An interview with the past Chair of the Membership Committee Mojca Belak

9th August 2023

An intreview with the past Chair of the Membership Committee, Mojca Belak, by Vicki Papageorgiou

Mojca, it has been a pleasure working with you these past few years.

It’s been a pleasure having you on the blog team, Vicky. Because of you, our work is now better organised. And thank you for suggesting this interview.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

I teach English phonetics and British Society and Culture at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. I started teaching while I was a student, and never stopped. Even when I worked for the BBC World Service as a radio producer, translator and announcer at the beginning of my career, I was also in charge of teaching English via radio. I became an IATEFL member on my 24 th birthday, so it has supported me all my professional life; I can’t imagine teaching or thinking about our profession the way I do now if I wasn’t an IATEFLer.

I also believe that IATEFL members would be interested to know more about the work you have done as Chair of IATEFL Membership Committee these past six years.

In a nutshell, my work and the work of my team were all about gaining new members and keeping the existing ones happy. For the first three years, I was very involved in creating different membership rates depending on where teachers come from. In this, I was greatly supported by Gerhard Erasmus, who has now succeeded me as Chair of MemCom. In the end, membership rates stayed the same mainly because of Covid and the crisis that followed.

In the last three years, I worked a lot on making the IATEFL Webinar selection more inclusive. I also made sure that the webinar programme ran smoothly. I have my dedicated MemCom team (Syke Annamma Kumaran, Maria-Araxi Sachpazian and Božica Šarić Cvjetković) to thank for hosting the webinars and helping with webinar selections.

I was one of the three volunteers who work on this blog – read articles, suggest edits and in the end publish them online. I immensely enjoyed it. It was great to work with you and Syke on this.

I led the New Ambassadors Working Party on the Board of Trustees. We changed the job description and introduced the first four ambassadors in 2022, and two more this year. It is a scheme that will help promote IATEFL in various parts of the world.

I also started a Working Party which is searching for a new IATEFL patron. It is hard to find a person who will succeed David Crystal: we’ve looked and looked for a suitable patron in the last two years but couldn’t find one for several reasons. What I was also heavily involved in was the Free IATEFL Membership Competition last summer. IATEFL received a donation from Rob Howard, an IATEFL volunteer, that covered eight IATEFL individual memberships. MemCom suggested teachers worldwide write a blog article of 1,000 words for Views, and eight lucky winners would become our members for free. We advertised this in social media - the IATEFL Facebook Group alone has 22,500 members - so we expected a lot of contributions. In the end, we only received eleven articles. It’s popular to moan about how expensive the membership fee is, but, unfortunately, when given a chance to become members for free in exchange for a short article, there was not a lot of interest.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome while you were on the IATEFL Board of Trustees, Mojca?

I can think of three big challenges. The first one is very personal: just days before I was to set off for the Harrogate Conference I had a bicycle accident and fractured my shoulder, so I had to stay at home. I wasn’t in Harrogate to attend my last conference as a trustee and couldn’t part with my fellow trustees the way I wished (We were such a good team.), and I couldn’t meet up with many friends and colleagues. It was hard to cope with all that and stay positive. Luckily I could watch the plenaries online, and I attended the AGM via Zoom.

The greatest challenge that involved the Board of Trustees and IATEFL, in general, was the Covid crisis. Trustees usually meet four times a year, but in 2020 and 2021 we had a long online meeting practically every month. It was very hard, but as a fellow trustee remarked recently, we are the team that will go down in the history of IATEFL as the Board that saved the association.

The third challenge happened a year ago when IATEFL suggested that IATEFL- named Associates change their name. It was something that previous Boards didn’t deal with even though it had been on the agenda for years. It was very challenging because there was lots of emotion and history that the Board of Trustees had to deal with in an effective manner. You can read a little about that in the March-April issue of Voices.

Despite these challenges I feel that what I have learned and experienced from being a trustee outweighs the negatives by far.

Can you share with our readers any exciting plans for the future that you have?

I used to volunteer as a translator of texts by Tony Samara, my spiritual teacher. Recently Tony’s team contacted me again because they need someone to provide spoken translations in Slovenian for Tony’s meditations online. The work will combine translating and working with voice, which as a former radio person I really like. In a way, it is like coming home.

Mojca, thank you for your time.

It was my pleasure.

About Mojca Belak

Mojca Belak is a long-standing IATEFL member and volunteer – she used to be TD SIG newsletter editor and later coordinator as well as a member of Fundraising Committee and Scholarship Working Party. Until recently she was Chair of the Membership Committee and sat on the IATEFL Board of Trustees. She teaches at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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