Dave Stevens love of learning Spanish lead to opening his own language school and publishing 10 books! Dave says that we have to be honest about our ideas and make it about our students, not us. Dave's advice for becoming a teacherpreneur? “If you try, the worst that can happen is that you might learn something".
I teach at The Language School in Denver, Colorada in the United States. I started teaching English informally in 2001 when I started learning how to speak Spanish. My first “student” was a neighbour of mine named Juan, from Mexico. One evening I was on my patio and he was on his, and I invited him over for a “cerveza”. We became really good friends, and within about 6 months he was very conversational.
Later, I moved to Argentina to study Spanish full time for a year. Everyone I came in contact with wanted to practice English with me, and I wanted to practice Spanish with them. It was a natural language exchange. Upon returning to my College in Florida after doing a year abroad, my college professors invited me to start tutoring Spanish. When I graduated in 2007, I started doing sales at a software company in Colorado but kept teaching on the side. One thing lead to another, and I officially launched The Language School full time in 2011.
I spend most days teaching 1-2 classes and interacting with students and prospective students. Between classes, I work on writing new books and improving our existing lesson plans. I think one reason why the books I have published have been so good for students is that I constantly update them based off of my experiences in real classes. If I teach something that doesn’t go over very well, I go back and rework the material until it flows better for the students and is easy to understand.
I have a 2-year-old son, so most of my free time is spent with him. We like to play in the backyard or go to a park together, or explore the many museums that Denver has to offer. When I can, I love going out to dance salsa. I also enjoy playing the guitar and drums. If the weather permits, I also enjoy working on my yard and gardening. Last year I successfully grew corn, tomatoes, and green beans!
My life mission is dedicated to helping people unlock their full potential through education, communication, and spiritual growth, which will have a positive impact on our world and strengthen our local communities. I don't think there is anything as powerful as learning how to speak a new language.
Learning how to speak a new language was not easy for me. People usually don't believe this because I have mastered my second language, Spanish, and have become a Spanish professor. But it was the hardest thing I have ever done. But I really, really wanted to learn how to speak it, so I kept going. I tried everything. I did full immersion in other countries and university programs here and I have studied Spanish in almost ten different schools and in four different countries. I had a lot of fun along the way, but there were so many times when I asked myself - "why I am doing this?"
What I learned from this experience is that there are many different ways to study a language. About four years into my Spanish studies I found a school in Argentina that had a fantastic, conversation-based program that made it fun. Over the next six months, I finally understood the language and I mastered it. They removed the grammar from the classroom and made it all about the conversation. This is how I mastered the grammar.
When I got back from Argentina, my college professors invited me to teach Spanish and help students who were struggling. Teaching Spanish gave me much joy, and I decided to quit my corporate software job and founded The Language School.
I started teaching English to an immigrant community that came from much more humbler means. My first classes were complete failures. I had essentially reverse engineered my college textbooks to teach English, but they were too academic. Then I remembered how hard the grammar-based approach was for me, so I started experimenting with other books. I found that there were hundreds of books on the market but none of them met my needs.
I couldn't find many books that focused on Spanish speakers, and the ones that were there weren't very practical. I found a really good series of books for immigrants, but I ran into a huge challenge. They were written in pure English so my students that were starting from zero didn't benefit from them because they couldn't understand them.
I think pure immersion has its place for intermediate and advanced students, but for true beginning, adult students, it is terrible. I couldn't understand why this was the outlook for teaching English here and all over the world, so I started my own school and started publishing my own books.
Some people ask me why I focus on Spanish speakers. There are a few reasons why. One reason is that I enjoyed my time living in Latin America tremendously and I want to reciprocate that experience for Latinos living here. Another is that because I speak Spanish I can easily explain English so that they understand me instantly, and there is no need for a 10-minute game of charades to explain what every new word is. Finally, one of my hugest reasons is that the US and English language are changing so rapidly because of massive immigration from our southern borders and they aren't learning the language at the rate they should be. Did you know that almost 30 million Spanish speakers have moved to the US since the year I was born? We absolutely have to do better to serve this huge market.
All of my books are available on Amazon:
We can offer teachers and other schools bulk discounts by contacting The Language School directly – [email protected]
In collaboration with one of my teacher’s Frances Holder, we are working on a new ESL book that should be released by the end of this month. From there, we plan to publish one new book every quarter for the foreseeable future.
I haven’t done a lot to promote the books. I have attended and exhibited at a few conferences related to ESL and Adult education so far. This is a fairly large mystery for me. If anyone has been successful here, please contact me!
Up until now, I have written the majority of my books independently, but use editors to help revise them. I am now starting to collaborate with a few of the teachers that I employ for new books.
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TheLanguageSchool/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TLanguageSchool
As a teacher, you should be developing good people skills. If you are to be successful with anything, especially your own business, you must have good people skills. Teaching in a classroom has enabled me to work directly with students from all walks of life. I have seen the direct results of teaching people how to speak both English and Spanish. My students constantly tell me after several months that they feel more confident, which has lead to them being more successful and making more money. I have learned how to help people, which has helped ensure my successful future.
Wow, this is such a good question. You have to learn how to listen to people, even when you don’t like what you hear. Look at your results and be honest with yourself. Is what you are doing really that effective? I had an idea when I started running my business and over ten years later, what I do now is way different. I realized that I needed to combine my great ideas with what my students really wanted, and from that, a great product and service was born. But it wasn’t about me, it was about my students. There have been so many uncomfortable moments, but by putting my own personal feelings aside and focusing on my customers/students, I have really done some amazing things.
If you never try something, you will never know for sure. The most successful people in life will all tell you about how they had to fail over and over again before becoming great. I’m ten years into working for myself and I’m still learning, but I’m willing to keep trying. Something that I tell my students all the time is “If you try, the worst that can happen is that you might learn something.
Thank you for much for this very informative interview! All the best.
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
3. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
4. Download The Social Media Make-over Checklist for Teacherpreneurs at www.teacherpreneur.ca
5. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
6. 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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