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ESL Professional: Sandra Marttinen

Linda Arlia
Brandee Sweesy
Sandra Marttinen
Caroline Binda
Daniela Encheva
Torsten Daerr
Ralf Messmann
Roberto Villarreal
Are you an ESL professional, translator or writer?

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Sandra Marttinen   Degrees
B.A. in Liberal Studies; Teaching Credential; M.A. in Education, TESL; Dyslexia Teacher Certification

Professional experience
Taught grades kindergarten — middle school in public schools. Taught ESL classes in private Chinese school for children ages 10-18. Taught ESL classes at community colleges in California and Oregon. Professional lecturer on using Total Physical Response in the adult classroom. Hired by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to create ESL science curriculum. Lectured to California based Japanese company employees on using business English. Presented with Teacher of Excellence Award for ESL creativity in classroom. Professional writer for Education Helper.

Present position
Owner/teacher of Academic Excellence, which provides tutoring in ESL, Social Studies, Science, and Math. Traveling lecturer.
I moved from a very large city to a smaller one in Northern California. On the day I registered to teach in the district, I was asked if I would be willing to teach an ESL class. Although, I had no experience with teaching ESL students, teachers learn to be flexible and I agreed to teach the students for the rest of the term.

The former teacher had left lesson plans on her desk that I was to follow for the next few weeks. She also had written that there was a high level of absenteeism. When I walked into the room, I observed unhappy faces, crayons on the tables and no teaching materials. The lesson plan on the desk stated students were to watch movies every day. Using the little Spanish I knew, I asked what else the students did in class. Nada! Nothing was expected of them! This had to change.

The next day, I arrived with a bag full of activities, pictures and rewards. I showed them pictures of my family and wrote the name for their relationship on the board. When a very shy student answered my question to repeat the word, I gave her a package of candy. I know, some people will object and say this was bribery, but it was successful. After that, everyone wanted to respond. I asked them to bring pictures of their family for the following day. We created family tree projects. I took their pictures and we made a huge family tree on the wall of the students. In just one week, my brilliant students were speaking English. I asked the principal to visit the room. He was very surprised. The former teacher had said the students were "unreachable." I enjoyed finishing the year with the high school students.

My next experience in teaching was very similar. There were too many teachers that did not know how to teach ESL. At that point, I decided to attend a university in the evening so I could learn more about teaching English. I also taught adult education classes two nights during the week. The students were from Russia, India, and Mexico. There were a few personality problems when the men tried to dominate the conversation. With a little joking, using art and music the class soon learned to work together. My classroom soon grew to 42 students! I was hired to teach four days a week. During one of my classes, the director of the program walked in followed by a reporter, photographer, and the Mayor! I was speechless! Before, I could say anything, the director announced I was being given a Teacher of Excellence Award and the others wanted to observe my teaching techniques. My face was bright red!

In the following years, I had the great pleasure of teaching in homeless shelters, a private Chinese school, colleges and universities. When I lecture to other teachers, I demonstrate realia and activities to make learning English enjoyable. My philosophy has always been, "If the teacher is not enjoying teaching, then the student is not enjoying learning." Acquisition of the English language is more difficult when the learning becomes boring. I use my background as an actress and artist to make learning English a fun experience for myself and my students.


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