Hola! My name is Elaine Winer and I created ElenaChicago to fulfill my dream of teaching adults a second language in an engaging way, using an innovative and accessible approach. My specialty is called Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, or TPRS, and it has proven to help students acquire language quickly and enjoyably.
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 I would dedicate the rest of my career to teaching with this ground-breaking approach, which aligns second language acquisition with brain research theories on learning. It’s a simple concept really: immerse the students in comprehensible input using gestures, visuals, personalization, contextualization and repetition. . I infused this into my high school curriculum and it was like magic! Students from all levels were incredibly successful and became confident language students who were delighted that they could speak Spanish!
During this time, 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: use the TPRS approach to teach adults.
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 Master's Degree in Linguistics/Teaching English as a Second Language. She is the recipient of numerous Superintendent’s Recognition Awards from Township High School District 113 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 these learners.
A Chicago native, Elaine enjoys the Bucktown-Wicker Park neighborhood where she lives and works, She is often checking out local Zumba classes and exploring what this ever-changing city has to offer. She has three grown children and six 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 Laura Esquivel, author of "Como agua para chocolate."
Elena, with Blaine Ray, the creator of TPRS.
Elena with Dr. Stephen Krashen, creator of the theory of second language acquisition.