Teaguen Onn is a teacher, a good one as a matter of fact. That does not make him one of a kind at CultureWorks. It’s a talented group from top to bottom.
If some of his teaching philosophies may be unique, however, they may have started with his two favourite studies in school, history … and philosophy.
Degrees in education and English literature at Western and Waterloo, respectively, and international teaching time in South Korea helped to round out his background. And being a CW teacher since 2011 doesn’t hurt either.
Teaguen sat down recently to talk about the independent study course outline, a path he has guided students along many, many times since joining CultureWorks. It is something he enjoys doing and where the teaching uniqueness comes into play.
What students can expect from the independent study course at our ESL school
In short, here is what we are talking about, using the course description as a guide.
Students work in pairs to propose, research, conduct, and report on a project of their choosing. This project will take the entire eight weeks of the term. Throughout the term, students will be responsible for meeting project milestones. They will be required to reflect on the project weekly and to produce a final learner portfolio explaining their contributions to the project and reflecting on their own learning throughout the process.
At the end of the term, they have created a show-and-tell poster presentation that they share with the teachers and fellow students.
“The main focus would be in using all the skills learned from all the other core subjects that we teach at CultureWorks,” Teaguen said in outlining the ESL program.
“So we are looking at listening and speaking, the reading, and then the writing as well. And I am also doing research. All of this is kind of rolled into one package… and it gives them more freedom to express these different skills, outside the parameters that we would normally assign to them with those specific classes.”
The poster presentations and the road to get there begin with their first days at ourESL school, Teaguen said.
“This is their chance to show kind of a final product, I guess, from what they have learned throughout their time. And I don’t even think this is necessarily cumulative just from a Level 7 or Level 6, but really from whenever they started in the CultureWorks program.
“To show ‘I’ve come this far and this is my end product. This is my big finale’.”
Allowing students to learn English as a second language in a more authentic way
Level 6 and Level 7 students take this eight-week program, with the expectations higher for the final-term students. Teaguen has the Level 7 group this term; fellow CW teacher Paul Findlay has the Level 6 group.
“With the Level 6, it is more of a rigid structure. With the Level 7, it’s more of about what can you do outside of the structure and how can you get people interested and engaged in your topic. That is the goal.”
The students’ subject choices cover a wide range and environmental subjects seem to top the list. But you may also find the proper way to operate a hot-pot restaurant in London, Ontario!
“The reason we introduced this program initially was we were trying to look for some more authentic ways for people to express the skills and the things that they have learned throughout the time of the program,” Teaguen said.
“They are supposed to be feasible and realistic solutions to these problems. So in that sense, it is an authentic assessment of what would you do in a real world like this.”
The benefits of completing the independent study course
Teaguen said the full-term project helps the students in many ways.
“It gives them a sense of working on something throughout a term. That’s important because when they do get into university, there will be some assignments that require bigger presentations, bigger reports, bigger essays. They will need sustained focus and concentration in order to be successful.”
Now back to Teaguen’s teaching philosophies. Some involve the ongoing teacher-student relationship in the independent study program.
“I would say it is a different relationship, because it allows me to not be the — for the lack of a better term — the all-knowing teacher preaching from the front of the room, telling people what is right and what is wrong.
“It’s me facilitating; it’s me closer to a peer — obviously not a peer — but closer to a peer and being able to communicate with them on a different level.
“It’s me working with them, discussing with them about the problem. It’s just a different scenario where I actually feel more comfortable doing that because I actually think it’s more helpful to talk people through things and feel that they can learn a lot more. It’s actually a different way in giving them feedback.”
Brian and Ruby, two current CultureWorks students, share some thoughts on the independent study program
At the end of the day comes satisfaction. Not always, however.
“With that sense of satisfaction can come with some dissatisfaction, depending on the experience. I am not going to lie. But the opportunity for the ultimate award is there.”
More often than not.
Would you like to develop your English language skills?
Recently, CultureWorks Founder and Chief Executive Officer Tina Bax made a staff announcement about two new employees who will not only help in the new creative initiatives in China, but also be key players on the home front.
We recently introduced Peter Choi as the new IT mastermind.
Today, it is time to spread the word about Amy Lin. Let’s leave the official wording to Tina.
“Ms. Amy Lin will be joining us as an Associate Project Manager for China. She’ll liaise with our sales team there, and focus her efforts on enrolment for the in-China programs. Amy is an alumna not only of CultureWorks, but also of Brescia and Ivey!”
Amy Lin will help CultureWorks expand and grow operations in China
Amy will be based in London at the CultureWorks main office, but she will also play an important role as CultureWorks spreads its wings at Chinese faculties in Harbin and Xi’an.
“CultureWorks in China is pretty new,” Amy said in a recent interview.
“Right now, we don’t know what we don’t know. We are trying to figure that out as well. My main role will be working with the China partners, trying to work out the procedures with the two different partners.”
On the home front, she will be the “face” in London, dealing with Chinese agents, many of whom do not speak English. In addition to speaking with the agents, she will also translate any brochures or marketing tools required.
CultureWorks Chief Operating Officer Amrik Sidhu was heavily involved in the two hires and – just like he had with Peter — he has nothing but terrific words about Amy and the role she will play.
“There are several gaps that she is filling, but her primary role is to support the Chinese market for the in-China program,” Amrik said.
“So what does that mean? That means she is working with the agents; she is doing all the training; she is communicating the programs; all that kind of activity around sales. So she is working with our Chinese sales team to package information to make sure that we are on track.”
Amrik said one way to look at is Amy will do everything related to that program between the sales team in China and the agents and London registrars. She will answer questions for them and she will be in training sessions when agents talk about the ESL program.
“That’s her primary goal. Her secondary role is really filling in for a lot of gaps we have around Chinese language,” Amrik said. “So for example, PYP information packages we put out. She is going to help us translate and she’s also going to communicate with agents around that.”
“So she is kind of that missing link between the registration process, our registrars and the agents. She can speak the language, she can connect with our team — and China — and she works evenings and mornings to be in the right time zone.”
An important addition to the team at our ESL school
Amrik said when he and Tina met Amy they knew right away they had to find a role for her, knowing they had a gap in the CultureWorks team.
“It worked out well and the more she gets engaged, the more we realized we needed that position filled a long time ago,” Amrik said. “To not having a Chinese-speaking staff member as part of the sales team is a bad thing.”
Amrik is also thrilled with Amy’s age (26) and her connections to the Chinese community in China and London.
“She has friends here, she has people who go to school here and she uses all the social media tools that people use. So in one way, it is a fresh perspective because frankly, a lot of our organization is not tech savvy.”
Amrik said Amy will be getting more and more coaching and training with Tina when they travel to China. She will be ultimately doing agent training and meeting with people on her own.
Meanwhile, Amy will be joining a company that she started with in 2012, as a student. She came to our ESL school in London for a grand total of four weeks at King’s University College in what is now the Fast Track/Be Ready summer program.
“Best part is I made lots of good friends from CultureWorks,” Amy said. “The girl I spent the afternoon with at McDonalds today also graduated from CultureWorks.”
Next stop was Brescia University College where she spent two years and continues to remain close friends with Christina Lord, the International Student Program Coordinator.
“I have a very good relationship with Christina. I always consider her my second Mom in Canada,” Amy said.
Her final stop in Canada – before her new position – was two years at Ivey Business School where she worked on obtaining her HBA.
All these schools in two different countries led Amy to exactly where she wanted to end up.
“Education is where my passion is,” she said quite succinctly. “A lot of friends ask me why I want to do education, because I graduated from Ivey. I think because when I started my Canadian journey, I had a lot of international friends and my previous agents asked me to help other students or I have my family friends who asked me for support.
“So when I was in university, I already knew that for a lot of students it was not perfect for Chinese to study abroad. It is challenging for them to become successful as international students.”
And while she was in university, she travelled to Italy and then Ghana. That was so that she could learn more about different education systems and international students.
“I think this probably really matches my background because I am Chinese. I am very proud of the Chinese community, so I think this job is perfectly matched with my passions of international education and also helping more Chinese students to be successful.”
CultureWorks; education; China; London, Ontario; travel; international students. Together, they are a series of words that seems to fit CW’s newest employee quite nicely.
Niagara Falls is one of the most famous natural wonders in Canada. If you study English in London, Ontario you’ll be just two hours away from this must-see sight. Of course, the main reason for visiting Niagara Falls is to see the incredible waterfalls themselves. But did you know there are actually many other attractions nearby that are also worth a visit?
Visiting Niagara Falls is a highlight for countless people who come to study English in Canada. It is also a fantastic opportunity to spend a fun-filled day with friends and classmates. You’ll get to see an amazing natural attraction and even practice your English language skills while you’re at it.
1. Practice your English language skills with a boat cruise to the falls
For a truly unforgettable way to see the falls, take one of the boat cruises available. The most popular Niagara Falls boat cruise is the Maid of the Mist, which departs from the U.S. side. However, there is another cruise called the Hornblower that leaves from the Canadian side. Both cruises take you past the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls: the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. Because these are guided tours, they are a great opportunity to test the skills you learn in your intensive English program. You’ll get really close to the falls and you will definitely get wet, so make sure your camera is waterproof!
2. Stay past dark to see fireworks and the illumination of the falls
You may be surprised to know that for many people the best time to see the falls is not during the day, but at night. That’s because as soon as the sun sets, the waterfalls are lit up in different colours using incredibly powerful LED lights. Different colours of lights are used to mark special occasions or to promote worthy causes. This light show is an incredible sight that occurs every night of the year. Even better, from mid-June to September there is a nightly fireworks show above the waterfalls.
3. Join your ESL classmates for a day of thrills at Clifton Hill
One of the most popular attractions in Niagara Falls is called Clifton Hill. Clifton Hill is a street lined with a lot of fun and even bizarre attractions, such as wax museums, haunted houses, video arcades, a Guinness World Records Museum, and miniature golf courses. Clifton Hill is an entertaining place to visit with friends and classmates from your ESL school in Canada. Many of the buildings have very outlandish architecture and the street is often compared to Las Vegas. In the middle of Clifton Hill is the Niagara SkyWheel, which is a giant Ferris wheel offering spectacular views of the falls.
4. Take a look behind Niagara Falls during your intensive English program
Another inspiring way to see the famous waterfalls is by visiting Journey Behind the Falls. This attraction takes you down an elevator into a network of tunnels that have been carved into the rock behind Niagara Falls. From these tunnels you get to see behind the waterfalls and really feel how powerful they are. There is also an outdoor observation deck located at the bottom of the falls that is great for photo opportunities.
In Canada, Valentine’s Day falls on February 14 and it is a day to celebrate love and romance. While most Canadians don’t get Valentine’s Day off from work, it is still considered an important holiday, especially for those in romantic relationships. If you study English in Canada, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Canadian culture, including the many holidays it celebrates. Here are just a few things Canadians like to do on February 14.
1. Students in an ESL program in Canada will see many full restaurants on Valentine’s Day
About a third of Canadian couples celebrates Valentine’s Day by going out for dinner at a restaurant. So if you plan on going to a restaurant in February, you better make a reservation far in advance! Many couples also stay at home and cook a romantic meal. Certain types of food are definitely considered more romantic than others in Canada. French, Italian, Spanish, and sushi restaurants, for example, tend to be really popular for a romantic night out. Hamburgers, fried chicken, and fast food, however, are considered a lot less romantic!
2. Both children and adults exchange Valentine’s Day cards in Canada
Valentine’s Day isn’t just for adults. In elementary schools, young children often make valentines and give them to their classmates. A valentine is a small card decorated with hearts and flowers. It is usually sent anonymously, so that the person getting the valentine won’t know who sent it. Even adults sometimes exchange cards on Valentine’s Day, although usually they are for their romantic partners and not for friends and acquaintances! When you study in an ESL program in Canada, you will often find entire aisles of department stores and pharmacies filled with Valentine’s Day cards for sale in February.
3. Couples will often give gifts to one another on Valentine’s Day
Many couples exchange gifts, like chocolate or flowers, on Valentine’s Day. Red roses are definitely the most popular flower to exchange on Valentine’s Day. If you are from a country that celebrates White Day, you may be used to women giving men gifts on Valentine’s Day. Canada does not celebrate White Day, therefore on Valentine’s Day there is no expectation that only women give gifts. Instead, couples are free to exchange gifts however they want. In fact, many couples don’t exchange gifts at all and prefer to just spend the day together.
4. Many Canadians prefer memorable experiences on Valentine’s Day
When you learn English as a second language in Canada, you will encounter many people saying they dislike exchanging gifts on Valentine’s Day because they find it too commercial. Instead of exchanging gifts, a lot of couples prefer doing fun and romantic activities together on Valentine’s Day, such as going to the spa, taking dance lessons, or going ice skating together. For many people, these experiences tend to be far more meaningful and memorable than flowers or chocolates.
Ice hockey is Canada’s national winter sport. Many Canadians love playing hockey and many also have a favourite hockey team. If you want to improve your English skills while you are in Canada, having some knowledge about hockey is a great way to start a conversation.
Let’s take a look at four unusual facts about hockey. These facts will help you better understand Canada and its favourite sport.
The biggest prize in professional hockey in North America is the Stanley Cup
There are 31 Canadian and U.S. teams that make up the National Hockey League (NHL). Each year, the top 16 teams compete for the Stanley Cup during what is called the playoffs. The Stanley Cup is named for Lord Stanley of Preston, who was the former Governor General of Canada. It is the most important trophy in professional hockey in North America. When a team wins the Stanley Cup, each player on the team gets to spend a day with the cup. Some players have done some pretty strange things with it, including eating popcorn or cereal out of the cup!
The part of the year when NHL teams compete for the Stanley Cup is called playoff season. During playoff season, you may notice a lot of people wearing beards. Many players and fans believe it is bad luck to shave their beards while their team is in the playoffs. Only when their team is eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup can they shave again! When you learn English as a second language, playoff beards are a fun topic of conversation to bring up with Canadian hockey fans.
Montreal has won the most Stanley Cups, but no Canadian team has won since 1993
The Montreal Canadiens (nicknamed “The Habs”) have won more Stanley Cups than any other NHL team. They have won the Stanley Cup 24 times! That’s a lot more than the second-best team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have won the Stanley Cup 13 times. Montreal and Toronto are both in Canada, which shows just how much Canadians love hockey! However, the last time a Canadian team actually won the Stanley Cup was way back in 1993. During your ESL program in Canada, you’ll find that Canadians are very passionate about which Canadian team will finally “bring the Cup home” again.
Many fans have traditions during games to show their support for their teams. Fans of the Winnipeg Jets, for example, dress entirely in white during what is called a “whiteout.” The Columbus Blue Jackets fire a replica of an 1857 cannon whenever they score a goal. However, the strangest tradition belongs to the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit fans actually throw dead octopuses onto the ice! The eight arms of the octopus represent the eight games teams used to need to win in order to win the Stanley Cup. While teams no longer need to win eight games to get the Stanley Cup, the tradition of throwing octopuses remains.
CultureWorks Founder and President Tina Bax is known for her big picture approach to the ESL company she originated 20 years ago.
For that matter, she also has a healthy vision of life in general.
Today, however, we will deal with her expanding CultureWorks world.
The ESL company has confirmed a new educational partnership with China’s Harbin No. 3 High School, also involving the School of Continuing Education at the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), a Top 9 school in China.
Both are in the city of Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang and China’s northernmost province. The population is close to 11 million.
With local media on hand, Tina signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the London, Ont., -based company and the Harbin high school, the top high school in the region.
Tina’s most recent trip to China
The signing highlights Tina’s sixth trip to China this year.
“What we are doing in China is in keeping with the theme that has always driven us which is trying to make education more accessible for international students,” Tina said before leaving for China.
In China, CultureWorks teachers will deliver the ESL program on the HIT site with the high school students. After completing Level 1-6, the students will come to Canada to complete Level 7 followed by entering a Canadian university or college.
Tina left Canada for Harbin on Dec. 3 and returned one week later. She was accompanied by the ESL school’s Ottawa Director Trevor van Peppen and London teacher Karen Preston. Both are there for longer stays.
An exciting pilot project
Trevor and Karen were on hand for the pilot project of 15 students. The pilot began Dec. 10 and will extend until the end of January.
Tina said Trevor will head up the China project after having major roles in the London and Ottawa offices.
“Now, I think he is ready to spread his wings and launch the China campus and his skill set is perfectly aligned with the kind of challenges that we will face in China. That will be fun,” Tina said.
Tina said Karen has been working with the online programs and has been supporting the Amberson high school project in Toronto.
“And has been teaching this course … we’re going to stretch that now. So instead of supporting teachers (in Canada), she is going to support the ones in China,” Tina said.
Karen said she is “very excited; a little nervous” about the China project.
“As far as I know, I am going to be doing support for the teacher and I am also going to be doing some teacher testing and some lead teaching while I am there. And also be setting up all the Canvas courses while I am there and training the students and teachers in that use as well and teaching them about the program.”
A Chinese teacher — a faculty member at the university — has been hired already. Karen will go to China “at least every eight weeks” to start new eight-week terms and finish the previous term.
Helping even more students learn English as a second language
Tina said she expects 200 students within the first six months.
“And we anticipate in having a thousand students in the first year. So our current partners can’t handle all those students. We anticipate the need for more university partners in Canada and abroad, perhaps,” Tina said.
And with Level 1-6 being taught in China, Level 7 can be completed at the CultureWorks sites or with new university partners.
Huron University College has joined Brescia and King’s in working with CultureWorks. Seven Amberson high school students already have Huron offers.
Tina said Trevor is going to take over some of what she has been doing in terms of managing the relationship in China “making sure everything that has to happen, happens.”
“Karen is going to be delivering all the teacher training and most of the course, so she will be doing the heavy lifting. She will be great.”
Meanwhile, Tina said she will be doing some marketing and new business development.
This year, Amberson High School in Toronto put together a summer camp itinerary for 41 Chinese students.
It was an educational match made in heaven with learning grounds based in Toronto; Shijiazhuang, the capital and largest city in North China’s Hebei province; and London, Ont.
There were other Ontario university stops along the way for the students.
The students came from the Shijiazhuang No. 42 High School, with some entering Grade 9 in September, and the remainder heading into Grade 11.
This keen group of students landed at the Toronto airport on July 28th, and will return to China on August 9th.
In those lucky 13 days, they will have crammed in a terrific amount of knowledge about the Canadian educational system, intertwined with learning a great deal about the geography and history of life north of the 49th parallel.
After a stop at Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto the first morning, it was off to London for three days of learning just how the CultureWorks ESL program works, and the relationship it has with Western University, Brescia University College, and King’s University College.
An ESL program with a different teaching style
Amberson principal Desiree Dong said it was an easy decision to begin the ESL program in London.
“It was a our plan to come (to London) because Amberson does have an EAP relationship with CultureWorks, so we wanted the students to experience first hand what the university life is like, to see the campus, be in the CultureWorks EAP class, so that they can make a more informed choice about where they want to study in the future.”
Desiree said the students noticed the CultureWorks teaching style was quite different than they were accustomed to in China. Teaching is very “lecture style” in China, she said.
“For the classes that we have been doing here, we had the great pleasure of having Derek (Martin) and Meredith (McGregor) as our two instructors. They were really great instructors and the kids were saying it’s so interactive. It’s a lot of fun. There was a lot of team building, collaboration. There’s not a lot of that in China.”
Derek said he and Meredith were equally impressed with the students. Derek had a class with the students about to enter Grade 9; Meredith had the group about to begin Grade 11.
“Both of us had a great impression of the students. They were keen, very interested and their English was actually better than we thought it was going to be,” Derek said.
“I was surprised at everything they knew and they weren’t afraid to try to use their English, so yes, it was a very positive impression.”
Activities abound for students participating in the ESL summer camp
After the London visit and until they head back to the airport for their flight home to China, the summer camp activity continued to be non-stop, both from an educational and cultural point of view.
You didn’t need to be from the Far East to enjoy the remainder of their jam-packed journey.
On the school side, the 41-strong also did tours of the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, and Carleton University.
And they did not miss out on many of Ontario’s cultural treats.
The Royal Ontario Museum, Thousand Islands, Parliament Hill, Canadian Museum of History, Niagara Falls, and the not-to-be missed Shakespeare in High Park were all on their itinerary. Romeo and Juliet was a hit for everyone.
Summer camp deemed a resounding success
Desiree said she was happy with the over-all plan.
“This is our first year of doing a full-on camp like this, so we are really excited to start with Western and CultureWorks, because we do have our partnership (with CW) and we want to show off the best first,” Desiree said.
“From (the students’) perspective, they see it as a really big university. They see it as a big umbrella under Western. Obviously, each campus or each university college has its own history. So it’s very interesting for them to see.”
Derek agreed the exercise was good for all parties, including CultureWorks.
“I think it’s a good experience for the students. I think it’s great for them to come and see the campus where, who knows, they might be studying, but just to see a campus in Canada. It’s great.”
“I’d love to see a campus in China so I could see a campus, have a tour and have them explain all these things. It would be great. So I think there is value in it for the students and it’s nice to be a part of that.”
Derek said it’s important for young students to take an early look at Canadian campuses, including CultureWorks, Western, King’s, and Brescia. He sees more of these types of events on the horizon for CultureWorks.
“And then in a couple of years if they are thinking ‘hmm, I would like to study overseas somewhere,’ we are going to be what comes to mind then. ‘Oh, I think I know where I am going to go. I think I am going to go where I visited last year or two years ago or whatever’.”
Amberson High School’s Toronto campuses are now offering the UPathway program that allows Amberson High School students a direct pathway into select universities and colleges. The UPathway program integrates the CultureWorks English language curriculum with the Amberson High School curriculum to ensure student success.