Janet Banhidi was ready for a change. “I taught Spanish at Marquette University for 9 years and I loved it,” said Banhidi, “but I was also ready for something different. EducatorCity is that change.”
The goal of Milwaukee based EducatorCity is to be, “…a free community where language teachers can interact, share content, support & advice, find answers and inspiration and learn about technology, research, projects and other new ideas for teaching. The idea is simple: every teacher has great ideas and experiences to share, so let’s all get together and combine our knowledge and talents.”
Janet Banhidi took an interesting route to becoming an entrepreneur. “I graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and, even though I was good at it, I didn’t want to be an engineer so I kept going to school and changed my focus to foreign languages; Spanish in particular,” she said.
While Banhidi was teaching Spanish, she thought about the old axiom that it is easiest to learn a language when the student is immersed in the culture. “Since it wasn’t practical for every student to live abroad, a colleague and I came up with a way for students to utilize Skype to enhance the lessons they were learning in the classroom.”
Banhidi set up ‘language exchanges’ with students in other countries. One example she gave was of a student in her Marquette Spanish class that was Skyping for 50 minutes with an English student in Colombia. Each call was 25 minutes in English and 25 in Spanish.
“Instead of four days of Spanish, I taught three classes and made one day a lab day for students to do the exchange,” said Banhidi, “and it was a success. When one of my students told me she had been communicating with her Colombian friend outside of class via Skype, I knew this was valuable. Now I had students practicing their Spanish outside the classroom with a native speaker!”
EducatorCity Home Page
As she saw the success of her program, Banhidi wanted to continue to focus on building tools for teachers and finally launched EducatorCity after leaving her position at Marquette.
Officially launching in October, EducatorCity’s foreign language educator members can upload and share lesson plans, activities, etc and also make the activities free for downloading.
Banhidi is not content to just produce a basic social network. “I have been talking to some fascinating people that are agreeing to provide me with videos of their speeches so I can make them available to the members as well in the form of webinars.”
Currently EducatorCity is bootstrapped by Banhidi and the consulting work she does. “I’m unique, I’m not a teacher anymore and I can tap into good ideas that exist in the marketplace,” said Banhidi, and her consulting work has allowed her to expand her network and sources for material that can help member teachers.
In 2011, Banhidi will be ramping the number of online webinars for teachers as well as attending multiple educator conferences in order to grow EducatorCity.