Award-winning CQUEnglish teacher takes practice to next level with remote teaching challenge

05 October 2022

CQUniversity English teacher Karen Tanizaka Pellegrino has been recognised for her innovative teaching practice' in the annual English Australia Awards.

Her award for Contribution to Professional Practice was announced during the association's Annual Conference in late September.

The ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) teacher has been part of the CQUEnglish team in Melbourne since 2013.

She said the pandemic had challenged her to innovate with her teaching' and she was surprised and honoured to win the award after presenting a conference paper on her work.

"I'd never taught online prior to COVID-19' it had always been face-to-face!" she said.

"So of course in the beginning it was very overwhelming' but there was a lot of collegiality' teachers were helping each other' and I worked through a lot of professional development courses on FutureLearn to expand my practice.

"I was feeling like a new teacher again' but I just kept learning' and I really enjoyed the experience in the end.

"The students were so grateful to have the opportunity for connection' and so many students have never studied online before too."

Ms Tanizaka Pellegrino's conference paper outlined her practical approach to improving online classroom collaboration and connection.

"Providing the students a range of ways to connect and collaborate within the group work' such as shared documents in class' they began to say' 'oh I can make friends! And get to know people from different countries''" she explained.

"My project was about developing learner agency' and the teacher being a facilitator' to really ensure listening to the students and building on what they bring.

"I was able to show how this collaboration improved reading comprehension within the class' too."

The passionate educator moved to Australia in 2008' after working as an English language teacher in Brazil since 1999.

She initially worked at the CQUniversity Melbourne library' and ran digital literacy sessions' before transitioning into the CQUEnglish team.

"I'm still teaching online' as a lot of international students continue to wait for their visas to study in Australia'" she said.

"I begin with a new cohort of ELICOS students every 10 weeks' and they are always very excited to begin their studies and their journey as an international student."

After pandemic impacts saw a big drop in Australia's international student population' CQUniversity is gradually welcoming bigger numbers' with more than 300 CQUEnglish students enrolled in Term 1 and Term 2 2022' compared to just 29 in Term 3 of 2021.

Brett Blacker' CEO of English Australia' said' "This year's winners came from incredibly diverse areas within the ELICOS sector' highlighting the breadth and depth of quality staff that exist within our industry."

Will Alderton' Associate Vice President (Victoria Region) and previously Director of Studies (CQUEnglish)' congratulated Ms Tanizaka Pellegrino on her award' praising her for continued efforts to develop professionally' and build students' confidence to prepare them for success in their tertiary course.

Ms Tanizaka Pellegrino said international students regularly tell her they choose Australia to study for its multiculturalism – which reflects her own experience.

"I first came to Australia because my husband got a job here' but I stayed because of the lifestyle' and the multiculturalism' and to keep working with English language students'" she said.

"I love the new challenges' and if I can continue this journey and always be learning more' that would be amazing."