Curt Ford has turned his love of story-telling into a unique online learning experience for students and teachers. He also has a very successful YouTube channel for students of Russian! Find out how you can collaborate with Curt to co-promote your work as teacherprenuers.
1. Can you tell us where you teach and how long have you been teaching?
I taught Russian at the University of South Carolina, USA for 15 years; now I work from home on online projects for learners of English and Russian.
2. Can you describe a typical day?
I'm up and working by 7:30, as soon as the kids are off to school. Most of the time I'm at the laptop, looking for stories, creating supporting material for stories, wrestling with WordPress, or planning, recording, and editing a video tutorial. I do try to remember to go for walks at least once a day, since stepping away from the screen is sometimes the best way to get unstuck or get a new idea.
For the most part I work at home, though once a week I go to a local co-working space – it's good to have a change of scenery and get to know other local entrepreneurs.
3. What do you do in your spare time to relax?
I read novels, play with our kids in the park or drive them to rehearsals and soccer games, and watch northern European detective shows on Netflix.
4. You took on the tremendous task of starting a company and developing resources. Can you talk a bit about it?
I really enjoyed classroom teaching – it was the most challenging and fun job I'd ever had! But I always wished I had more time for developing teaching materials. I also realized that opportunities for advancement in my university department were limited, and if I really wanted to create the projects I envisioned, I'd need to do it on my own.
I had actually never thought of myself as the entrepreneurial type – I had no interest in starting a company for the sake of starting a company. Instead, I was willing to do whatever it took to create the kind of resources that I wished I had had as a learner and teacher of languages so that is why I created American Voices, which is my main project.
5. Where can teachers and students purchase your resources?
American Voices is available (with free 7-day preview!) at http://www.americanvoicesapp.com
Designed for teachers and advanced learners of ESL, it's a curated selection of compelling, professionally produced, fully licensed podcasts and audio journalism, including supplementary materials for online study or the classroom.
For serious students of Russian, I've just released a complete course on verbs of motion, available at https://www.tips4russian.com/mastering-verbs-of-motion/. And I do still post videos to my Russian grammar channel on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/c/russiangrammar), which just recently passed the milestone of 10,000 subscribers!
6. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
My priority right now is to grow the American Voices project with more stories, more resources on connected speech, and a stable subscriber base.
With enough progress toward those goals, I'd love to expand this model of a curated selection of authentic listening materials to other languages. In fact, the idea for American Voices came to me because I wanted (and still want!) something similar for Irish, which I've studied for a couple of years.
7. How do you promote or market your resources?
Learning about promotion and marketing is a challenge when most of your professional experience was in a classroom! I've bought an exhibition table at a few ESL conferences, and am experimenting with Facebook advertising. I am also certainly open to cross-promotion with other teacherpreneurs.
8. Do you do everything yourself or do you hire people with specific skills to help you?
The American Voices project at first was in the form of an iOS app, and I had a partner to do the coding. Since moving to web-based delivery, I've been able to handle most of the tech work thanks to WordPress and some supportive online communities, like Elena Mutonono's Opted Out group on Facebook.
Learning WordPress has taken more time than I would have liked, but now that the site is set up, I'm looking forward to spending more time on content curation and creation again.
9. Where can we find you on social media?
I've just started a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/American-Voices-293330420720802/ and I'm on Twitter https://[email protected]
10. What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
One of the most important things teachers have to bring is our deep experience and awareness of the needs of language learners. While some tech companies start with a tool and wonder how it might be used for languages, we know what teachers and students need, and can use tech to solve a real problem.
Teaching can also develop your appreciation for long-term commitment, discipline, and a sense of humor, and an openness for new perspectives... soft skills that are just as important for entrepreneurship.
11. What have you had to do outside of your comfort zone as a teacherpreneur?
Marketing has been the toughest part of the transition for me. I've found it helpful to remember that it's not about whether you think of yourself as a salesperson or "marketing type" – if you believe in what you've created, you just need to do what it takes to get it to the people who'll benefit from it.
12. I talk to many teachers about their fear or doubt in trying something new or "putting themselves out there." What advice would you give to these teachers?
Picture yourself in the same job, doing the same thing, 20 years from now. Does that make you feel good, or not? If not, there is no better time than the present to make a change. There are good supportive communities out there to help you along.
Great advice Curt. Thanks so much for your time. Let's ask teacherpreneurs to get in touch with you about joint promotions.
Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started? Here are some ways:
1. Read more than 50 inspiring teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog
2. Download The Essential Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit - 50 pages packed with information to get you started as a teacherpreneur at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca
4. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
5. Download The Social Media Make-over Checklist for Teacherpreneurs at www.teacherpreneur.ca
6. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
7. Set up a private coaching call with me https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pages/book-a-coaching-session-with-me
Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media.
My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A. I have more than 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer. Seven of those years were spent in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada. I'm now a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing books, courses and teaching materials; coaching teacherpreneurs and travelling at any time of the year. Contact me at [email protected]
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