Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

A glut of ELT Celebrity Encounters

IATEFL 2014 in Harrogate was like ELT groupie heaven. Unfortunately, I added loads to my collection of sightings but far fewer as actual encounters. If I had been presenting, I think, I’d have felt more like I could overcome my “EFL speck of dust” feeling and talk to them.


However, don’t expect this humbleness to last. Next year, when I actually manage to submit proposals on time, I fully expect THEM to be seeking me out ๐Ÿ™‚

So, in no particular order…

Herbert Puchta

I saw him talk at TESOL Spain but not at IATEFL. Here there were just a couple of fleeting sightings. Herbert does little to satisfy the ELT groupie as, even when you Tweet him and write a sincerely flattering blog post, he is too lofty to notice. I didn’t see his talk as it clashed with something else I wanted to go to, rather than because of a boycott. It was on remembering vocabulary while the TESOL talk had been on Critical Thinking. It seems Herbert has more of a range in his talks than the one suit and tie I have so far seen three time. It is clear the great man’s millions are not going to his tailor.

Jeremy Harmer

Two sightings but I wasn’t brave enough to introduce myself despite having some legitimate reason to. First he hosted the Extensive Reading Foundation Awards of which The Tomorrow Mirror is a finalist for next year’s awards so perhaps he might have liked to meet next year’s winner of the Elementary category. Actually, I have a 50/50 chance of winning seeing as I’m only up against one title, tricksily set in Japan where Readers are massive.

Anyway, Jeremy was a fantastic host. An acting background is immediately clear and you could tell he was enjoying himself.

The ERF Awards were a Jeremy Harmer experience of the Rolf’s Cartoon Time type but, I’m sad to say, the second sighting was more of the fish paste kind. (See below under Scott Thornbury).

Scott Thornbury

For some reaso,n I am terribly intimidated by Scott Thornbury, no matter how many people tell me he’s a very nice guy. Even in the we’re-all-equally cool-just-by-virtue-of-being-on-the-ELTjam-guest-list, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him at the party.

I retain this intimidation despite the redundant session that I saw Scott and Jeremy do at IATEFL. It took the form of a dialogue rather than a debate since they both agree on the fundamental principle of ELT – how great they both are.

A snippet:

“So Scott, when was it you realised you were brilliant?”

“Well, Jeremy, about the same time you were discovering what a huge contribution you were making to ELT.”

ย Jim Scrivener

Jim’s talk on Demand High sadly coincided with my mid afternoon energy slump and the auditorium’s soft lighting didn’t help. I really wanted to have paid more attention than I did to the Father Of EFL Teacher Training and the author of the only methodology book I’ve ever bought.

Hugh Dellar

Another ELT celeb I was too shy to talk to when sitting behind him at Russ Mayne’s talk but the ELT jam party did lead to that introduction and now we’re friends on Facebook! Hugh’s hilarious talk on Twenty Things I Know was the second encounter and Hugh is the person I most think of as a Speaker. All the ELT celebrity speakers are very good at what they do but Hugh is the only one I would put up there in the category of people you might imagine hiring as an after dinner speaker outside of the EFL world.

Ken Wilson

Ken was the only auditorium speaker I saw that didn’t speak from the heights of the stage. Whether this is a result or cause of the way Ken comes across as caring on quite a personal level about the, mostly international, teachers in the audience, I’m not sure. He spends a lot of time touring countries giving talks so his slides are peppered with holiday snaps and selfies but he pulls it off without ego and a talk on Global Issues and Authenticity more or less justifies the indulgence.

Russ Mayne

Mostly known until now as @ebefl, Russ is now the New Wave of ELT Celebrity and his blog is one I’ve been enjoying since I started on Twitter. His talk about debunking pseudo science in EFL I later heard described as “paradigm changing” and was being talked about all over the place. Half an hour was nowhere near long enough to cover all the brilliant ideas he’s got on his blog, the only thing wrong with which is that it’s not on WordPress.


After all these solo artists, ELT Jam are the only trio – although, like Russ, they’re rising stars more than true ELT Celebrities. Until now the lead singer has mostly been Nick Robinson but for their talk on what edtech means for ELT, Tim Gifford and Laurie Harrison got in on the act too.

These guys have been blowing through the whole sector and scaring many of the establishment but I think their talk should have shown they’re on our side after all.





17 comments on “A glut of ELT Celebrity Encounters

  1. Scott Thornbury
    April 6, 2014

    โ€œSo Scott, when was it you realised you were brilliant?โ€

    โ€œWell, Jeremy, about the same time you were discovering what a huge contribution you were making to ELT.โ€


    • Nicola
      April 8, 2014

      Thanks for taking it in the spirit intended…maybe I should pluck up the courage at the next conference ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Pingback: An Interview with @EBEFL! | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

  3. Lea
    April 7, 2014


    I haven’t laughed so hard in ages! I can recognize myself in your post and I’m guessing many other teachers do as well. Good work!

    • Nicola
      April 8, 2014

      Thanks! Meaning you recognise yourself as not being brave enough to approach or something else?

  4. Julie Raikou
    April 8, 2014

    Nicola, this post really made me smile and seeing Scott respond made me smile even more widely!

    Saw Scott from a distance in Harrogate but know how approachable he is, having onceuponatime enjoyed breakfast opposite him in Istanbul.

    Returned with memories of lovely sounds in my ears from the Open Mic – the old favourites Jeremy & Steve and new additions such as Sigo Gatt (Malta), the lady from Romania and the guy on the mesmerising Japanese flute (Names, please).

    Imagine my incredible delight when I see two of the projects I’m involved in and my actual name appear on one of Ken’s slides being live-streamed to all corners of the world. Mr Wilson is certainly a supportive sharer of all things good.

    ELT Jam …definitely the people to follow…

    Already pondering Manchester 2015 and hope your post will encourage more people to walk up and introduce themselves and to the ELT Celebrities – they are not only interesting but interested ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nicola
      April 8, 2014

      I am hearing from many sources that Scott is a lot of fun. He must be to find the above amusing and not offensive!
      I missed the Open Mic – there are way too many things all clashing in the evening – but would have loved to see.
      I know the joy of seeing your own name on something. I got quoted in eltjam’s presentation but no actual work on screen anywhere so congratulations.
      Manchester, definitely. It’s where I went to university so I’m even more keen than I would be after having such a fantastically inspiring week. See you there!

  5. David Warr
    April 11, 2014

    Very nice.

    • Nicola
      April 11, 2014

      Thanks. I might have had way too much fun writing that ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. hughdellarHugh Dellar
    April 12, 2014

    I’m STILL scared of Scott – and I’ve met him 83 times now.

    • Nicola
      April 13, 2014

      We need to form a support group. There must be others.

  7. Herbert Puchta
    April 20, 2014

    Hi Nicola,
    I’ve got 28 identical suits and ties… of course all very expensive ๐Ÿ˜‰ Seriously, I’d been under the weather for quite some time after TESOL Madrid (no connection between the two), and was still recovering from the former while in Harrogate. I would have loved to have a chat, though!
    Left for China the day after Harrogate. Social media blocked and often no internet during the day and too tired to reply from hotel rooms late at night. Anyway, I hope one of these excuses gets accepted. However, I’ll certainly be in your session next year at IATEFL Manchester! Well, if I can pluck up the courage…

    • Nicola
      April 21, 2014

      Hi! Forgiven! As for IATEFL sessions, that is my second question on the list…Won’t bombard you yet!

    • Nicola
      April 26, 2014

      Next time! If I get my act in gear, you might have a range of things to see me talk at! ๐Ÿ™‚

      That sounds a lot scarier now I’ve written it down!

  8. juliemizrahi
    November 6, 2014

    Best ELT blog I have read in a long time. ….you have got all the big guns responding. You have the touch….and I for one am looking forward to both reading more posts and seeing you present in Manchester, where I must remember to ask you about the other ‘adult’ writing you do. (But only if I can pluck up the courage ;))

    • Nicola
      November 8, 2014

      Wow, thanks! High praise!

      You needn’t be scared to ask about the other writing! I think it’s a pretty open secret ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pingback: IATEFL Harrogate 2014 – a summary | Sandy Millin

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