Eleutian - The Bridge to Globalization

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Sep 29, 2008

From a Distance, Sheridan-based Teacher Imparts Lessons on English

SHERIDAN - Yvonne Perry sits in a cubicle in a small, almost empty office space tucked away on a quiet street off Sheridan's North Main Street.

It's about 4 on a Sunday afternoon. She's conducting a lively conversation with "Simon," whose image is being transmitted onto her computer screen via Skype, an Internet-based video phone call system.

Simon is in Seoul, South Korea. The two are discussing their weekends. Simon tells Perry about a business meeting he attended somewhere in Canada; Perry tells Simon about cleaning her house.

"How was your English during the meeting?" Perry asks after all the pleasantries.

"It was OK," he replies. "I hope."

Simon is Perry's student. Perry is the first Sheridan instructor to be trained by Eleutian Technology to teach conversational English to the company's clients in Korea, Japan and China. In this particular case, Perry uses a curriculum provided by the student's employer. Simon (not his real name, just a nickname he's chosen to be called during the sessions) is a corporate executive for Hyundai.

"This is the most interesting job I've ever had," Perry said. "And it's the least stressful job I've had in my life. It's just fun."

Perry was a classroom teacher for Sheridan area public schools for 10 years. She began her new job with Eleutian in August after a short training session. Thirteen more teachers are waiting to be trained and will join Perry in the next month or so.

"We're hoping to have 50 teachers in Sheridan by the end of the year," said Misty Rios, the teacher manager for Eleutian's Sheridan center, "and 200 by the end of next year."

Rios said Eleutian is looking for certified teachers with classroom experience, at least for now. Jobs eventually could be available for less experienced, noncertified people who could be available for practice conversations.

Speaking Korean, Chinese or Japanese is definitely not a job requirement.

"We don't want the teachers to speak the foreign languages," Rios said. "The objective is to get the students to speak English only."

Perry said she knows a few simple Korean phrases just in case something comes up, such as if the student is not the one who answers the phone.

Eleutian primarily uses a program called SpeakENG to teach conversational English, but the company also uses other curricula that can be provided by a client, as is the case with the Hyundai students.

Simon's lesson concludes with a vocabulary lesson. This week's list includes words like agenda, schedule, convenient, manage, move forward and move backward. After practice with pronunciation, Perry and Simon use the words during a role-playing conversation about arranging a business meeting.

The 20-minute session ends after Perry introduces next week's lesson, which will be on complaining. She tells Simon an anecdote about a recent purchase she made of a steam mop. The product was unsatisfactory, so she called the manufacturer to complain and arranged to return the product.

Rios said Eleutian is supporting more than 5,000 students and conducting approximately 25,000 sessions a month through its 211 teachers based in centers in Ten Sleep, Lovell, Powell, Worland, Cody, Basin, Burlington and now Sheridan.

Eleutian chose Sheridan as a teaching center partly based on the employment pool here, Rios said. Retirees, substitute teachers, adjunct professors and teachers who are just looking for a different experience are great candidates for Eleutian.

The pay scale isn't quite the same as the public school system. Rios said the company's full-time teachers make about $25,000 a year.

However, Rios and Perry talked about how refreshing it is that the Asian students treat the teachers with such courtesy.

"They really value teachers there," Perry said.

Courtesy is just one of the perks, though.

"I'm talking to people and getting to know them," Perry said, "and I'm learning about their culture."