This month I had the great pleasure of interviewing George Kokolas of Express Publishing. I first met George last year at the Neurolaguge Conference in Portugal and was instantly impressed by his warmth and friendliness. I felt as if I had known him all my life and also felt that he would be a friend for life. George gave an enlightening talk at the conference entitled “The Brain Rules”

George, hello, and thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. Could I start by asking you where this love of books and English first started?

Thanks for asking Sharyn. With your question in mind, I have started thinking more about the past and I realise that maybe life does send us messages about our destiny, even from when we are children, but we only realise it later when our destiny is more fulfilled. To answer your question I would like to give you some background.

My family comes from a city in Northern Greece called ( believe it or not…) Drama (no side effects caused by the name in my life and character so far…) but I was born in a nearby city called Serres. My father was a military man and he was transferred every 2 or 3 years to another city. So I spent my childhood not only travelling but also living in 5 major cities in Greece. Plus, my parents invested a lot in travelling and moving around so that their children could collect images, stimuli, meet people, experience different mentalities and learn to appreciate the world around them. That’s why I think, I perceive travelling not only as “a life objective” but more like a “way of living” and my childhood helped me realise that.

When I started thinking seriously about my future and having all this bank of travel experiences and images, I knew that humanities would be the direction I would go in. Communicating with people from all over the world was my forte because of these trips and because of living in a highly touristic country. I managed to reach a high level of English at a very young age, so I guess becoming an English major was the natural evolution and aftermath of my life events…It was the only career path that could combine language, literature and the prospect of a job as a teacher later.

Did you always plan to be a teacher?

Actually, I never had any dreams or visions of becoming a teacher. I was an English major but teaching hadn’t entered my mind. If it had, I believe I could have majored in TESOL. However, for reasons of pure survival, I started teaching English in Greece and I realized that I liked it very much. Teaching is all about communication and I loved working with people who wanted to learn something which I could provide and if I am honest I loved performing and teaching is about performing.

But, however much you enjoyed teaching you, you moved careers. Could you tell me a little about your motives for switching careers?

That’s right and I guess it was meant to be because one day I saw an ad in a newspaper which
stirred my curiosity. A company called ExpressPublishing was looking for presenters/consultants. I had absolutely no idea what this was all about and I was completely ignorant about the corporate, publishing world, but after 20 years I can tell you that this is my “dream job”; full of human contact, communication, challenges, travelling, public speaking and of course direct contact with actual teaching, teachers and experts. I find it fascinating that so many people deal with one sole purpose: teaching English efficiently. And maybe this a solid proof that it’s not as easy as one may think.

Could you tell me a little about Express Publishing itself?

Sure.. I’ve been working for this publisher for almost 20 years now and I dare say that they dare to make the difference in ELT. The reason is very simple. The books are written by teachers for teachers. It all started with Virginia Evans, who decided to start putting her experiences from the classroom on paper.We are talking about materials that focus on the real problems of the non- native learner and try to transform him into a competent speaker and also an excellent student. Add some solid, tested, effective methodology always accompanied by innovative technologies and you have the DNA of Express Publishing. We are experts and we exclusively publish ELT books. And working for these people is always a guarantee that I am supported by great material and endless resources. Express is doing business like a family and this is something perceived by both for the employees and the customers.

I can see very clearly that you love your job and have great job satisfaction. How wonderful that is! And now, could I ask you how you first met Rachel Paling?

Oh, I always joke about this with Rachel. We both feel now that it was a “karmic moment”. Her work simply caught my attention. I spend a lot of time on social media, so I kept reading her posts and ads. The one “click” brought the other and I ended up enrolling for her Neurolanguage Coach course. I was thrilled and fully engaged by it. I feel Rachel has invented a real treasure, which I firmly believe is the future of teaching and learning. I tried to “sign her in” immediately and now she is published by Express Publishing and she is sponsored by us in many international conferences all over the world. This year we have Brazil, France, Catalonia, Spain, and there will be more soon.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have done the course too and I can honestly say that it enriched my life more than I could ever have imagined. I really enjoyed your talk at the conference last year and it’s very easy to forget that you did it in a language which is not your mother tongue. No easy task. Could you tell us a little about your talk?

The official title was “Brain Rules”, which obviously has a binary reading and meaning. I took the title from John Medina and his book which literally changed my perspective as a teacher and intrigued me into looking more into matters about the brain. The talk is a parade of statements, all of them backed up by scientific evidence, that try to give an insight into certain functions that our brains can perform. Furthermore, we try to see how we can take advantage of these functions so to boost learning.

Thanks for recommending the book. George I’d like to thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. Something else which may be karmic: we celebrate our birthdays on the same day.

It’s my pleasure and thank you so much again for giving me this opportunity.