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School of Continuing Studies | University of Toronto

Winning the Language Game

On December 15, 2016, English Language Program (ELP) Instructor, Evelyn Pedersen received the 2016 ELP Excellence in Teaching Award, an annual honour presented to an instructor based on student feedback and comments.  When asked about being given the award, she humbly accepted it, giving credit also to her fellow instructors and the work they do at the ELP.

“It’s an honour to receive this award. We have an expression in English, ‘to take one for the team.’ And this idiom is usually kind of negative.  It means somebody will make some sacrifice from which a team or group benefits.  I want to put a spin on it and say that I am representative of a whole team of fine and dedicated instructors.  This year it is me, next year it will be another instructor but I am only representative of a group of fabulous instructors.”

Reflecting on her career thus far, Pedersen spoke about what it was like when she started teaching at the ELP. She described a learning environment very much in contrast to what students experience today.  There were no smart screens in the class, computers or even space for multiple offices. 

“We’ve have come so far from those days.”

But Pedersen went on to add that though she feels that students are more sophisticated because of the influence of technology and access to materials on the internet, the goal of the instructor has not changed dramatically. 

“The number one goal we are trying to accomplish is building the students’ confidence.  If we can do this, students will take risks with the language and it is in the risk-taking that people learn.  And the classroom is a part of this: It’s a space where they can make mistakes and learn from them,” she said.

And for a student to be successful, not just as a student inside the class but as a user of the language in everyday situations, Pedersen emphasizes listening in addition to consistent engagement with the language. 

“Students need to hear the language and soak it in and immerse themselves in the sounds of the new language.  I would advise students to practice for 30 minutes every day if you’re serious about improving your English.  Treat it as a basic life discipline, like brushing your teeth.  Little by little it’s going to win the language learning game.”

For Evelyn, this practicing not only translates into student success but also for the instructor.  

“When I see students experiencing little milestones as a result of practice.  Having a small conversation, watching a movie—even if it is with subtitles—and they understand and are excited about it, that’s success for me and them—those milestones.”

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