By Lucy Tepp
I was born and raised in Greece and as it’s common here for children around the age of 7 or 8 to start learning English, so my parents signed me up for classes in a private language school. I’m not sure when language schools first appeared in Greece, but I know that parents who can afford it have been using them for years. However, English was not a very popular language here during the 60s and 70s. My mother, for example, learned French as there was a belief that French is a more elegant and useful language. Around the 80s and 90s though, things in Greece changed and a huge amount of language schools sprouted up throughout the country. By the time I was 10, it would have been unthinkable for a Greek child not to attend English classes.
Greeks prioritize language learning. Currently, public schools still include English and one other foreign language in their learning programs. People assume that we learn English because Greece is such a tourist hot spot. However, my hometown is not a tourist area and I have never worked in that industry. In fact, I liked learning English and my teacher is an amazing person, that provides guidance not only to learning but to life itself. At the age of 14 I acquired my lower degree in English, Michigan ECCE (Certificate of Competency in English).
There are a lot of foreign or local certified service providers through which someone can sit for exams and become certified for any level of competency in English. Most famous are Cambridge and Michigan University and lately there is a national certificate provider, as well as TOEFL, TOEIC and IELTS. I remember having examinations for elementary, basic, intermediate and lower level once a year, every year for the certification that Cambridge University provided. I continued taking classes for the next 4 years so I would be able to have the highest level certificate, and after a couple of failed attempts I acquired the Michigan ECPE (certificate of proficiency in English). That’s why I encourage people not to give up! After that, we could apply to the Ministry of Education for a teaching license but it was not in my plans back then.
My parents are both retired teachers and it was so obvious to them and to all the people who knew us that I should be a teacher, too. I had a different opinion so I entered the Technical Institute of Applied Informatics in 2005. After graduation, I had to enter the working field in the middle of the financial crisis and that was not an easy thing to do. I worked in different jobs that had to do with sales, help desk, babysitting, etc to make a living. Finally, in 2006 I thought of taking advantage of an opportunity to become an online English tutor at TutorABC.
I had experience in teaching by volunteering to teach adults who wanted to move to other countries for studies or work, while I was in college, but that was face to face and they were all adults. I never doubted my ability in English, but I was terrified by the idea that I may not have all the skills to teach. Step by step, watching educational videos, talking with friends who already work in that industry and following my parents’ steps I am happy to say I survived and I think I offer the best of myself in teaching. I like the way my mind works when I’m in class and I believe the students receive my energy and take advantage of all the good things I have to share. I never thought teaching would make me feel whole. I am super happy and grateful to discover that part of me.
If you are on the English language learning journey, take my story as an example of how English can take you places that you never expected.