Malu Sciamarelli

Voices from the iTDi Community 2 – Malu

Malu Sciamarelli — Brazil

Malu Sciamarelli is an EFL teacher in Brazil. She teaches in language schools and in companies, where she’s developed a new concept of ELT in the workplace. She’s passionate about helping students find their own motivation. She believes that if we, as teachers, create these motivational conditions in the classroom, learning will be a pleasant adventure. She’s also an enthusiastic runner and musician and she loves dogs.

What are you passionate about, Malu?

Two words excite me: curiosity and creativity. I feel the need to know, explore, understand, learn, predict  — in fact anything that may lead to a new way of thinking. Maybe that’s why I’m so passionate about teaching: because I can affect how students perceive the world around them. I believe I can ignite a spark of curiosity and help them develop their own creativity. I feel I can help them overcome fears, express themselves, initiate ideas, plans, actions and  a desire for lifelong learning. What I have found is that the more I teach, the greater my own need to learn develops both professionally and personally – my own inseparable challenges! Once a colleague asked me ‘Why do you care so much? It’s just a job!’ For me, it’s not just a job – it’s my life. It’s what drives me. It’s who I am.

How and why did you become a teacher? 

Picture a group of girls, sitting under a tree in the school garden, earnestly promising to stay together through high school and university.  We were only ten years old at that time but knew we loved English.  Being a teacher didn’t occur to us then, so we promised to follow our dream by studying English Language Translation and Cultural Studies and go on to work all together as translators.  I was the only one who kept that promise.  The others fell by the wayside to courses such as Business and Dentistry.

In my junior year at 18, I was offered a position in a multinational bank abroad and a promising career in Business. Imagine the reaction from my friends and family as I turned it down to go on with my translation studies. There was one person, my father, who offered support, urging me to follow and live my dream — though I knew even he wasn’t entirely happy about my choice.

As a newly fledged translator, I was ready to translate the world.  However, to help out a friend I agreed to teach her English classes for just three weeks.  As you all know, teaching is contagious!  The weeks became months and years.  In fact, now picture me having taught for nearly 19 years. There is no other profession where our passion can ignite determination in others to follow their dreams.  I could never see myself wanting to do anything else!

What are you most interested in right now, Malu?

Right now I’m very interested in the implementation of a project that I developed with a teaching colleague in a software company in Brazil.  We have both worked teaching English in companies for over 10 years and came to the realization that while we might be teaching business vocabulary and practising the textbook exercises, our students weren’t learning much they could actually use.  Our students were aliens in a business world.  We immersed ourselves for 6 months in the company, participated in meetings, conference calls, analyzed methodology and evaluated real needs.  As a result we identified three points to target:

1. Teachers often visualize Business English very differently from what a company wants.

2. Students often visualize their own knowledge quite differently from what they can actually do and what their company needs.

3. Business books often visualize the world in a generic and superficial way that is far from reality.

So…our answer!  We created EBP – English Boost Program.  It’s an innovative way of teaching English.  The syllabus and assessments are developed focusing on each student’s needs, making use of simulated meetings and conference calls. We developed the structure of the program and delivered it in the company, full-time, 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday.

Now as teachers, we see we have to understand how the company works, be aware of the trends, and observe each student in action to develop an individualized plan.  Before we started this program, the software company had been in jeopardy of losing their main client because they couldn’t communicate effectively. Now, due to the improvement in real skills, they have not only kept the contract but also opened new offices in Latin America, Asia and the USA.  I was responsible for training teachers to implement EBP in offices in Brazil, Argentina and China.

What things do you do to help you get better at being a teacher?

There are various things that help me develop professionally.  For my skills and knowledge, I subscribe to EFL magazines and websites and participate in webinars and courses online.   For teaching practice reflection and self-awareness, I do frequent peer observation: twice a month I observe other colleagues’ classes as well as be observed. Each month, we have a feedback and development session. Also, after each class, I do a reflective practice with my students, which not only helps my own development but also their perception of learning, and it works as follows:

1.   At the end of the class we review what we did and list the results.

2.  We analyze the results and discuss how I, as a teacher, and they, as students, influence the outcome.

3.  Finally we plan what we will do differently the next time.

But from my point of view, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and communities of teachers are the best ways to share knowledge, skills, theories, practices, materials, experiences and new trends in ELT. I also believe that participating in conferences and having the opportunity to network face to face with these communities is vital.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a teacher?

One big challenge that I’m facing at the moment is how to maintain students’ motivation until the end of a course. Initial motivation flows easily but to know how to sustain it in individual students is much more challenging. What I’m working on is making learning stimulating with motivating tasks that protect and build students’ self-esteem.  In addition, I’m promoting both independence and cooperation among student groups.

With these practices, the objective is to increase their satisfaction and help them continue to reassess individually what drives their learning, so that they can maintain it until the end of the course.

What advice would you give to a teacher just starting out on a journey of professional development?

Simple – ask for help whenever you need it! Accept advice and suggestions from more experienced teachers and also be willing to share your opinions, beliefs and teaching practices. A community is the best place to do it and it has a big impact on our development.

I also believe that one key point in teaching is to know your students, so that we can meet their needs and create a pleasant and supportive atmosphere in the classroom. And when the students know that the teacher is getting to know them, they will know that the teacher cares!

Malu, is there any blog or online link you’d like to recommend?

I follow some blogs, but must confess that I read different posts everyday. What I do is check what teachers from my PLN in Twitter and Facebook are posting daily, then select the ones that interest me most. It’s a great way to keep up with the trends in ELT and also select what you need to read at a specific moment in your teaching development or simply be inspired by what other teachers are writing.

What’s your favorite quotation about being a teacher?

“The teacher in you shines through in all your actions!”  —  Yehuda Berg.

I believe teachers’ lives become examples and inspirations for students to follow.

Published by

Malu Sciamarelli

Malu has been working in Brazil for 20 years as an English teacher, materials designer, translator and consultant for publishers. She has taught in schools, language institutes and in companies, where she has developed a new concept of ELT in the workplace. She’s passionate about teaching. She believes teachers can affect how students perceive the world around them; they can ignite a spark of curiosity and help them develop their own creativity; they can help them overcome fears, express themselves, initiate ideas, plans, actions and a desire for lifelong learning. She’s also an enthusiastic runner and she loves dogs. Malu's Website

13 thoughts on “Voices from the iTDi Community 2 – Malu”

  1. What a fascinating project, Malu! I love the way you identified a need, and went way beyond what people would expect in order to meet that need. Of course, it also fits your character! You seem to go beyond expectations in all that you do!

    How is your motivation experiment working? It certainly sounds positive! Maintaining motivation for an entire class is definitely a challenge, and if you have success with your approach I know that other teachers will benefit from your example.

    I’ve enjoyed getting to know you online, and loved this peek into your teaching life!

  2. Thank you for your lovely words, Barb! 🙂

    This business program is innovative and has been very successful for almost 6 years now! The motivation experiment has also shown excellent results so far. It’s challenging and demanding, but students are responding very well to them, not only for an entire class, but for an entire course! Last semester, the results were much higher than before. Of course, institutions focus on the results; for me though what’s more important is when students change their attitude towards learning. The results will be a natural consequence.

    Looking forward to meeting you again soon!

  3. Malu,
    The project you have implemented is surely interesting. Besides that, the way you describe it and talk about your career is quite inspiring. As teachers, we face challenges every day. However, by creating a motivating and friendly atmosphere in the classroom, as you suggested, we guarantee not only students’ learning in a far more memorable way, but also their confidence which is crucial to their success. I am sure you do it brilliantly.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Fabi!

      I know you motivate your students and help them build their confidence too! And I must say that I’m so inspired by your flip charts. I’m sure your classes and inspirational too! 🙂

  4. I am pretty sure that you experience as an ELT will motivate a lot of other teachers who will access this website, considering that I felt like this while going through this outstanding page in which you have answered so inspiring questions.
    I am willing to hearing more about the in-company project you have been working on.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Danilo!

      Inspiring is just like igniting a flame: it lights others, but the one who gets more and more illuminated is yourself. 🙂

  5. Hi Malu!

    Thank you so much for a very inteersting interview – it was great to learn more about you! How lovely that your dad supported you in starting off your career in education.

    And what a great project! I wish you all the best.


    1. Hi, Vicky!

      I’m so happy with you comment! Thank you!
      My dad was so special and so inspirational. He taught me how to see all the magic in this world and to follow and live my dreams. I keep all his words and wisdom in my heart and try to use them every single day of my life, with my students, friends and everyone around me.

      Hope to meet you soon! 🙂

  6. I loved your interview!! I was so happy to know you followed your dream and that it paid off.
    Your trajectory and strenght are so inspiring!!

  7. That is amazing! How our parents / family support us and then all that is given to other people, our students : ) Like a wonderful chain.

    I hope to meet you too!


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