When I was asked to talk about my life I started to think how to begin and what to say. There are a lot of things I have done in my 45 years of life and most of those experiences have been satisfying.
Let me begin by saying that I come from a large working class family, living in a small city in Colombia. We didn’t have the economic resources to make our dreams come true, but we received all the support and love of our parents. This made me work hard for what I was looking for in my life. Firstly, I studied hard in my primary and secondary education in state schools. This was in the 1970s and 80s. When I finished at my secondary school I made the decision to be a language teacher. It was 1987. This decision was not unexpected by my parents since two of my older brothers studied to be teachers. I can remember something that my father said, “If you want to be a professional, you have to be the best one in that field”. So I did.
I remember that whilst I was studying I had the chance to work as a teacher in a primary school in a very poor area, teaching all the subjects. This experience showed me the reality of teaching in my context. Luckily I could see that I had the aptitude and abilities to be a very good teacher, which led to my firm decision to continue with my professional development. Upon finishing my undergraduate studies in 1991 (receiving some academic awards) I got a scholarship to study a MA in Linguistics in Bogota. I have to confess that I worked hard to make this possible. I studied in a very well-known institution in Colombia (Instituto Caro y Cuervo). This was renowned as one of the most important institutions for Linguistics in Latin America.
This experience as a postgraduate student gave me more tools to explore teaching in higher education. In 1994, with a group of teachers (experienced teachers), we decided to embark on a crazy journey of creating a postgraduate programme of Applied Linguistics to the teaching of English. This programme was created by teachers for language teachers. Without doubt this was a challenging experience due to the fact we did not have enough programmes of applied linguistics in Colombia at that time. I definitely learnt a lot from those experienced teachers for almost 12 years. Being in this programme I also received an offer to work at my current University, the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana – Bogota. This is a Jesuit university founded on the principles of a better society with justice and equity. In this regard we teachers assume a very important role as mediators and transformers of society.
My experience at this university started in 1995 at the Languages Department. I was asked to give some classes of linguistics and general research for the Licenciatura Programme of languages. After one year in this temporary teaching position I changed for better and was offered a full time position. Over the years at the Languages Department I have undertaken different roles and responsibilities. I have been the research coordinator, the coordinator of the pedagogy of foreign languages and I am currently the coordinator of English. I am still working for the undergraduate programme as well as the Master of Applied Linguistics to the teaching of Spanish and the doctorate in Social Sciences. Having this experience in higher education provided me the tools to understand, so far, what it is happening in Education in general and the teaching of languages in particular.
Being in these scenarios encouraged and enabled me to grow professionally. In this sense, I studied my second Master in social sciences and education at CINDE and Universidad Pedagogica Nacional (International Centre for Social and Human Development, the abbreviation in English). Also I studied for my PhD at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom. I was a full time student from 2007 till 2011. For my PhD I carried out an action research regarding the development of Intercultural communicative competence and materials development in a group of university students (Students Post Advanced Level). This experience also allowed me to appreciate my abilities to teach languages at university level and to develop students’ intercultural communicative competence. Additionally, the United Kingdom gave me the most beautiful thing I now have, my partner. I am happily “married”. I hope it will be forever for I am not so young now.
Finally, since I returned to Colombia in 2011 I have been busier than ever. I do not have enough time for my personal life. It’s a pity but this is how life is. In 2013 I was given one of the most important awards given to a language teacher in Colombia, the Clare De Silva Award. This award is given by the Colombian Association of English Teachers to a person or an institution that has worked exceptionally for the Association and has made contributions to the teaching of languages in the Country. To be honest I was not expecting to receive such a distinction, but it does make me work more and more, every day.
My latest experiences as a teacher have given me the insights to write a number of articles and a couple of chapters for two books. These publications are listed as follows: