Your Oxford Story: Begoña Urruticoechea

9 March 2023
4 min read
Content Lead — Oxford University Press

Begoña Urruticoechea

“Through all these years, OUP has been present in one way or another, and I find it very enriching to have experienced the development of the methods that have helped me broaden my knowledge.”

My Oxford story started in the late 1980s when I decided to enroll in the local school of languages, EOI Bilbao, to study English formally and get a certificate. I had always been attracted to the sound of English, which I tried to imitate when singing my favourite songs.

In those days we didn’t have the opportunity to listen to native speakers if it was not on the radio or by watching old American films broadcast late at night, so having access to all kinds of materials at the school meant remarkable progress in my learning process.  Access to English was first provided to me in the form of three wonderful books published by Oxford University Press, written by Michael Coles and Basil Lord, Starting out, Getting On, and Turning Point. Thanks to these publications I learned not only the basics of the language but also different aspects of British culture and customs. The interminable drills we used to repeat proved to be an effective tool in order to improve our fluency. We enjoyed the books, and we were always eager to know what was going to happen to the main characters, Arthur and Mary.

In my last year at school, Oxford was present again when our teachers recommended Headway Advanced by John & Liz Soars. With the emotion I always felt when browsing through the pages of new books, I was pleasantly surprised by a question addressed to the students, ‘What makes a good language learner?’. It was followed by a list of the aims of the unit, which made us analyze our learning strategies. That was a really innovative approach to teaching methods. Up to that moment, we had never questioned how we were learning; teachers were supposed to share their knowledge with us, and we followed their instructions unaware of our responsibilities and active role as students.

After this first contact with Headway, followed by my preparation to be a teacher, John & Liz Soars became familiar names, frequently mentioned when books for the new academic year had to be chosen. At the time I was asked by the head of my school to teach Upper Intermediate regular and intensive English courses. Headway was a guarantee of comprehensive quality materials, realistic stories, and integrated skills. The publication made things easy for teachers as it was flexible enough to be adapted for the regular courses, in which students came to class twice a week for eight months, as well as for the intensive courses, with students attending lessons every day for four months.

The English File series was also very popular among the teachers who were working at EOIs (Official State Schools of Languages). This Oxford publication offered students a comprehensive guide that combined very well organised content with attractive realistic materials, such as videos and apps.

When I was teaching Intermediate Plus groups of students, I was asked to send feedback on the book to the publishers. Having our opinion taken into account meant a lot to professionals who were trying to improve our methods and materials. We considered this as another major reason to choose OUP publications as our teaching tools. The services, webinars, and offers for continuous education which OUP provides us with have had a beneficial impact on my professional career as a teacher of English.

When I started teaching using the Headway series, little did I know that one day I would be lucky enough to meet the authors. I had heard about the Headway Scholarship Foundation and the competition they opened every year for teachers using the series. In 2020 I decided to take part, so I developed a didactic unit based on the 5th edition of Headway Advanced. After several months of nerve-wracking waiting, I received a message on behalf of Liz Soars announcing that I was one of the winners of the 2020 scholarship. Together with 10 more teachers from all over the world, I had been awarded a two-week teacher training course taught at the University of Oxford. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to wait until the summer of 2022 to visit Oxford and meet the authors of Headway and the other scholars. The experience was really memorable in all aspects. Meeting Liz Soars and Paul Hancock felt like a dream come true. Their recognition of our interest to learn and improve made us feel that all the effort was worth it. The Oxford experience with our colleagues and tutors provided us with creative ideas that we can now share in our day-to-day teaching.

As I explained at the beginning of my story, my learning process started at the EOI Bilbao, where I have returned to work as a teacher. Through all these years, OUP has been present in one way or another, and I find it very enriching to have experienced the development of the methods that have helped me broaden my knowledge. I can only express my sincere gratitude to OUP for developing such excellent materials and for helping to make our teaching careers meaningful and valued.

Learning English begins somewhere, but it never really ends.

Whether you’re teaching, learning, or both, the English language unlocks an endless experience that’s filled with moments of achievement.

Whatever destination you had in mind, you’ll find that it’s about every step you take along the way.

From the times you keep trying – when you simply want to communicate – comes a sense of magic when you #FindTheWords and you make yourself understood.

With every moment you become part of a global conversation that’s happening in English.

Click here to read more about the magic moments we experience in language learning.