Who was she?
Bonnie Tsai († 2014) was an international teacher trainer, coach and author, well known for her creative and humanistic approach, as well as her inspirational teaching style, which involved all the senses in the learning process. Her unique teaching approach was based on involving learners’ senses and addressing their Multiple Intelligences in order to maximise their learning.
She took part in Project Zero at Harvard University, where Visible Thinking is deployed as a research-based framework that encourages learners to make their thoughts visible. Throughout many years as a practising EFL language teacher and trainer, she played an important part in promoting creative ways of integrating art and music in education and combining classical training techniques with creative innovations. This was also exemplified in her work in museum education. She was an international educator and conference speaker - IATEFL, TESOL, SEAL and others - with a prevailing interest in expanding human learning potential through new methods beyond the scope of mainstream pedagogy, such as Suggestopedia, Accelerated Learning and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Bonnie was an ELT professional who was a lifelong learner. She trained directly with the founders of several major currents within humanistic methodologies - Dr. Georgi Lozanov (Suggestopedia), Bernard Dufeu (Psychodramaturgie Linguistique), Dr. Richard Bandler (NLP), and Dr. Howard Gardner (gaining an MA in Multiple Intelligences from Harvard Graduate School of Education). Through her practice, she applied this vast and multifaceted knowledge to the field of language teaching.
Bonnie Tsai was also known for her work as Academic Director at Cetradel Language School in France (1972-1996), teacher trainer at Pilgrims, UK (1986-2014), CELTA and CELTYL Trainer, and Master Practitioner in NLP.
Place in HLT
Bonnie Tsai would call herself – very modestly – a teacher and teacher trainer, but the scope of her activities in Humanistic LanguageTeaching went well beyond these roles. She was a trainer who understood learning as a rich and personal process, unique to every individual. She was a firm believer in the practical application of multiple intelligences in education so that people can become better learners. She worked with students of all ages with learning difficulties, poor motivation or low self-esteem, and used art, drama and storytelling as tools to engage learners’ multiple senses. This holistic, whole-brain approach, combined with her in-depth knowledge of humanistic psychology, her own innate creativity and passion for art, were the characteristic features of her teaching style. Her courses were full of colour, music and fun, and touched on what was personal and universal at the same time. Her own background – she was an American who settled in France and learned the language there – accounted for the natural ease with which she could relate to learners from very different cultures and make them feel nurtured and respected.
In 2018 and 2019, Pilgrims, where she worked as a trainer (1986-2014), offered the Bonnie Tsai Scholarship, as a tribute to her genuine love of learning, personal creativity, generosity in sharing ideas and charismatic, inspirational personality.
On a Personal Note…..
Bonnie Tsai was like …. a colourful butterfly, a fairy with a magic wand who would make every encounter memorable and special. Her clothes and jewellery were unique, and had a touch of the Orient to them. She was a passionate cook and loved caring for people. Her laughter and generosity were legendary... . This is how her friends and colleagues remember her.
In memoriam…. Friends and colleagues of Bonnie remember her in Humanising Language Teaching. Year 16, Issue 6, December 2014.