'My life-changing professional development journey' by Elena Matveeva

24th February 2018

I have been teaching English for almost 20 years now. I used to teach Business English at a university, worked as a freelancer for a couple of years and now I am a teacher and academic director in one of the private language schools in Yaroslavl, Russia.

Through these years of my teaching career there were ups and downs, there were days when I absolutely loved and then when I absolutely hated what I was doing. I lacked motivation in my job and at times I felt isolated and lonely. Due to some circumstances I was forced to become a freelancer when I got back to teaching after my second child was born. That only made the feeling of loneliness stronger and I started looking for ways to develop professionally and to find contact with other teachers like myself.

My first step was attending local conferences and training sessions in my native city, which was interesting, refreshing and inspiring. Then I started looking for professional opportunities online and that is how I found Electronic Village Online. In 2014 I took part in the online course “Developing Business English Teachers” and my professional life has never been the same ever since. I was lucky to meet an amazing group of moderators who influenced me in ways I could have never imagined. That was how I got to know the BESIG [Business English Special Interest Group] team and they motivated me to move further in my professional development. The course itself was the most brilliant online course I have ever taken. It was very practical and made me reflect on my practice as well as make plans for the future. It was then that I decided to start moving towards realizing my dream – presenting at the IATEFL conference. At that time I was not a member of IATEFL but I was very interested in watching online webinars. I tried to find time to be online at the time of the webinar as non-members do not get a chance to watch them later. After becoming an IATEFL member that problem was solved and now I have access to all the webinars from previous years whenever I have free time or wish to watch them.

The first conference abroad I attended was the BESIG conference in Bonn in 2014. The results of the conference exceeded my expectations. It was really exciting to meet my EVO course moderators face-to-face and to give my talk on ‘Teaching presentation skills in the digital age’ in front of famous professionals in the world of Business English. I became an IATEFL member during the conference and since then I have been able to enjoy all the benefits it gives. After the conference I was invited to give a webinar on the topic of my conference talk, which you can watch on the BESIG site, and as a result I got a job offer from a well- known publisher Cornelsen to be an advisor/consultant on their short course English for Presentations A2. It was unexpected and really flattering.

Eventually, I decided it was time to make my dream come true and applied for the BESIG Facilitator’s Scholarship for the 50th IATEFL conference in Birmingham. It is difficult to find words to describe how happy I was to become one of the scholarship winners. The whole experience of being one of the 52 scholarship winners at the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham in 2016 was like a dream come true. I got to meet the most amazing and professional teachers from all over the world. The time at the conference was unforgettable. Where else can teachers have a chat with gurus of ELT who are taking part in the sessions and workshops side by side with novice teachers? As a speaker I had a chance to share my ideas and experience when giving a talk on the topic of teaching presentation skills in the modern world.

IATEFL has become my professional family. I have received so much support, advice, warmth and friendliness from people at the conference, from the BESIG team, from my PLN [Professional/Personal Learning Network] some of which I met for the first time at the conference. Now I can’t imagine my life without IATEFL. The annual conference is the place to get to know about the new trends that shape ELT. It is the place to exchange ideas and absorb new knowledge, to meet new people and make useful contacts. IATEFL webinars are a valuable resource of precious information which you can go back to again and again in time of need. Once you become a part of this brilliant community of enthusiastic teachers, your life changes forever. What I learned during my professional journey towards realizing my dream is that everything is possible, we should just take the chance. Being an IATEFL member inspires me to never stop. Looking at all the hard work done by other teachers all over the world is truly inspiring.

What is my advice on how to win a scholarship? In my case being active in BESIG helped a lot. I got involved by presenting at a BESIG conference, giving a webinar, and taking part in online activities. I got noticed while being an active member of BESIG and that helped me to win the scholarship later. In November 2017 I attended another BESIG conference in Malta. This time I wasn’t a scholarship winner but attending IATEFL and BESIG conferences has become addictive for me and I couldn’t miss it. It was held in cooperation with ReSIG [Research Special Interest Group] and it was just brilliant. I enjoyed every moment of it.

So my advice is – get involved, take a chance and never stop in your professional development. IATEFL is there to help teachers like us.

Elena Matveeva is an EFL teacher at The Dmitry Nikitin School in Yaroslavl (Russia). She has been teaching for almost 20 years in different contexts from University to being a freelancer to being an Academic Director of the private language school where she is employed now. Her main interest lies in teaching adults both general English and Business English, including in-company training and teaching. Elena is an active participant of different national and international conferences, seminars, webinars and online courses. Professional development is an essential part of her teaching job. Nowadays, one of the spheres she is actively involved in is inviting speakers from overseas and Russia in order to hold training sessions for EFL teachers based in different cities in Russia. Her blog is www.languageflame.com and you can find her on facebook as Elena Matveeva.