About me in brief

Name:            Olha Madylus

Education:     M.A. in English Language Teaching, Thames Valley University

                        RSA Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults

                        Post Graduate Certificate in Education, Secondary English & Drama

                        B.A. in English & American Literature, Warwick University

Career:           State school secondary teacher of English & Drama in the UK

                        English Language Teacher in Greece, England, Hong Kong & Venezuela

                        Teacher Trainer in England, Hong Kong & Venezuela

                        Manager and teacher trainer in Greece


Currently:      Freelance Teacher Trainer & presenter worldwide

                        YL consultant, materials’ designer and author

Full biography

I was born and brought up in the excitingly multi-ethnic Shepherd’s Bush in London, England. At eighteen I left London and my family to go to Warwick University where I studied English and American Literature.

As a child I had many ideas about what I wanted to be when I grew up from a brain surgeon to working at the United Nations.  I suppose I always wanted to do something useful! Teaching was never part of my plans, because of or despite the fact my grandfather had been a teacher. But after University I enrolled on a Post Graduate Certificate in Education course and began teaching 11-16 year olds and was hooked for life.

For three years I worked in a state secondary school in London teaching English and Drama, which was often challenging, sometimes frustrating but ultimately very rewarding. I could have remained forever were it not from an older female teacher who had her own seat in the staffroom, where she often did her knitting. It was as if there were an invisible sign on it warning us younger more foolish teachers from daring place our bottoms upon it. Watching her was like seeing myself in a crystal ball a long time into the future and it  galvanised me into doing a part-time CTEFLA (the old CELTA) and start looking for jobs in exotic locations, for I had decided to travel the world and have adventures. I applied for rather a large number of jobs (I was rather keen on the idea of the Caribbean), but only got one interview – for a private English language school in Thessaloniki, Greece. I got the job on the spot, went straight to a bookshop to buy a map of Greece to find out where I was going and was on my way to a new branch of my teaching career – EFL.

I spent three years in Thessaloniki, enjoying learning more about my new trade with every lesson I taught and soaking up the experience of living abroad. Little did I know at the time that this was the beginning of a life-long attachment to the country of ancient philosophers, aquamarine seas, delicious seafood and frustratingly archaic Kafkaesque bureaucracy?

At this stage, though, I was ready to spread my wings even further and off I ventured to Hong Kong. My first job here was in a state secondary school on a British Council scheme. My classes were large with 40+ students and the methodology and materials dated, but what a fabulous way to dive into a culture and learn from the children and colleagues who surrounded me every day.

Once my contract was over after nearly three years, I decided to put my bonus to good use and do a Diploma course back in London, which I hoped would mean a chance to further hone my teaching skills and ultimately have a greater range of jobs to choose from.

 I returned to Hong Kong two months later and embarked on a very stimulating six months of juggling three part-time jobs – teaching English at the British Council, the HK Academy of Performing Arts and at a chain of five star hotels. The temperamental ballet dancers and geriatric bell boys could not keep me. I abandoned them when I was offered a full-time job at the BC. For four years I enjoyed the great variety that the biggest BC teaching centre in the world was able to offer – teaching primary children for the first time, embarking on Business English courses, general English, teacher training and my first forays into management. I even started giving presentations at this time at international conferences.

However much I loved, and still love Asia, after seven years I was ready for a change; and it might as well be a big one, I thought. I was on my way to Venezuela.

Caracas was indeed a big change and although the British Council teaching centre there was much smaller than the one in Hong Kong, I had plenty to keep me occupied. I set up courses for younger learners and teacher training courses, too.

Where Hong Kong was efficiency and order, Venezuela was colour and chaos. I reveled in the contrasts as well as the music, language, culture and geography of this beautiful country.

Unfortunately the sound of gunfire at night, the dead body of a young man on my street outside my apartment building and the abandoned street children with access to guns and drugs, but not love or education, were some of the factors that made moving back to England seem like a very good idea at this stage.

It was in fact a fortuitous move. I was back in time to give my first presentation at IATEFLA, where I was approached by someone with a job offer. If I started the next Monday I would get to be trained up as a CELTA trainer. I was propelled in a new direction.

I had also already been accepted on a part-time MA course at Thames Valley University, so the next two years saw me juggling two very demanding jobs and studying. I was either CELTA training or running the school’s year-long and summer YL programmes and I was running out of the school twice a week to get to my MA classes.

It was actually the expense of living in London on an EFL salary that prompted me to look abroad again for a job and I found myself returning to Thessaloniki to run the British Council teaching centre there for three years – a very happy return indeed.

On finishing this contract I was torn: staying with the British Council seemed to mean doing more management and less teaching and training, so I decided to try it on my own, moving back to the UK to base myself there as a freelance YL specialist. I found myself doing an interesting and varied amount of work from the outset – GAP training for students going to far-flung destinations to volunteer their time teaching often very disadvantaged children, CELTYL training, travelling to Bangkok to train the BC young learner teachers and advise on the whole YL programme and even ended up at BC headquarters in London as a temporary Head of Training & Development for nine months.

Over the past ten years I have travelled extensively around the world: training teachers and trainers, advising, presenting and now writing books. I continue to enjoy interacting with students and educators alike. I have recently moved back to London after four fabulous years in Athens.

What does George Clooney have to with it?

There are probably many teachers round the world who think I have an unhealthy obsession with George Clooney, but it’s more of an obsession with teaching language in context - really.

When I was teaching in an English language school in London in the late 1980s I had an elementary class of adults from around the world (from countries as diverse as Japan, Italy, Turkey and Bahrain). I saw them for 15 hours a week. Keeping adult student’s attention and making language real for them is a challenge. It was at this time I decided to bring George along to lessons to arouse their curiosity and embed target language in a story they could relate to. This consisted of having pictures of Mr Clooney up in class and establishing that he was indeed my boyfriend (simple present tense for a fact). When needed he was there to assist me. One day I brought in my suitcase and flight tickets for us both to Hawaii for that weekend and showed everyone what I had packed so they could tell me what me plans were (going to for plans). One day I brought in a giant red cardboard heart cut jaggedly in two with a picture taken from a magazine of George with another woman (obviously he’d broken my heart – present perfect for an action in the past whose effect can still be seen – I was after all still crying!)

Somehow he continued to work as my assistant even when I was teacher training. He may have gone grey and a bit baggy round the eyes, but he can be relied upon to help me tell the story that helps make language meaningful.

The Navajo Storyteller

 Stories are a big part of my teaching repertoire – if it’s not George Clooney it may be the Hungry Caterpillar making an appearance in my class with me.

The Navajo Storyteller is a beautiful icon. I love the way the children are clinging to her – almost part of her. I have chosen her as my motif as I identify very strongly with the image. And it makes me smile.

What teachers say:

 I loved the activities but what I was really impressed with was your personality, positive attitude and the obvious fact that you love teaching because these are the things that can hardly be taught or learned.

I really enjoyed your sessions. I like how you introduce your knowledge by giving lots of examples, not lecturing us. You include lots of games and activities, so it’s easier for me to remember them and understand them. Oh, and it’s fun. Your sessions are inspiring and make me think a lot about how I can apply what you say in my lessons.

Thank you for all your creative ideas! But mostly I would like to thank you for your inspiration. I can’t wait to start teaching on Monday!

I never thought that lectures could be that interesting. What you did was completely different from all the boring things I imagined. Thank you for surprising me in such a pleasant way.

At the very beginning of the course I was asking myself ‘What the **** am I doing here?’, but after five minutes I was a completely new person because you caught me the moment you started talking. You mentioned a lot of philosophers and people that I had studied at University and then I realised I had studied just the theory. When you had finished I realised that I could put it into practice.

After these three days I am sure I was born to be a teacher.

The part about student and teacher psychology was very useful because it made me observe my habits as a teacher and make some changes in my attitude to children and teaching. Thank you.

The first teacher trainer who didn’t bore me to death and made the time just fly away.

I liked the way you shared your personal experience, what happened in a real classroom.

I like the most the atmosphere that you create during your seminars. I realised how important it was to make your students feel comfortable and safe.

I feel now as if everything is possible.