevant, practical and great experience for our students. They took a lot of photos and were really happy. They understood the importance of English and how useful it is. They not only developed their use of the language, but also developed tolerance and respect for other cultures and collaborative work. Thanks must go to my co-workers, Gisela, Andrea, and Ivana – we did this because we are a team.”

What the judges thought

The judges of the Pearson ELT Teacher Award were looking for outstanding teachers who are dedicated to making a real difference and striving to help their learners in new ways every day.

They were impressed with the initiative that Ornella and her team displayed by creating a way to bring the real world into their learners in their classroom.

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