Your Oxford Story: Mehtap Özer Isović
Mehtap Özer Isović
“The Oxford University Press English Learning Exchange community is another important part of my life as an English teacher. As a member, I interact and engage with fellow educators from all around the world.”
I’ve always loved English and everything about it: from the way it has evolved throughout centuries to the tales that were told in it – from the late Queen’s Christmas broadcasts from the 1950s to translating it into my own language today. And it all started the day I met Oxford University Press.
It was 1992 and I was going to spend a whole preparatory year in English before I started secondary school. I still remember the first day as if it was yesterday. The teachers placed the books on our desks and let us browse through them. I had picked Project English 2 by Tom Hutchinson with Big Ben glowing at night on the front cover. There were pictures of popular destinations from London and many more engaging components that not only captured my imagination but also immersed me immediately in the British culture.
Then a degree in English Language and Literature followed during which I met my husband who is Bosnian. We soon decided to live in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I started to teach in the English Language School at the International University of Sarajevo in 2008. I still teach there and work as a Student Success Advisor as well.
One day, on one of OUP’s social media channels, I heard about the Wide Angle Photography Contest 2019. As a photography enthusiast, I applied with a photo of my four-year-old daughter Ferida, who could barely speak because of a speech delay she had suffered. A short story was also required to describe the photo and I wrote about how I managed to capture the imagination of Ferida through a shadow play on the wall. The photo was awarded the winner and I received several precious gifts, including access to digital OUP dictionary which I still use very often. But it wasn’t only the gifts that were sent by the OUP team that impressed me so deeply. It was the genuine, professional friendliness the OUP team showed towards us. I still keep the letter Joanna Mackie, OUP’s Senior Marketing Manager, sent me in her own handwriting as a proud memory. Later on, I even visited OUP’s Istanbul office with Ferida to meet the brilliant team there.
In 2020, I wrote a post on the OUP English Language Global Blog for World Photography Day. For that blogpost I prepared segment-based, easy-to-use lesson plans for teachers:
“In a world where images are present all around us all the time, teachers can easily use photographs to motivate students and make the classroom experience so much more rewarding. We know that students learn more when new language is accompanied by memorable and engaging photographs…”
The post was referring to my first encounter with OUP which makes it far more special for me. Every word resonated with the twelve-year-old Mehtap who got highly motivated to learn more by the memorable and engaging photos in Project book series.
In 2021, in the middle of the global Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world so tragically, I featured in a video series by Oxford University Press ELT. I shared my experience of teaching during the pandemic with teachers all around the world. I had a clear message: Keep calm & carry on.
Today, the Oxford University Press English Learning Exchange community is another important part of my life as an English teacher. As a member, I interact and engage with fellow educators from all around the world. I believe this is a fantastic way to make educators feel valued and empowered at the same time. Fantastic, isn’t it? I simply enjoy being active there.
Here are a few things I do on the Exchange. I share my views in polls, and then take a look at the results to see what I have in common with other educators. I take surveys on a variety of topics such as ‘Impacts of the shift to digital learning’, ‘Graded Readers’, ‘Teacher wellbeing’ and many more. The surveys by OUP have helped me to (re)consider my way of teaching in several aspects. I always find myself thinking about myself as a teacher and/or my students in ways I have never considered before.
The Exchange works as a social hub too. I say hello, tell people my thoughts and get involved with the rest of the community. You can take part in discussions, comment, upload pictures, videos and audio clips.
My OUP story got even more exciting soon after. I had once taken a survey on ‘Learner Agency’ and the Exchange team got in touch with me to tell me that they really enjoyed reading my views, and they would be highly relevant to a ‘position paper’ that Oxford University Press were publishing on the topic, titled “Learner Agency: Maximizing Learner Potential”. I always feel very proud about that. If you are not familiar with OUP position papers, they provide advice from leading researchers and practitioners, and guidance on the key issues shaping language teaching today.
Three decades have passed since I met Oxford University Press in 1992. I have learned and taught a lot over the years and as a result I have grown too. Along this journey, OUP have always helped me feel valued and empowered while growing both as a person and an English teacher. During those 30 years, OUP may have been what tied everything together in my life regarding ‘English’.
Learning English isn’t easy. But we keep trying because, when you make yourself understood, when you find the words, the moment is magic, and the next step is yours to take. Click here to read more stories and share the moment when you found the words.