a zoom gallery of training participants including jacob chico

Educators From Mexico Master Virtual Classroom Strategies During Teacher Training Institute 

  • Oct 1, 2020
  • Jenan Taha

As a secondary school English teacher in Puebla, Mexico, Jacob Chico’s passion for teaching is motivated by his students’ success. Chico’s desire to advance his teaching technique and provide the best instruction to his students is what brought him to the English Language Center’s Teacher Training Institute, an intensive skill-building and professional development program sponsored by the Mexican federal department of education, Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP).

One of 25 participants, Chico completed the four-week summer institute in August, the first virtual installation in the program’s 17-year history. Open to teachers of English as a Foreign Language in primary, secondary and university-level education in Mexico, the Teacher Training Institute’s multi-pronged approach offers courses on English language practice, virtual teaching strategies and communication skills based on the trainees’ home country context. 

The initiative is part of the English Language Center’s wide array of customized programs coordinated for groups from around the world. Since 2003, SEP has sponsored the distinguished skill-building opportunity at the English Language Center to provide Mexican English teachers with rigorous, customized training.

This summer, online courses provided participants intensive training in English writing, grammar and pronunciation, communicative language teaching, U.S. culture and even a specialized technology course to equip teachers with resources to instruct classes virtually. Each participant received a UT Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate upon completion.

As Chico prepares virtual lessons for his students, he reflects on the multicultural communication skills, technology tips and English training he gained from the English Language Center and how he can apply these to his classroom in Puebla.

“There is a lot to be learned about English language teaching and we teachers have to grow as well,” Chico says. “All that we have learned through the program has enriched my knowledge and improved my social skills, collaboration skills and communication. This training has helped me understand aspects that are actually happening in online teaching. I think that we are going to really impact our students.”

Now, he says his goal is to become a leader in education and help improve the school system in Mexico.

Aurora Murillo Posada, a nursery school English teacher of eight years in Mexico City, heard about the Teacher Training Institute from her coworker and decided to enroll to build upon her teaching certifications. She says the techniques she learned and resources she was introduced to in the program proved invaluable to her virtual instruction this fall semester.

“I have found a lot of resources and websites that I didn't know exist,” Posada explains. “I think this will be very helpful for teaching in this new normality and I am sure that my kids will enjoy the classes with all have I learned. When I see my kids enjoying the classes and speaking in English by themselves, not because I ask them to do it, that is my motivation. I love to see them successful.” 

aurora and classmates smile in a zoom video call screenshot
Aurora, in the center image of the second row, participating in a Zoom class activity


Posada says she enjoyed interacting with native English speakers, immersing herself in the English language and acquiring new techniques in teaching grammar. Her goal is to become the coordinator for the English department at her institution, so all students have the same opportunities to learn English. 

Sarah Episcopo has taught at the English Language Center for 10 years and led this summer’s technology course, which leveraged the virtual nature of the program to give teachers strategies to navigate the online classroom, integrate various technology into lessons, distribute learning materials and foster a collaborative environment. 

She says she enjoyed the online teaching experience and, while it was not the same as in-person classes, it was more collaborative, streamlined and accessible to teachers who may not be able to travel to the U.S.

“In some ways, I love the virtual classroom more than the in-person,” Episcopo describes. “There are so many more things we can do; learning happens more efficiently, it’s a lot more fun and there’s a lot more documentation and collaboration.”

Since the start of the program, Episcopo saw the teachers improve not only their English but their communication skills, confidence using online platforms and language teaching techniques. 

“To see the innovative activities the teachers created using websites and the material—things that I would have never thought of—I think that was the best part of teacher training,” Episcopo reflects. “They learned how to translate what they used to do into new spaces. It is wonderful to work with other professionals who are passionate about educating other people. Teacher Training Institute is professional development for me because I’m learning from them and that is incredibly rewarding.”