CultureWorks is the original ESL school for higher education in Canada. And London, Ontario is the school’s original location. Our CW students have created so many great memories in London, all the way from our summer programs, through our school year, and beyond into the alumni chapter. This Valentines Day, send some love to London, and enjoy these London memories caught on camera
Do you have any CultureWorks pictures you’d like to share? You can send them to us on our Facebook page!
Today we’re joined by the one and only, Mr. Stan Rath. Stan is one of CultureWorks’ powerhouses. He is a teacher, a curriculum developer, and a mentor to both teachers and students. If you want to learn something, I suggest you hang around Stan. I recently asked him some questions so you can get to know him a little better.
Q. Stan, who is your favourite Canadian musician?
A. Oscar Peterson is a world class jazz pianist. I listen to his music every day.
Q. What idiomatic expression best describes you and why?
A. I think “the best of both worlds” describes me well. I love to travel and meet people from different cultures, but I also love to stay close to home.
At CultureWorks, I experience the best of both worlds because I have many interesting students from a variety of cultures in the classroom, and I get to live in my hometown of London, Ontario.
Q. When you’re not teaching, what are you doing? Do you have any hobbies, and why do you like doing them?
A. When I’m not teaching, I am usually hiking or planning my next vacation. One of the best feelings for me is being close to nature, and my favourite way to do this is hiking in Algonquin Park here in Ontario.
I find traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures very interesting. Two of my favourite countries that I have visited so far are India and Italy.
Q. You studied Biology before becoming a teacher. Do you think language is like science in any way? Do you draw from your scientific background in your approach to teaching?
A. I definitely think that language has scientific structure and rules, and I have found a scientific approach to teaching grammar and writing to be very effective. Many of my students have indicated that they benefit from using a formulaic approach when they practice using their vocabulary to build grammatically correct sentences.
Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could create a new word for the English language, what would it be and what would it mean?
A. gramtastic (adjective) definition: relating to the joy people feel when grammar unlocks doors to language learning
Gramtastic! I love it! Thanks so much for stopping by the Hotspot, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about you, and I know our CultureWorks students are lucky to have you as their teacher!
Please welcome Meredith McGregor to the Hotspot! After reading her interview, you’ll learn she is a thoughtful and sincere person. You might even say she’s “Down to Earth”. I’d love to have her as a teacher!
How long have you been working at CultureWorks? What is it about teaching English that you like the most?
I started as a substitute teacher at CultureWorks in the Fall of 2010 and then began full-time in January of 2011. The staff and students are the best part about teaching at CultureWorks. What I like best about teaching English for CW is the academic nature of the program.
What are your hobbies? Which of them do you recommend new students to Canada try, and why?
I teach dance aerobics part-time for a gym. This is something I really enjoy doing in my spare time. I also like cooking and reading.
There are a lot of students from a wide variety of cultures at our school, and each culture is rich in music, food, film, art, history, and stories. Which of these cultural features would you be most interested in learning about? Why?
Since working for CultureWorks, I have become really interested in visiting China one day. I think it would be nice to have a better sense of where our Chinese students come from, and be able to relate to them better. Also, it just sounds like a really diverse and interesting country with a rich culture and history.
What is your role at CultureWorks? Which courses do you specialize in? How do you feel these skills will aid our students in university or college? Do you have any advice you’d like to give students in these areas?
I mostly teach Level C/D Writing and Grammar. Being able to write well is an important skill not only for post-secondary studies, but for employment as well. My advice is to develop your vocabulary so that you are able to express yourself clearly and directly. Having strong diction is an asset that influences all aspects of communication.
Lastly, for fun, if you could visit any Canadian province, where would you go? Why?
I would love to see more of Canada because I feel like I have traveled more outside of my own country than domestically. I have never been to Nova Scotia, so maybe I would choose to go there, especially during the summer.
CultureWorks ESL teachers often tell their students to watch English TV and movies. I know, they’re pretty cool teachers. Of course they are suggesting this for students to improve their skills. But what shows and films are best for students to watch? Although Canada doesn’t produce nearly as many TV shows as the U.S., many of our shows tell interesting stories with intelligent ideas that just happen to be perfect for anyone learning English.
The show I’ll present this week is called Being Erica. It is a popular CBC program that is in its final season. Read the show’s description and see if you can guess why it would be a good one to watch:
“Being Erica is a one-hour series that explores the life of Erica Strange, a woman who has been given a wonderful gift. Every episode, Erica goes back to relive a regret from her past, in order to come back and make a positive change in her present.”
Firstly, the main character travels in time, so that’s a good enough reason to watch it. Secondly, because she travels in time, it’s the perfect show to learn about VERB TENSES! By watching this show you’ll hear it all:
Present Tense Family: the simple present (I live), the present progressive (I am living), the present perfect (I have lived)
Past Tense Family: the simple past (I lived), the past progressive (I was living), the past perfect (I had lived)
Future Tense Family: the simple future (I will live), the future progressive (I will be living), the future perfect (I will have lived)
Conditionals: I would, I could, I should…
In addition to memorizing the rules, it is most effective to listen and watch English being used. Being Erica is the perfect show for this. Watch this clip to see what I mean, and see how many tenses you hear. Write them down and say them aloud as you hear them, too. You might want to close the door when you practice though, some people might think you’re crazy! 🙂
A man goes on vacation. He send this email to his wife:
“I’m having the best time of my life. I wish you were her.”
Ok, I will keep this week’s blog brief. Or is it breef? Beef? Oh man….
English teachers get this question all the time: “Do we really need to learn how to spell?” With the predictive spelling technology on our devices, and spelling and grammar checks on Microsoft Word, I can understand why an ESL student would ask this question
But let me be clear here. Spelling is VERY important, and if anyone learning your native language asked you the same question, I bet you would say the same thing. Of course, we all make mistakes:
Why is spelling important?
1. Computers cannot catch all the mistakes. A journalist friend of mine admits he makes 7-12 simple spelling mistakes per article, on average. That is after he has corrected his work! Every journalist needs to have their articles reviewed twice before publication.
2. As a result, your spelling mistakes can change the meaning of your writing. You are writing things to be understood, right?
3. Your ability to spell is connected to your ability to read. If you have difficulty spelling, you’ll have difficulty reading, and reading is one of the most important skills to have in any language.
4. When you apply for a job, and there is a spelling mistake on your cover letter or resume, you are immediately considered less professional, responsible, and capable than the other applicants. You may not get the job.
5. Bad spelling looks bad. It’s like walking around with ketchup on your face.
With the recent flood of texting and tweeting, a lot of spelling mistakes have become forgivable. After all, people are writing while they’re in line at the movies, on the train while listening to music, or even in class…yes, we know you do it! The difference is that essays and presentations are formal and require attention to detail. It is simply negligent, or lazy, to ignore the rules of language in the academic context.
So yes, practice your spelling. In addition to your teachers’ guidance, here are some links to help you out with common English spelling mistakes.
Q. Brad, you’ve been teaching with CultureWorks for almost five years, and you are a real ‘team player’. That idiom perfectly describes how you approach your job. How do you use your team player approach in the classroom?
I surprise myself sometimes in just how much of a ‘sporting psychology’ I use in the classroom. Having a game plan, yet being flexible enough to change it quickly if we are not hitting targets, is essential for our class success. I also believe that a team philosophy means that students need freedom to make as many decisions as possible, so I welcome their input in my delivery methods of lessons and the decisions for deadlines, for example. Once work has been completed, students can look back on the impacts of their decisions, so they can better learn to manage their time and hone their study skills for their upcoming college and university courses.
Q. Most people watch sports on TV and pretend they are athletes. You have had quite a bit of game time in real life, haven’t you? What can you tell us about your sporty life, both then and now?
Well, a great Compare and Contrast paragraph could be written about my former and current sporting ventures, no doubt! Playing basketball and football in leagues inside and outside of high school and taking up hobbies in so-called ‘extreme sports’ like snowboarding and skateboarding were a way of life for me when I was younger. These days, I am lucky if I can drag myself to a gym or go for a jog once a month! Luckily, our Canadian Studies class activities at CultureWorks often involve sporting events, so I can get a good workout just by joining in with our students on a soccer field. My grandfather was a professional soccer goalie in Scotland and later became the head coach of the Canadian Men’s soccer team in the mid-1970’s, so you could say sports and education are in my blood, and that they both require focus, dedication and practice in order to excel.
The majority of my teaching here at CultureWorks has taken place in Writing and Grammar classes, and there is no doubt that writing well, with accurate grammar, is necessary for success in college or university. My advice to students would be to use the tools of technology that teachers show them to be better writers and more accurate grammarians, as advancing technology really can make these age-old subjects more interesting and engaging. With that said, however, students must always remember that relying heavily on spell checkers, translators, dictionaries, and auto-correct will not create a skilled writer. Putting words to page is an art, and all great artists must learn theory and then carve out their own style.
Q. Lastly, for fun, what are your three favourite cars…that are assembled in Canada?
Great question! I bet many newcomers to Canada, and even some native Canucks, may not be aware that General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Ford and Chrysler all have factories and design facilities in Ontario alone! I’ll choose an SUV in the Honda CRV, built in Alliston, Ontario, two sporty cars in the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger, built in Oshawa and Brampton respectively, and my all-around choice for Canada’s nicest car (also assembled in Oshawa) the new Buick Regal. It is not your grandpa’s Buick anymore!
Thanks for your time Brad, we hope to have you back on the Hotspot soon!
Thanks for having me! This blog is a great addition to all we have to offer at CultureWorks.