Passionate About Second Language Acquisition: Meet Inkeri, English Teacher at 51Talk
We are quite excited to share our very first interview here with Inkeri Martin, English Teacher from 51Talk.
51Talk is China’s leading online English education platform. The company’s mission is to make quality education accessible and affordable, and through an online platform. 51Talk enables millions of students across China to take live, one-on-one interactive English lessons with North American teachers.
1. Inkeri, you’ve been teaching for 15 years. Can you tell us about your education background?
After completing undergraduate school in 2001, I began my teaching career as a substitute teacher at various Oregon districts. Being raised in a bilingual Finnish/English home and having attended elementary school in Finland for several months at a time, I chose to apply to teaching positions in my mother’s native country of Finland. In 2003-2004, I taught a first grade English immersion classroom for the City of Espoo’s Jalavapuisto elementary school. After a truly unforgettable year of teaching in Finland, I returned to my hometown of Lake Oswego, Oregon to teach in the school district I attended from K-12. For the next decade, I taught Kindergarten, first, and second grades for the Lake Oswego School District. In 2010, I completed an MA in Applied Linguistics with a certification in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) as well as earning an ELL (English Language Learner) endorsement for K-8 students. After completing my studies, the district provided me an additional role as one of the few English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in our district. I traveled throughout the district to work with students from all over the world. Last summer, our family relocated to Palm Beach County, Florida due to my husband’s work and it was then that I discovered 51Talk.
2. You recently joined 51Talk as an online English teacher. What were two things that excited you about working with the company?
After our family’s big move last summer, I wanted to be available as much as possible to my children as they adjusted to a new school and community. However, as an educator, it was important that I continue working in the profession that I love and further improving my skills. As I applied for various teaching openings in our area, I came across a posting for an online English language teacher. The flexible teaching schedule caught my attention. I began the interview and trainings process with 51Talk and was immediately enthusiastic about this new teaching adventure.
In addition to the flexible schedule, I loved the idea of teaching English to young students in China. I have long been passionate about second language education for young students due to the many cognitive benefits, the appreciation and understanding of other cultures, and the future opportunities it affords them. Being able to provide this experience to learners because of today’s technology is incredibly rewarding as a teacher.
My advocacy for second language and culture learning is reflected in my personal life. Our two children have attended language immersion schools (Mandarin and/or Spanish) since Kindergarten and they also work with an online Finnish language teacher weekly. Several years ago, our family hosted a student through American Field Service (AFS) for a year.
3. Can you please share what a day in the life of a 51Talk English teacher may look like from beginning to end?
As a 51Talk teacher I go to bed early and get the coffee prepped the night before! I’m up by 4:30 or 5:00 and am typically teaching by 5:30. Prior to my lessons, I log-in to the 51Talk Teaching Platform “Air Class,” check my internet connection, and enter the classroom in a punctual fashion. Since the lessons are 25 minutes, it is crucial that I manage the pacing of the lesson but also ensure that all content is covered with the student. At the end of each lesson, I provide lesson feedback to the student through 51Talk’s “Lesson Memo” form. Along with words of praise, I provide recommendations to each student for aspects of the lesson to practice outside of class. After a few hours, I take a one-hour break to get my children up and ready for school. By 8am I am back on-line for additional lessons. Depending on student bookings, I typically teach until 10 or 11 am.
51Talk is not just for young students but offers lesson to adult students. Many of my later morning lessons have been with adult English language learners. Working with adult learners is as rewarding as working with elementary-age students. Similar to the 51Talk elementary student lessons, the adult lessons are well-crafted and provide students with ample opportunity to focus on all English language skills. After a full morning of teaching, I turn my attention to being a mom! I volunteer at my sons’ dual-language elementary school, manage our home, and drive our boys to and from afterschool activities. I truly have the best of both worlds.
4. What are three things that you enjoy most about teaching for 51Talk?
My favorite aspect of 51Talk is working with students of another country. Having been raised in a bilingual home with opportunities to travel and experience other languages and cultures, I understand the value 51Talk students and families have in working with 51Talk teachers. Sharing students’ learning enthusiasm and excitement as they discover new words and develop their English skills is incredibly rewarding. With my regular students, the progress they have made in 51Talk is evident in their ability to read, write, and speak in English. Students are focused, diligent, and motivated to be successful learners. In addition to acquiring a second language, students are experiencing a one-on-one interaction with a teacher from another part of the world. This unique cultural exchange is not only beneficial to the English learner, but also to the teacher. It is these types of interactions that improves cultural competence in the individual.
Another part of 51Talk I enjoy is the depth and knowledge of their training courses for their instructors. As I continue to advance, I have been provided the opportunity to take online training courses with other teachers at 51Talk. These courses cover teaching strategies, language acquisition, effective communication with students, and much more.
In addition to the teaching and training opportunities, 51Talk has enlisted me on several occasions to take on special projects. Recently I have been provided opportunities to teach large classes ranging anywhere from 20 – 100 students. It was a challenging teaching opportunity but one that I truly appreciated. In addition to presenting the material to students, I checked in with students using the platform “chat function” to ensure student understanding and answer any clarifying questions. As 51Talk continues to expand I am excited about the potential of taking on additional responsibilities and opportunities.
5. If you were to recommend this path for other teachers, what would you tell them?
Working at 51Talk can be a fit for any teacher at any point in his or her career. After the initial hiring process there are trainings to complete and equipment to prepare prior to teaching. I watched training videos, sampled lesson clips, and read every document sent to me by 51Talk trainers. Although there was a fair amount of initial prep-work, I did not mind as I was eager to begin working with students. 51Talk’s use of Common Core in the well-prepared lessons will be familiar to teachers and will also provide the convenience of focusing solely on the instruction without the added curriculum planning. Once a teacher begins his or her lessons, it is important to be patient with oneself as you learn the 51Talk online platform and how to communicate reports effectively to support staff. Personally, I was a great deal more nervous about getting my reports submitted in time, checking my internet connection, and making sure my headset was working properly, than the actual teaching. Once I had all the technological kinks worked out, it’s been smooth sailing!
About Inkeri Martin
Inkeri Martin is an English language instructor for 51Talk, an online English Language company in China and the Philippines. She brings over a decade of classroom teaching experience in both the United States and abroad. Inkeri was a classroom and English language teacher for the Lake Oswego School District outside of Portland, Oregon. Lake Oswego School District was recently ranked the top school district in Oregon according to Niche, Inc. Inkeri has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). She is also certified to teach English as a second language to students in grades K-8. Inkeri taught first grade English language immersion and fifth/sixth grade English language subject classes in her mother’s native country of Finland. Finland’s education system is continually cited as one of the best in the world and Inkeri credits much of her teaching success to her professional experience at Jalavapuisto School in Espoo, Finland. A long time advocate of early second language learning, Inkeri has served on committees that focus on bringing world language education to children in the community. Additionally, she wrote an op-ed “My Turn: Finland’s successful language immersion could teach us a valuable education lesson” for The Oregonian, the largest newspaper publication in Oregon.
51Talk is China’s leading online English education platform. The company’s mission is to make quality education accessible and affordable, and through our online platform, we enable millions of students across China to take live, one-on-one interactive English lessons with North American teachers.
Utilizing an “anytime, anywhere” approach, North American teachers who teach with 51Talk conduct our on demand, 25-minute lessons whenever their schedules allow. With such a flexible way for teachers to use their teaching degrees to earn money from home, 51Talk’s family of North American educators is growing rapidly.
Beyond the additional income and exciting career development opportunities on offer, perhaps the greatest part of teaching with 51Talk is the chance to learn about a different culture firsthand.
Please stay tuned for more education interviews with teachers who are growing with 51Talk.
Interested in working for 51Talk? Apply Here!