February 14, 2013
Passionate about Language Teaching
Milica Acimovic is an instructor in the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) department at Capilano University, and it was my pleasure to visit her on a recent Wednesday afternoon to find out more about her.
Milica has been an EAP instructor at Capilano since 1998. She grew up in Belgrade, Serbia and immigrated to Canada in 1992 with her husband. Being a teacher was something she says she wanted to do from a young age. “When I was seven years old, my mother signed me up for extracurricular English courses, and I loved it because the teacher made it a lot of fun. It was very conversational.” Milica said. “I came home and would make a play grade book and pretend to be a teacher. My neighbours in our apartment building would be the students, and I would give them grades. I would even make quizzes for my friends and grade them!”
Milica eventually became an English teacher in Serbia and even became a colleague of her favourite childhood English teacher. After immigrating to Canada, she completed a MEd in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning in Second Language Education at the University of Toronto and taught at a number of schools in Toronto until 1997 when she and her family moved to Vancouver.
I asked Milica about her favourite part of being an EAP instructor.
“It is so rewarding when former students come back to visit me and tell me how they are succeeding in their lives.”
Milica has some advice for all students who are studying language.
“First, when you are studying the language in Canada, don’t ever forget to take advantage of all the resources around you like reading books in English, watching TV in English, and even shopping in English. This is an enormous opportunity to learn, so use it!”
“Second, you have to make studying the language interesting to you. Read the stories that you really want to know about, and watch the shows and movies that you find exciting and informative. In Serbia, I found ways to make English even more interesting. For example, I got a job translating American TV shows into Serbian. I was in charge of the subtitles, and I learned how to keep things short and how to translate slang.”
Not only has Milica learned English, but she has studied over eight other languages, including German, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Farsi, Swedish, and Russian.
“Like I said, I’m very interested in language, and even though I can’t speak all of those languages, I love learning the basic systems. It’s really a hobby of mine.”
Milica explained that learning a new language also helps her remember what it feels like to be a beginner student in a language course, and this affects how she teaches English.
Another hobby Milica has developed an interest in is hockey. She decided that after living in Canada for many years, it was only right to understand Canadians’ favourite sport. She first learned the rules of hockey from other hockey moms and then started watching and enjoying the games.
“My husband and son aren’t as excited about hockey as I am, so I watch the games and grade papers during commercial breaks and then long after the game is finished,” Milica explained.
These days, those papers she is grading are most likely from the EAP 100/101/Sociology 100 combined studies course which places a cohort of students in both EAP 100/101 and a special section of Sociology 100 (taught by Laurel Whitney). The EAP course supports the learning in the sociology course. Though initially a challenge for both instructors, Milica and Laurel have risen to meet the challenge and have even found fun in the variety and synergy that the combined model brings.
“I have been very excited about this course because I have found that I love learning about sociology, and because I am also learning, I can see it from the students’ perspective. Then I can see how to help them with the material that Laurel [Whitney] is teaching them.”
Clearly, Milica has truly found the career that makes her happy, and above all, she is happiest when she is helping her students:
“I’m very passionate about trying to improve my teaching and to explore new methods. If it’s fun and exciting for me, it will be fun and exciting for my students. It makes me happy just to be in a classroom; I am just very passionate about teaching language.”