'My dream has come true!' by Julia Koifman

21st April 2019

My first steps in teaching and immigration

I have been teaching English for 26 years now. I started my career in Simferopol, Ukraine and taught English at the junior-high school. I also worked as a translator and taught Business English at a university. In 1999 I emigrated to Israel and continued teaching at junior-high and high school. Now I am an English Coordinator at Beit Ekshtein high school in the settlement of Rupin. Beit Ekstein is a chain of Special Education Needs (SEN) schools in our country that use Learning Technologies (LT) in teaching.

Like many immigrants, I had ups and downs in my teaching career. Mainly I faced a culture shock at the beginning and sometimes I was at a loss because I did not know what to teach and how. I had worked at quite a lot of schools before I was employed by Beit Ekstein in 2006, where I still work. I realized that I was good at teaching kids with specific educational needs, so I started looking for ways to develop professionally in SEN and started finding contact with other teachers like myself. Step by step I got used to many new things, attended some local conferences and took numerous in-service and online courses. Finally, in 2009 I became the English Coordinator at our school.

The chance of a lifetime

In summer 2014 I found out about IATEFL by chance and decided to participate in its conferences. I applied for the 49th conference in Manchester and forgot about it almost immediately. I lack words to describe how excited I was when in November 2014 I got an email that my proposal had been accepted. I realized that it was the chance of a lifetime and decided to go to Manchester in April 2015 even though I had to pay for the flight and the hotel myself. Presenting at my first international conference was one of the best things that could have happened to me personally as well as professionally.

The results of the conference exceeded my expectations. I met Marjorie Rosenberg, David Crystal and some other organizers and made friends with colleagues from all over the world. I am still in touch with them and I have realized that IATEFL is a great place to make international friendships. In addition, when the conference was over, I received numerous offers to publish my articles in different magazines, with the result that I have made about ten publications in three years. Moreover, my salary in school has increased due to publications and presentations.

Recently I joined TESOL. I have not attended any conferences in the USA yet but I hope to do so one day.

My further professional development

After my first IATEFL conference in Manchester I participated in both international conferences and local ones, including SIG [Special Interest Group] events in different parts of Europe. For instance, in November 2015 I attended the Learning Technologies (LT) SIG conference in Dublin. I have benefited not only from meeting great educators from all over the world, but from webinars as well. I have taken some international courses, including CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). My short articles have been published in IATEFL Conference Selections. When I presented on ‘Building fluency and comprehension in dyslexic readers’ in Glasgow in 2017, my session was filmed so you can watch it if you want to.

I have applied for a scholarship three times but I failed. Finally I wоn the LT SIG Diana Eastment scholarship last year and my dream came true. Since I am a member of LTSIG, the main requirement of this scholarship, and participate in the SIGs a lot, I realized that I had a chance to win. In addition, my presentation at Brighton 2018 is going to deal with using LT in teaching SEN students, so I am going to share my experience with colleagues from all over the world.

I was very happy to become a scholarship winner. It is going to be my fourth international conference, so I won a scholarship on the fourth attempt. I know that it is possible to win a scholarship only once, but it helps a lot because flying and staying in the UK is quite expensive. Besides, I am highly motivated to give a brilliant presentation and to mentor those who are going to present for the first time.

What is my advice on how to win a scholarship? First of all, don’t give up. If your speaker proposal or article for publication has been rejected, try again. Ask your colleagues and IATEFL consultants for help, attend webinars, take courses and you will improve your skills. If your proposal has been accepted, but you still have not won a scholarship, try again next year. Practice makes perfect. In my case being a member of some SIGs, such as LTSIGIP & SEN SIG (Inclusive Practices and Special Needs), YLTSIG (Young Learners and Teenagers) and others, helped me to win the scholarship later. In general, my advice is – get involved, take a chance, never give up in case of failure and never stop in your professional development.

Next year I will not have the right to apply for a scholarship. Nevertheless, I am not going to stop attending IATEFL conferences, even if it is quite expensive. Since I am an English Coordinator, I should train my co-workers and share new materials and ideas with them. Besides, they sometimes refer to my publications while doing research and I am sure that my articles help them to succeed in their careers.  I am sure that we, teachers, learn from each other a lot.

Julia Koifman has been teaching for 26 years. She holds an MA degree from Simferopol State University, Ukraine. She started her career in Ukraine, where she taught English in junior-high school and in a university. In 1999 she moved to Israel and completed a TEFL training course for immigrant teachers and CELTA. Now she is an English Coordinator in Beit Ekshtein high school for special education in Rupin, Israel. Professional development is an essential part of her teaching job. She is a member of IATEFL, TESOL and ETAI (English Teachers’ Association in Israel). She has presented at local and international conferences and published some articles in Israeli and international teachers’ magazines. She won the Learning Technologies SIG Diana Eastment scholarship for the 52nd IATEFL Conference in Brighton in 2018.