ESL Teacher Interviews: Turgay and Kezban Evren

In Kaplan's first joint interview, we speak to the husband and wife team of Kezban Evren and Turgay Evren. Kezban and Turgay are English teachers with 17 years of teaching experience. They are from Turkey and they live in Istanbul.

The married couple has also written over 55 books, including readers, textbooks, songs, poems, and created several audio and video podcasts for ESL learners. Kezban Evren works as the head of English Department in Çınar College. Turgay Evren teaches adults in a language school called “English Time”.

What made you become an ESL teacher?

Kezban Evren: I was the best student in high school. I chose to study English Language and Teaching at university because I was fascinated by English Language and I wanted to be useful for mankind! I was also inspired by one of my teachers, who did her best to educate her students.

Teaching was the best way of sharing knowledge, which is far more precious than any jewellery. Now I know I’ve made the right decision seeing my students prosper in every aspect of their life, and hoping to have made my own humble contribution to their success stories.

Turgay Evren: Unlike my wife, I was a mediocre in high school. I was one of the best students in Literature, Philosophy and Psychology, but I would fail in Maths, Chemistry, and Physics. I got my lowest scores in English lesson. I would almost fail in English class.

An English Teacher changed my outlook on language, and she managed to kindle the fire of learning a foreign language inside me. In a few months, I had become one of the best students in English at school to the astonishment of all my friends and English Teachers.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Kezban Evren: I teach English through communication since I firmly agree with Noam Chomsky, who thinks language is for communication. I’ve adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards language because a human cannot be kept confined to the walls of being one – dimensional.

Therefore, I avoid any method which claims the ultimate victory when it comes to teaching. I try to surmount any psychological barriers standing in the path of learning, and make my students feel comfortable and self-confident. And I always put some fun to my classes through songs, movies, podcasts, or games.

Turgay Evren: I like using stories, and poetry in my lessons, and I often arrange some story-telling or poetry reading contests in my classes. The key is to make students active as much as possible in learning process.

What cultural insights can you get from teaching ESL?

Kezban Evren: Turgay and I have taught English in Toronto and Montreal as well. It was a great opportunity to teach students from other countries and we have greatly reaped the benefits of being a part of this great journey, increasing our awareness of different cultures.

Turgay Evren: Indeed, we had students from maybe 20 different countries in the school where we used to work in Toronto. We have learnt a lot about other cultures and come to know with our spirits that we are indeed all the same, and despite our differences we share the same joy and grief of life that spread on our table of destiny.

Have you experienced cultural difficulties from teaching ESL?

Kezban Evren: I met some challenges when I was teaching in a private school in Toronto. But I overcame these difficulties through developing an understanding of the cultural differences of the students.

Turgay Evren: I have been teaching English online and creating educational contents in several sites for five years. I have met a few difficulties that emerged from cultural differences but I always managed to transform these differences into advantages in the end.

Which other ESL teachers do you admire and why?

Kezban Evren: I like Steve Ford, Duncan, and JenniferESL as YouTube teachers.

Turgay Evren:  I admire Jason R Levine, who created a new path based on songs for both English learners and teachers.  Jase and I have been working on some songs for Turkish students. Our work will be published hopefully in a month. I also like JenniferESL for her videos, A J Hoe for his podcasts, Tom English for his story-telling.

What would you say to someone who was considering becoming an ESL teacher?

Kezban Evren: I have been teaching English for 17 years, and I have also written over 55 books including readers, textbooks, and translations in collaboration with Turgay. English Teaching has always been a fascinating journey for me.

I’d like to encourage all ESL teachers to create their own materials rather than depend on some ready materials because most of these materials may not be compatible with the needs of their students. So first, we need to understand our students and develop an approach accordingly.

Turgay Evren:  I would just add that as a teacher in general you need to be patient, tolerant, funny but at the same time firm, serious and dedicated. As a teacher, you need to wear so many guises and play different roles.

What do you think is the future of ESL teaching?

Kezban Evren: I think teachers will gain more importance in the future on the contrary to what many people believe. Smart boards, computers, or I-pads will only be functional in the hands of teachers who know how to benefit from technology. We usually overestimate or underestimate the role of technology in teaching, and I believe it is time to have a more balanced, and moderate attitude towards the role of technology in education.

Turgay Evren: I agree with Kezban. However, I think the real changes are just to begin as we witnessed only a small portion of modern technology shaping education. Schools and classes will always exist, but knowledge will not be limited to the campus of universities or colleges any more. There will be new ways of learning which have already begun.

Which superhero would you be and why?

Kezban Evren: I am happy with my role as a teacher. I would want to be just who I am since a teacher is already a super hero.

Turgay Evren:  Maybe a Super Teacher, who could teach the most difficult subjects in the easiest way.

Massive thanks to Kezban and Turgay for some really insightful answers. What do you think to what the couple had to say? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

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