I was born and raised in western Pennsylvania. As the daughter of a Filipino immigrant and an American, I became aware of cultural differences at an early age. My maternal grandparents increased this awareness by sharing what they loved about the Polish, Serbian, and Hungarian cultures their own parents came from. My grandmother taught me to dance the polka before first grade, and at the age of 10 my grandfather began to take me to weekly accordion lessons. (I don’t know why my brothers were spared. They would probably have been more successful accordion players!) I heard some Tagalog and Polish while growing up, but the words were dropped around my ears like a dry rain that never touches the ground. I absorbed almost nothing. Only as I approached adulthood did I realize the loss of that opportunity.
In junior high and high school I studied French, but I never even came close to being fluent. I could read, I could write, but I couldn’t understand spoken French or carry on a conversation. This experience was key in forming my desire to be a language instructor. When I arrived at the shocking discovery that six years of diligent study didn’t give me the skills to communicate easily in real life situations, I asked myself why. The answers to that question filled me with determination to become a better language learner and to help others in their own language studies.
I met with greater success learning Japanese and Russian in college, but it was Russian that I chose as my major and became fluent in. My graduate studies took me over to Moscow (I had visited Russia a few times prior to this), and it was there that I met my husband and made the transition from teaching Russian to teaching English as a foreign language.
After five years of living and working in Moscow, my husband and I moved to the United States and made Massachusetts our home. I taught private and group lessons at a language school in Boston, and when I took on administrative responsibilities, I began to learn in depth about curriculum design and assessment tools. It was a positive work experience full of creative opportunity. I got the chance to write a lot of materials for my own classes as well as for the school. I was also chosen to take over the teacher training program, which truly grounded me in theory and methodology. I should mention that a final bonus at that school was free Portuguese lessons for a few months!
Since the fall of 2005 I’ve been working from home. Thanks to the Internet, there are an increasing number of career opportunities for English language instructors. I’ve published books, done consulting work, recorded audio podcasts, and made a collection of instructional videos. I’m very excited about what the future holds. I hope to grow more as a teacher and expand my skills by providing different forms of online instruction.