Cactus reveals the winner of the 2012 Cactus-to-Conference IATEFL Scholarship

Cactus is very pleased to announce that Elizabeth Pinard is the lucky winner of the 2012 Cactus-to-Conference IATEFL Scholarship.  Lizzie’s scholarship entry was the chosen as the winner out of the many entries submitted and she has now made all her plans to attend the conference this year, where she will receive free IATEFL membership and benefit her teaching career.

The Cactus-to-Conference Scholarship was created in 2009 to enable one new EFL teacher the opportunity to become a member of IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language), and to attend the yearly conference.  While all EFL teachers are eligible for IATEFL membership, in reality it’s not something that a newly qualified teacher can afford, so Cactus’ scholarship offers a unique opportunity to network and gain greater knowledge about the ELT profession.

Scholarship entrants this year were asked to draft a short article about their experiences of their best lesson.  Lizzie’s winning description of a particularly good day at work in Sumatra, Indonesia caught the judges’ attention and explained concisely the hugely rewarding aspects of the job.

My Best Lesson

Cactus to Conference winning entry for 2012 conference

It was seven o’clock on a Friday evening at the EF school in Lampung, Sumatra, Indonesia: Time for my bi-weekly conversation class, level 5B. I walked into the classroom to be greeted by eight sets of tired eyes belonging to eight 16 -19 year old teenaged students, with books open in front of them but spirits filled with weekend-lust. The book, Cambridge Real Speaking and Listening, is great, but far from ideal for encouraging conversation amongst teenagers. Not wanting a rebellion on my hands, I used a lot of creative license to bring this book to life…

On the evening in question, the unit focus was making complaints and negotiating solutions in a business context: think broken photocopiers and the like. (See how this book and these students are not exactly a match made in heaven?!) As a warmer, they worked in threes, role-playing the argumentative customer, the unhelpful shop assistant and the manager. The only other information I fed in was location e.g. a mobile phone shop. My sleepy teenagers sprang to life, improvising brilliantly and setting the tone for the evening.

Next, we moved on to tackling the target language and vocabulary, by using some of the listening and vocabulary activities in the book. However, instead of having everybody filling in their book individually, and nodding off in the process, I had prepared some materials to turn the activities into team games. This worked a treat: the atmosphere was abuzz with collaboration and competition, as my two teams of teenagers discussed the challenges in excited, English whispers and raced to be the first team to complete each task.

Language input accomplished, it was time to check how much had been absorbed and prepare the students for the final activity: turning our classroom into a market place— “Bamboo Kuning”, a cheap but well-loved market in Lampung, to be precise! Firstly, I elicited language we had encountered that evening: that needed for complaining and negotiation and the board was filled, making it clear how much they had assimilated thus far. Then, half the class became buyers, the other half were sellers, while the classroom was transformed into our market place. Finally, I looked on as my teenagers embraced their roles and filled the air with their voices. What a high!

Time flies. Thus, after dismissal at 20:45, I bounded into the staffroom, extolling the virtues of my super teenagers and the enthusiasm, expressed in English, which had reverberated through my room that lesson. You can imagine my surprise when a local colleague informed me that the previous native speaker teacher had likened this class to teaching a bunch of zombies!

Einstein says, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” This joy filled my room that night and many others. So, perhaps best of all, it was no fluke: Friday evening or no, we regularly turned our slightly dilapidated, pre-centre refurbishment classroom into a place where magic was made.

If you are interested in being considered for future Cactus-to-Conference Scholarships, please find more information here:

Show some love this Valentine’s Day with our special date and gift ideas

Why not treat your Valentine to an experience they won’t forget this February?  Instead of the usual clichéd hearts and flowers, surprise your loved one with Cactus lessons in the language of love!

For all Francophiles, Cactus is offering special “French Tuesdays” in partnership with Cafe Rouge.  It’s a chance to learn the basics or brush-up old skills, while enjoying delicious contemporary French cuisine.  The sessions are available every Tuesday from 6.30pm-8.30pm at locations in Hampstead, Knightsbridge, Leicester Square, Wimbledon and Brighton, until 21 February 2012.  To book your place, simply visit

Or Cactus’ language gift vouchers make the perfect gift for all language lovers.  Available in multiples of £10, they can be redeemed against any Cactus products.  So if you want to whisk away your partner to romantic Rome for a language holiday to learn Italian, or simply fancy learning together with one of our many evening courses, there’s sure to be an option to spark your passion.  Visit