About

Hi, my name is Shirley.

I have been teaching and training for more than 8 years in Canada, briefly in Chilé, for 3 years in China, and now, online from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Initially, I taught desktop publishing and graphics software to college students and adults, then English as a Foreign Language to middle school and international students, teachers and business people.

As a 15 year member of Toastmasters International, I have written and delivered more than 200 short speeches (I’ve actually lost count after 200), successfully participated in speech contests, assisted in training club executives, delivered specialty workshops, and coached other speakers. In 2008, I was awarded the Distinguished Toastmaster award.

As a life-long learner, I am continually participating in workshops, online courses and certification programs. I am also enjoying the mental challenge of learning to read, write, and speak Chinese.

I’m so happy to meet you here!

My teaching philosophy, style,and techniques follow.

My Teaching Philosophy

My desire to teach English began with a sign in a travel agency window. The title read “Teach and Travel” and continued with promises of paid adventure.

“Come to the exotic city of Tianjin and explore a vibrant culture … “

The invitation appealed to my top 3 strengths: curiosity, love of learning, and creativity (according to a strengths assessment with VIA Institute). I was enjoying teaching computer software to adults and college students, but I had always wanted to travel more and to experience working and living in other cultures. I obtained a TESOL certificate and began a new life.

While I am teaching, I am also always learning. As we are often reminded, students are not empty vessels. Learners often give as much as they receive.

Communication is key to connection and connection is a basic human need. It is deeply satisfying to assist students with the language needed to meet their goals, for example: to study in another country, to teach, to gain employment, to start an international business, or to simply pass an exam. Teaching is a means to share and give back.

My curiosity and love of learning about other people and cultures has taken me across Canada and the United States, to travel a little in 7 other countries, and to live and teach English, briefly in Chilé, and for 3 years in China. I am a life-long learner who is always taking courses and still studying French and Chinese. 

My Teaching Style

My English language teaching style is strongly influenced by my experiences as a language learner, in particular, during my time in China. During the first months, I felt overwhelmed by the Direct Approach used by my native instructors. It felt like too much, too soon, and I sensed some impatience, so I stopped trying.

The Comprehension Approach became the most effective method for me to use as a beginner as chunks of language were needed to shop for essentials, to order food, and to use transportation.
Eventually, as I discovered I could understand more and more of what I was hearing, I was willing to try lessons again. I found it was easiest to learn with teachers who used the Affective Humanistic Approach. I felt safer with teachers who respected my feelings and used positive reinforcement. I also enjoyed the playfulness and music.
Feeling safe to take risks and make mistakes, I gained the confidence to tackle more. I am currently still studying how to read, write, and speak French and Chinese. The online courses are with a company that uses techniques discovered via the Cognitive Approach. Rote learning of vocabulary and phrases has been replaced by the far more effective use of spaced repetition programs and other learning technologies. I plan to include these programs and technologies in my classes.

My preferred teaching style would include some facets of the above-mentioned approaches. To be effective, all approaches must include trust and mutual respect. I prioritize creating a ‘safe space’ for taking risks and making mistakes.


If I must choose only one approach, however, it would be the Communicative Approach. Capturing a learner’s attention requires a wide range of authentic materials, music, puzzles, games, and exercises. The Communicative Approach offers the most flexibility for all levels of learners and allows for the most creativity.

 My teaching focus will be speaking and presentation skills for high-intermediate to advanced business executives and entrepreneurs. I offer years of experience as a learner and as a teacher, my aptitude, strengths, flexibility, and training.}}

My Teaching Techniques

My first task as a teacher is to lower the affective filter so that students feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. I often do this by attempting to speak their language and sharing my struggles with language learning.

Warm language naturally arises from respect for my students.

My lesson plans attempt to include as many of the techniques taught in Teach English Now! as possible. For example, I will provide scaffolding for complex topics by breaking them down into manageable chunks and then building on the previous lesson. In each class, I attempt to follow the 80/20 rule where the teacher instructs 20% of the time and the student practices for 80% of the allotted time.

Other teaching techniques I have used were dependent on the age, language level, and goals of the learners. Also, whether the lesson is in-person, on-line, synchronous, or asynchronous. My focus is conversation, speaking, and presentations. Whatever the level, I begin by calling upon knowledge from previous lessons and/or asking students what they know about the current topic.

In addition to formal classes, I also encourage independence and self-efficacy by providing a curated list of on-line English language and/or business resources that learners can refer to on their own. There is an option to discuss these during office hours or via Skype or Zoom.

There is a glut of books that can be used as manuals for speaking practice. The areas covered in IELTS exam preparation books provide a rich variety of speaking topics to choose from and have the added advantage of preparing learners who might become interested in taking the exam to study abroad or for a business credential.

I show, play, or refer to news stories, TED Talks, podcasts, and documentaries in text, audio or video, are all excellent resources for discussion in small or large groups and student presentations.

American Rhetoric .com is an excellent resource for analyzing and/or discussing public speaking.

Learners often enjoy looking at photos and/or videos of others interacting with each other, and we will guess what they might be doing, thinking, or feeling.

In person, I want the students to begin thinking in English as soon as they enter the classroom. Two of the most effective means of doing that are to:

Play a song on a loop as students enter the room, with lyrics on the desks so that students can follow along and/or take the lyrics with them if they like the song and want to play it at home. The lyrics can have a fill-in-the-blanks on one side of the sheet and the complete lyrics on the other.

For students who enjoy working on word search or crosswords, I use online “Crossword Puzzle Maker” sites to create crosswords with new vocabulary that they can take with them to complete later if there isn’t time for it in class.

Once everyone is assembled, it is important to use warm-up activities to introduce students to each other at the beginning of a course so that students feel comfortable with each other. I like activities which allow students to introduce another student to the class, which is easier and less threatening than introducing themselves.

With a large group, I try to plan extra activties for the more advanced students. A shelf of books and magazines that students can look at any time they finish assignments ahead of other students also helps to keep the advanced students engaged.

Formal evaluation and assessment are dependent on the lesson(s). Allowing students to correct their own work, whenever possible, is less threatening and encourages independence. Game quizzes, such as Kahoot, not only assesses knowledge, but also further engages students by adding a little fun and friendly competition.