Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
Zita Vieira has spent most of her career teaching. Ever since she can remember she wanted to teach English in Cabo Verde. And it’s no wonder, as some suggest being able to speak English opens up global opportunities. In fact, there are more than 1.5 billion speakers of English worldwide. Looking at 2015 stats, out of the total 195 countries in the world, 67 nations have English as the primary language and 27 countries speak English as a secondary official language.
With her goal in mind, Zita studied in the U.S., leaving Cabo Verde in 2011 to pursue her Master of Arts in Teaching degree at Bridgewater University in Massachusetts. Prior to this, she studied at UNICV earning a BA in English Studies.
When she returned back to Cabo Verde, Zita began teaching with the Peace Corps. She became the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Coordinator for the organization. In 2013 she took on a position at the University of Cabo Verde, joining the university staff as an English Professor.
Still her dream of opening her own school lingered. Finally, after months of planning, Zita opened the doors to English Language Learners (ELL CV) in 2015.
She tells A Vontade how she reached her goal.
A Vontade: What made you want to return to CV?
Zita: My goal was never to stay in the U.S., but I dreamed about having the opportunity to study in the U.S. and learn the best educational practices and then return and implement them in CV. On top of that, my heart lies where my family is.
A Vontade: What led to you opening your own English language school?
Zita: Before leaving to go to the U.S., I had always wanted to teach English to young kids. At the time, I was a teacher at a high school, but I knew if they have had the opportunity to learn English earlier, the results would be even better.
After returning to CV, I decide to provide that opportunity to both children in Praia and Tarrafal (my hometown). I brought back with me a suitcase full of ideas and a bidon (barrel) of educational materials. I opened my own little school in Palmarejo with special focus on teaching English to kids, but now we offer classes to adults, too. We also provide other services such as translation, TOEFL prep, tutoring, etc.
A Vontade: Are you now doing the school full time?
Zita: I like to say that I work part time with ELLCV but my responsibilities as a professor at the University of Cabo Verde don’t allow that much free time. I have four more teachers who collaborate with ELLCV.
A Vontade: Why do you think it is important to teach English in CV?
Zita: I think it is extremely important. Students have the opportunity to connect with the world outside, expand their knowledge, and be citizens of the world.
A Vontade: You have started something called Wine and Chat for your Adult classes. Tell us about it.
Zita: The idea is to give participants more opportunity to practice English in a relaxed environment (wine does help lol). Also it is a networking opportunity! We bring in native American English speakers living in Cabo Verde to hold informal discussions with our classes.
A Vontade: What are some of the challenges of having a business in Cabo Verde?
Zita: The challenges sometimes are greater than the rewards. The amount of time you have to put in might be more than what you anticipated. Then comes the financial part, having enough money to keep things going.
A Vontade: What are some of the best things about having a business in Cabo Verde?
Zita: In my case, it is very rewarding when you can see a five-year-old greeting you in English after his or her second English class. That makes you want to do more and do better.
A Vontade: What do you like the most about living in Cabo Verde?
Zita: There’s nothing better than being home. I love the way we interact with each other here in CV and how we treat others who come to visit. I think the true meaning of morabeza stands out every time.
A Vontade: What are some of the goals you are working toward?
Zita: I hope my school with continue to grow. Our first goal is to reach out to kids from every suburb in Praia, and towns nearby. This will be the first step in our growth.
A Vontade: What are some of the different types of lessons you teach your younger students?
Zita: This summer we had our first summer camp with kids, where we take them to different spots around the Island to experience new things such as: learning about new species and plants we have available and how we should take care of our animals and plants. They had English and art class and some field trips. The bus ride was always fun and enjoyable. Kids were excited and energetic. It was a very busy but fun summer.
A Vontade: How would you describe your personal teaching style and how it differs from a typical way?
Zita: Being an educator is not as easy as some people think. As a teacher you have to be careful with everything you do or say. Personally, I try to adjust my lesson and my teaching style to each student because I see them as individuals with specific interests and needs. I take into account students’ different learning styles and I try to differentiate my instruction.
I also love learning by doing it. There is a quote that I love that says “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” As an educator I want the child to have the best experience with learning and for them to fall in love with this amazing language that I love–English.
A Vontade: What is the misconception you feel many students have about English?
Zita: Well, first one is that most believe that the process of learning English is overnight. People often think that learning British English is easier than American English. I have no position in here, but I know as fact that when they are learning they do want to sound like a native speaker.
A Vontade: What did you learn about English when you were in America?
Zita: My first trip to U.S. in 2006, I was an undergraduate majoring in English in CV. When I got there I thought everybody was rushing to say what they mean. In 2011, when I went to U.S. for my graduate program I noticed that my classmates loved to abbreviate words, and sometimes I had to ask them what the word stood for.
A Vontade: What do you like to do in your free time?
Zita: Being with my dogs is my favorite thing to do. I have a 7-year-old Shih Tzu and an 8-month-old mixed breed–she is bit of German Shepherd mixed with a Labrador. I also love to cook for my friends and be home. Nothing better than a good movie or book on the couch.
A Vontade: What is your favorite thing about Praia?
Zita: Well, Praia is where everything happens. I love the fact that Praia is a little more cultured than others places in CV. It’s easier to meet people from other cultures and experience new things.
A Vontade: What is your favorite thing about Tarrafal?
Zita: Tarrafal is my home. It is where my heart lies. It is the only place I feel safe, and I don’t have to worry about anything. I try to go there almost every weekend to recharge the energy to survive my busy days in Praia.
By Ann Brown