Joanne Gakonga

Joanne Gakonga

After graduating with a degree in Agriculture, not maybe the most obvious entry into EFL, I wandered the globe for a few years, trying hard to find a job that I liked, and then in 1989, I started teaching in Taiwan, as a backpacker, bumbling my way through at first with lots of enthusiasm but little knowledge to back it up. I discovered that I loved it!

Over the past 15 years, as I became more qualified and more experienced, and hopefully bumbled rather less, my career has taken me to Switzerland, Kenya, Australia, the Czech Republic and back to the UK. At an early point in this journey, I made the mistake of listening to those multitudes who asked me questions like 'when are you going to get a real job?', and did a PGCE in primary education. I branched into mainstream school teaching and it was terrifying! So terrifying in fact, that after a year, I ran screaming back to adult education in Australia. It was there that I did the Diploma and gained the confidence to reply 'I HAVE a real job!'.

After a couple of years in Oz, work followed with the British Council in Prague and in Kenya, where I went to be with my husband-to-be. In all of these places, I was teaching more and more students who wanted EAP and IELTS training, and when I had the opportunity to train as an IELTS examiner, and subsequently use this in Kenya, I leapt at it. We moved back to the UK the following year, and this experience stood me in good stead for the further education sector, where I found the number of students wanting to improve their English in order to go to university was burgeoning.

Unfortunately, the amount of published material available at that time wasn't. Although there were some books, mostly they were aimed at upper intermediate students, and teaching on a foundation course with students who began the year with mock IELTS scores of 3.5 made it almost impossible to use them. Writing so much of our own material, we realized that there must be many other teachers in many other staff rooms who would welcome a lower-level coursebook for IELTS, so we set about to try and address that need - two years later IELTS Foundation  and IELTS Foundation Study Skills   were born.

 I currently work at Solihull College, in the West Midlands, teaching ESOL as well as CELTA and Module 2 training courses

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