Spotlight on Maria Angelova




Growing up in the southeastern European country of Bulgaria, Dr. Maria Angelova was always interested in learning different languages.  It was only a natural fit that she would make a career of teaching English to others.

“When I graduated from Veliko Tarnovo University in Bulgaria with my diploma in English philology, I chose to become an English teacher rather than an interpreter,” said Angelova, who is retiring in July after spending 16 years as an associate professor of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language (TESOL) in the Cleveland State University Teacher Education Department.  “During my [32-year career] as an educator, I’ve taught English to children, university students, adults and immigrants in four countries on three continents.  I have also helped 150 teachers in Northeast Ohio get their licensure in teaching English to speakers of other languages.”

Angelova, who is fluent in English, Bulgarian and Russian, worked as an assistant professor at the English Philology and Foreign Languages Departments at Sofia University in Bulgaria for 13 years and spent three years teaching English in high schools in Sofia, Bulgaria and Budapest, Hungary.  In 1994, she arrived in the United States as an international student, earning her Ph.D. in foreign and second language education from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo.  Angelova graduated from SUNY Buffalo in 1999 and moved to Cleveland where she was offered her position at Cleveland State.

“I have used a variety of teaching philosophies.  Teaching styles are different in different countries and one has to be able to adapt to the culture and educational environment,” noted Angelova.  “The one thing that remains constant is that you have to cater to the learning style of each and every student if you want them to be successful.”

During her time at Cleveland State, Angelova served as director of the MA TESOL and TESOL endorsement programs.  She also developed an undergraduate and graduate TESOL certificate programs.  Additionally, Angelova collaborated with Cleveland State colleague Dr. Lee Wilberschied on the development of the only Bilingual endorsement program in Ohio.  Angelova earned accreditation for the TESOL endorsement program in 2001 and 2009.

In 2001-2005 and 2007-2013, Angelova served as the Primary Investigator (PI) on two U.S. Department of Education grants for $621,000 and $1,425,000 and worked with teachers from six urban school districts, helping them earn an endorsement in TESOL or Bilingual education. 

In 2010, Angelova was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Lecturing Award to work as a lecturer at Bilkent University in Turkey.  She taught courses to students in the MA TESOL program at Bilkent University in Ankara, as well as teaching students in Iraq via satellite.

“Teaching English in a multicultural classroom is difficult,” said Angelova.  “Students come from different countries with different cultures, languages and educational backgrounds.  They speak the language at different proficiency levels. Some are absolute beginners, while others may be more advanced.  Teaching teachers how to design lessons that can help these students advance their knowledge of the language can be a challenge.  That, though, is also the most rewarding part of my profession.”

Now that retirement has beckoned, Angelova already has a lesson plan in place for her next adventure.

“I’m going back to Bulgaria,” said Angelova.  “I hope to teach online either for [Cleveland State] or another university on a part-time basis.  I’ll probably try to translate some more books from English to Bulgarian.  I used to do this before I came to the U.S. I will also be coming back to the U.S. from time to time because one of my daughters and my twin grandsons live in Chicago.”


Favorite movie: A Bulgarian movie called The Goat Horn and a more recent American one, August: Osage County.

Favorite vacation destination: My summer cottage in a small village in the Balkan Mountains.

Favorite food: A good steak in America and all vegetarian Bulgarian dishes made with fresh vegetables from the garden.

Favorite activity when not working: Reading.

One thing people don’t know about me is… I lived the first 35 years of my life in communist Bulgaria and was not allowed to travel except to the other socialist countries in Europe.  After 1989, I visited 20 countries in Europe, America and Asia and intend to visit at least 20 more.