My passion to help in rebranding the teaching profession in Nigeria made me the first African to win the 2022 TOEFL Prize- Oluyemisi Adedokun-Oladejo

Oluyemisi Adedokun –Oladejo is a teacher whose two parents are teachers as well. She could be described as a serial award winner having won the 2020 African Writers’ Prize for Creative Non-fiction as well as being a co-winner of the 2021 Ogun State Academic Laurel. Recently, she won the 2022 TOEFL English Practitioners’ Prize being the first African to have clinched the award. She shared her experiences with AbitoCitta in an interview with the AC crew. Here are the excerpts…

AC: Congratulations on your recent feat of winning the 2022 TOEFL English Practitioners’ Prize. Could you please tell us about yourself?

I am Oluyemisi A. Adedokun-Oladejo and I work with the Ogun State Teaching Service Commission. I hold a master’s degree in English from the University of Ibadan. I have a number of book titles to my name, including Premium English Grammar which is a comprehensive grammar guide for learners and teachers of English. I am also a freelance IELTS trainer, a public speaker and a spoken word poet. I was the winner of the 2020 African Writers’ Prize for Creative Non-fiction and a co-winner of the 2021 Ogun State Academic Laurel.

AC: Could you let us into how it all started?

When I was transferred to Itolu Community (Junior) High School in February 2021 and I stood face to face with the enormity of my task, I was perplexed. I began to seek reinforcement. In April 2021, I took a professional course at Bridge Universe. Thereafter, I was signed up for their newsletter. I got to know about this prize in one of the newsletters from Bridge Universe. I submitted an application and attached my resume as required. Weeks later, I got a mail that I was one of the few shortlisted for interview from a pool of applicants across the globe. I knew I aced the interview but since no African had won the prize in the past, I had my doubts. But, I soon got a congratulatory email. I won!

AC: Winning the prize should ordinarily signpost something. What does that mean to you as a teacher?

Purpose! This prize further solidifies my conviction that teaching is my purpose. It is said that when purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable. I have always been driven by a passion to not only impart learners but to help in rebranding the teaching profession in Nigeria. The Nigerian teacher for a long time has occupied a rung so low on the social ladder that my retired-teacher mom often tells tales of how her illiterate landlady would brag that she made in a day what my mom earned in a month.  I want my narrative to be different from my mom’s; I want the teachers in my circle to be proud of who they are. So, you would often find me throwing my weight around education projects. I am also the founder and team lead of a Facebook community of educators. All these must have enriched my resume and gotten me in the interview shortlist in the first place. I won this particular prize at a time I was facing some challenges that made me begin to consider quitting. It’s peculiar because this prize brought me not only international recognition but resources that will simplify my job and increase my productivity.

AC: Winning such prizes require a strong support system. Who are your cheerleaders? What are your words of gratitude?

I have a very strong support system. First on the list are my parents, both retired teachers,  who had several reasons to throw me in the dustbin but chose not to. Then, there is my immediate younger sister, Blessing. She is my best friend. My husband too has  been supportive. I also have a sister in Funmi Gaji. She is one of the destiny helpers God sent my way. My unreserved gratitude to them.

AC: People believe generally that there are talents in public schools yet many still believe that they could not deliver. As a public school teacher, what is your perception about this? 

In my thirteen years of teaching in public schools, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best brains in the industry. If public school teachers are appraised on congnitive ability, it won’t be right to say we can’t deliver. A holistic assessment of the situation might highlight inaccessiblility of resources among other factors mitigating the productivity of the public school teacher.

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