Vanessa Bielecki is a woman who does it all. She’s a published author, a teacher, a trainer, and is a Miss Canada 2020 candidate. She runs an amazing YouTube channel, “My Teacher Vanessa”, where she helps people learn English.
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Alice: Hi everyone. I’m Alice, the social media manager for Jubilance. Today I’m talking with Vanessa Bielecki. Vanessa is a woman who does it all. She’s a published author, a teacher, a trainer, and is a Miss Canada 2020 candidate. She runs an amazing YouTube channel, “My Teacher Vanessa”, where she helps people learn English. Welcome Vanessa, thank you so much for joining us.
Vanessa: Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’m really looking forward to this and I love what you’re doing with the podcast, it’s great
Alice: Thank you. We’re just going to get started with some more fun questions. What is your favorite food?
Vanessa: Okay. This is a good question, especially living in a big city where one of my favorite things to do is to just try different foods.
But one kick here is that I’m vegan. I didn’t mean to go vegan, it just kind of happened over the years. When I was a little bit younger, in elementary school, someone showed me a Youtube video called Meet Your Meat– M.E.E.T Your M.E.A.T. After that, I just couldn’t eat meat anymore. My mom would try to feed me fish even, and I didn’t like seafood. I started off vegetarian kind of by accident. Then, in high school, I had all sorts of stomach problems, and my doctor just suggested cutting out dairy. So, I cut out dairy, I cut out meat, I cut out a fish. So, I guess, not sure, I kind of just became vegan. However, I do steal the eggs from happy chickens that I get from the farm, I eat honey from happy bees. It doesn’t have to be a big food discussion, I think it’s just being mindful about what you eat.
Here in Toronto there’s so many opportunities to try vegan food, especially now. There’re new places opening up everywhere. What I like to do is, well, I really like pizza and I really like nachos, that’s kind of my guilty things. This one place called Pizzeria Librettos, they make the best pizza that I always love to have. There is one nacho place called Wilbur’s, it’s pretty cheap, it’s quick, you can get your nachos, your guacamole, and they have all sorts of hot sauces, and I love hot sauce, it’s perfect.
Alice: Sounds so good. Cool.
Vanessa: Yes. Kind of a longer answer to your question.
Alice: Yes. What are you currently watching on TV?
Vanessa: Lately I’ve been on a kick of bettering myself listening, to podcasts from doctors. I’m really about motivation, time management. So, I’ve been watching now is the one about Bill Gates, Inside Bill Gates’ Mind. It’s just a three-part series, they really just follow him throughout the day. My initial thing was, “Okay, yes, he created Windows, of course he’s a great philanthropist”, but what really stood out to me is just how structured and how he manages his time. Even if he’s traveling to work, he’s reviewing political documents just because he’s interested. Then, for lunch, he’s having a meeting with someone. How can us– These are things that he wants to do, and not only that, but he’s managing his time very wisely. That’s something that I’ve been trying to do, really manage my time so I can shape the life that ultimately I really want, right?
Alice: That’s awesome. Wow. I’ll have to check that out.
Vanessa: Yes, it’s pretty good. I think it’s still available on Netflix, at least in Canada it’s definitely available. I know the American one has a few more episodes, a few more shows than us.
Alice: Okay. Oh, cool. Oh, yes, I’ll have to check it out. That sounds really interesting. What is your must-have essential item in your purse?
Vanessa: That’s a really good question. This is all year around, especially now in the winter, it’s lip balm. It’s something that I definitely need. It used to be my calendar, keeping organized, but now it’s lip balm. If it’s not in my purse, it’s in my pocket, or it’s in my car. I kind of have one everywhere. We actually just got snow last week. We had about maybe almost a foot here in Toronto, so I’m really getting ready to the winter season were we kind of skip fall and went right into winter here.
Alice: Yes. Oh, that’s terrible. I’m from California originally, so I just can’t with weather.
Vanessa: Well, my plan is to eventually structure my life so I can escape for the winters, come back for Christmas, and sneak back out.
Alice: That sounds like the best idea I’ve ever heard. Where are you living now?
Vanessa: Right now, I’m in Toronto. I was born and raised. I left a little bit for university. I went to Teacher’s College, I was really involved in my school there but I love this city. When people come here sometimes, it’s a little bit too much chaos, they call it the New York of Canada, but I love it. I love being around different people, I love meeting new people. When I ever come back and I’m taking a train that gets to Union Station I just take in the chaos, and it actually calms me weirdly. Yes, I’m in Toronto. I plan on being here a little longer, unless, of course, I sneak away for the winters.
Alice: That’s amazing. What’s your favorite part about the city?
Vanessa: Definitely I’ve touched upon the food, but honestly it’s the people. Every time I leave and then come back, I find that this is an atmosphere, hate to use the word, but this is the vibe about Toronto. A perfect example I can use are the Raptors that happened recently, this whole city came alive. I’m definitely one of these people that will jump on the bandwagon and whenever one of our teams is doing great.
There’s just a sea of blue and white in this city, and there’s just this energy on game night. That’s something I really love about the city, is this energy it has on some things going on. On Friday night you can just feel this buzz. You can see traffic coming in, and that’s what I really love about it, which is the life that’s here.
Alice: That’s amazing. I’ve never been to Toronto but I would love to go.
Vanessa: Come in the summer. Come in the sunshine month.
Alice: Yes, I was going to ask about fall traditions, but since it’s winter, you have winter traditions?
Vanessa: I think that’s a really important question because Winter blues is a thing here. Whether it’s a lack of vitamin D, or just not seeing friends as often, we go into this “hibernation mode”. Definitely getting outside, getting a hobby during the winter is really important, especially for me. I love snowboarding, I have a husky, so it’s always doing something outside with him. I joke around that he gets activated when the snow comes around, he’s just itching to go out, which I love, yes. So, definitely I would say not so much a tradition, but definitely doing a little trip somewhere, just enjoy the winter. Whether it’s a snowboarding trip, or a trip to rent– like renting a chalet with some friends, and really just getting into the spirit and freezing a little bit.
Alice: Wow. That sounds so nice. I guess here in New York we have ice skating, but then that’s really the only like wintry thing. Sounds you can get out a little more. That’s great.
Vanessa: Yes, especially because we’re close to Quebec, and you have a lot of ski hills ground. I’ve never been to New York in the winter, but for me it seems like a lot of slush, just because it’s the middle of the city, and we have that here, too. We love winter the first, like, two months and then just last way too long and we can get slushed during slush season that I just wish that it has gone.
Alice: Why isn’t this gone yet?
Vanessa: Exactly how I feel.
Alice: Can you talk me through the step-by-step process of how you got to where you are today?
Vanessa: Yes, absolutely. Over here, it is early as grade 11, your schools are asking, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”, “What are you going to be?” In grade 11- grade 12, I really don’t think that we know what we want to be, right? I just thought, “Oh, I enjoy helping people, I guess I’ll be a teacher”.
I went into Teachers College, I took that for five years. That was really the beginning of my journey. When I was in school I met many interesting people, and I was able to explore my interests a lot. I got really involved in the school gym there, I was the fitness coordinator where I– hired to manage 15 or so instructors that would design the classes, like you need a lot of room for creativity. Along the way, I found out things I like to do, and things I maybe don’t like to do. I know I like being creative, I know I like working with other like-minded people, that’s something I like to do.
After school, I went to online teaching, I started doing a lot online. Something actually happened in my life that changed kind of everything. It’s a happy story and I don’t mind talking about it. I think that everyone kind of goes through stuff in their life and it’s about how you deal with it, right? I was teaching online at the time, I was trying to work from home, getting a good schedule and leave it out there. There’s a lot you can do as a teacher that’s not in the classroom, we can talk about that later as well. My mom, she’s diagnosed with a brain tumor and given two months to live. It seems a crazy story, but it has a happy ending. My mom had a 10-hour brain surgery, long story short- full recovery. At that moment, life put on a hold, everything change, and it really put things into perspective for me. I just have a thought about my place in the world, what’s important to me, and I really didn’t want to feel like -I don’t know how to describe- maybe like a worker bee.
The nine-to-five isn’t for me, and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my family. I wanted to create this life where I could spend time doing more of what I love, being more with the people that I love. This Western culture thing that says you have to work, work, work until your retirement, until I can go to California, right? I have to work my whole life and then maybe one day can come to California. I think that’s kind of a Western way of thinking, many other cultures they don’t think that way. I wanted to try to dot my life, had the ability to do that, so that’s why I started teaching online to companies in China, 12-hour time differences. There’s a big market for Canadians working with people from overseas just because they like our Western terminology, it’s very similar to the movies. Like we’ll say, “Pants” instead of trousers, you won’t say, “Knickers”, you’ll use other terminology. Our phonetics are very easy to understand, and our most movements, so yes, a lot of the opportunity for that.
I began working for a studio, where we make these pre-recorded English lessons for companies in China. For example, we have Google Maps pre-downloaded on our phones, phones in China will have these other apps, like learn English apps and learn other languages. We provide this third-party videos for these companies and had these learning language apps. For about three years, I was able to work full time from home doing my own schedule, and then I actually went back into teaching in a classroom. I’m actually a French teacher. I started teaching– supplying a bit, and then I started teaching a grade eight French. In Ontario, in Canada, we’re bilingual. I know in the State’s -I think- it’s more Spanish that they honing on, but for us it’s mandatory to take French all the way up until the beginning of high school.
I started teaching grade eight French, but again this was a school that was a little farther from a house. I was driving an hour each way, I had to get a do– all these little things just kept piling up. So, by last June I said no more of that and I went back to teaching half time at a school really close to my house, which gives me room in the mornings maybe to teach online, and then pursue other interests. That’s really kind of a step by step on how it played out. I’ve always had one foot in the door teaching, and then the other foot dabbling, and other things, just trying to see what my interests are. That answer your question?
Alice: That’s great, thank you so much. Then, how did “My Teacher Vanessa” come about? Can you explain what it is to you so everyone listening can hear?
Vanessa: Yes, totally. I had all this buildup of videos for my company, and we eventually started making these programs. How to be an online teacher and make money, and Know Phonograms, so “My Teacher Vanessa” kind of became the side project that I started doing with my company. We just started going through all the letters of the alphabet, I make all sorts of lessons. Again, they gave me a lot of room for creativity and to explore things I was interested in. We made the English alphabet, the French alphabet, and I just had all these videos and I had no where to put it, so I started putting them on YouTube. A lot of my friends, they teach younger grades, and they say, “You know what? These videos are great, can you post more for my students?”.
But this was a thing that was effortless at the time, right? I had the videos, I had somewhere to put them. I think when something flows effortlessly it’s something that it’s easier, it’s meant to happen. Things that, say, may stress someone out would be, “Creating content, creating content”, yes, sure that takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of time out of your day, but if it’s something you’re naturally doing it becomes a little bit easier. If you love baking, yes, start filming yourself while you bake and upload those videos, right?
I’ve been learning a lot about time management and how we can improve. There’s this one study done, it was a clay making class. The teacher said, “Half of your grade will be solely on how many clay pieces you produce, and the other 50% of your grade will be based on one piece of your choosing and that’ll be 50% on your mark”. They found this correlation between the people that had the most amount of clay pieces produce, that they also had the best final piece. So, it’s constant[?] correlation between the more work you do, the better your final product will be. The same with all the famous, say composers, like Beethoven, Mozart. Not only were they the best, but they actually have the most work out of everyone. Creativity it’s like a muscle and you have to practice, and you have to get to use it to develop it. My one suggestion would be, it’s never the right time to start, right? It’s never going to be perfect, that just shows you have to just put something out there. Even if you’re not posting it for everyone to see, just start challenging yourself to start doing something creative. Try a new recipe, or try a new ingredient, drive a different way home. Just trying something different in your life.
Alice: That’s great. How did you end up creating that curriculum for “My Teacher Vanessa”? Are you still doing it because you’re not with the company anymore?
Vanessa: Yes. I’m still with the company from here, time to time. “My Teacher Vanessa” was to show my students what I do, and show other people around me what I do. But you’re right, I haven’t really posted anything there in a while. I guess I’m struggling with what should I focus on as well, right? The creation of that was to show my videos, and then after that, yes, I found that maybe was more- For example, I’m wondering should I be focusing more on this “Miss Canada” aspect? Should I be focusing more on other things. Right now my energy is directed at teaching in the classroom. But for this development, I actually– as a teacher there are many opportunities online. There was a company in Dubai and they say, “Hey, we have these materials and we need teacher guides. We need lesson plans”. So, I got the materials and I formulated the lesson plans. It’s kind of like a contract deal. You can get all these little contracts, companies from all over the world try to put their books together to make teacher guides.
The book that I have is a phonograms book. All the mouth movement, sounds, where you’re directing your breath when you’re speaking around, how your tongue should be moving. That’s the book that we created with a booklet that goes with it, with video component. I love that there’s a lot of room for creativity and I think it’s really just finding what works best for you. I think I find them really good, like, “Give me a project”, and I’ll complete it very well. But again with this nine to five, don’t make me sit somewhere from nine to five, I’ll probably end up staring at the clock. I find that what works for me is project-based. However, a lot of my friends stresses them out when I tell them what I do because they like having the consistency and knowing, “Okay, Monday to Friday, this is where I’ll be. I can structure my day around it”. Everyone is different and it’s definitely not for everyone.
Alice: It’s good that you figure that out, too. Just sounds you have your