Hola! My name is Elaine Winer and I created ElenaChicago to fulfill a career-long goal of using the TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) approach to teach adults a second language. I began my career teaching high school in a typical, traditional four-year Spanish program. If you took Spanish in high school, you probably remember those classes--we used textbooks and taught vocabulary, grammar and verb conjugations. To help the students engage, I liked to spice up my classes with games and activities hoping more students would, be successful and, most importantly, speak! I was on to something then, because more students improved, however I was not yet satisfied with their speaking confidence. I knew instinctively that they could do more.
In 1990, I went to a conference on TPRS given by the creator, Blaine Ray. I left knowing that my goal for the rest of my career was to hone the skill of teaching language with the TPRS approach, which aligns second language acquisition with brain research theories on learning. It’s a simple concept--immerse the students in comprehensible input using gestures, visuals, personalization, contextualization and repetition. The bottom line is students acquire language quickly. I infused this into my high school curriculum and it was like magic! Students from all levels were incredibly successful, confident language students who were delighted that they could SPEAK Spanish!
When I would speak with adults and explained what my Spanish classes were like, they would always say, “I wish I learned Spanish that way. Sounds like fun. I took four years in high school and can’t say anything.” As I prepared to retire from high school after 25 years, I had a vision…teach adults Spanish with TPRS.
Now, with ElenaChicago, I am thrilled to share language with those who want to converse with our Spanish-speaking community in Chicago or for travelers who want to have a more enriched experience in a Spanish-speaking country. I hope my enthusiasm for speaking Spanish will translate to more success outside the traditional classroom. Add a glass of wine or cup of coffee and consider it a great night out amongst friends.
Elaine has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Secondary Education with a Major in Spanish and a Masters in Linguistics, Teaching English as a Second Language. She is the recipient of numerous Township High School District 113 Superintendent’s Recognition Awards and was nominated for Those Who Excel Teacher of the Year Award by the State of Illinois. In 2013, Elaine was instrumental in developing the inaugural foreign language department at Wolcott School, a new college prep high school designed specifically for students with learning differences. Wolcott School's mission is to customize learning to meet the strengths and aspirations of these students and the TPRS approach is the key to unlocking language acquisition for learners.
A Chicago native, Elaine enjoys the Bucktown-Wicker Park neighborhood where she lives and works, checking out local Zumba classes and exploring what this ever-changing city has to offer. She has 3 grown married children and 5 incredible grandchildren that all live in the Chicago area. When she is not spending time with them and her husband, she is traveling the world exploring Spanish-speaking countries and other interesting places.
Elena, with Blaine Ray, the creator of TPRS.
Elena with Dr. Stephen Krashen, creator of the theory of second language acquisition.