Medical frontliners double as online English teachers during the pandemic

It has been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out across the world. Although unprecedented, the fight against the virus is starting to change with massive vaccination campaigns underway and lockdown measures eased. As medical professionals who served on the front lines look back on the early days of the outbreak, they are beginning to realize how life-changing the overall experience has been.

Among these medical frontliners in the Philippines are Alenah, Cecilia, and Iris Mint, who happen to be online English teachers on a popular teaching platform. 51Talk. Coming from different areas of medical expertise, their experiences on the front lines vary, but their stories are linked by the lessons they learned. They also have in common to discover how online education has helped them cope with the difficulties that the pandemic has brought.

For Bohol-based pharmacist Alenah, who works as an assistant training supervisor at a local pharmacy, she and her colleagues had to go to work when the lockdown was first imposed.

Even though going to work increased her risk of contracting the virus, Alenah was more than willing to step in and help as many people as possible.

“I wasn’t scared or anxious. I was eager to help because I know it is our responsibility to help during a medical crisis,” she explained.

Iris Mint can relate to Alenah’s dedication. The 28-year-old medical technologist from Cebu City has been practicing for five years now, and her experience has made her enjoy her craft, helping doctors diagnose patients through lab work.

A medical technologist by profession, Iris Mint has had to be more careful at work during the pandemic as she extracts bodily fluids from patients. In parallel, she teaches English online using the 51Talk platform to earn a supplement.

And just like Alenah, Iris Mint also had to go to work during the height of the pandemic. Because she and her colleagues handle bodily fluids, they had to be more careful in their daily operations at work.

“A lot of things have changed during the pandemic. We had to limit our interaction with our patients, which we managed to do by changing the way we took samples from them,” she said. She remembers always making sure their PPE was always on, then rigorously bathing after their shifts.

Although Alenah and Iris Mint were ready to take on the responsibilities that lay ahead of them, they still encountered circumstances beyond their control. With residents unsure how to protect themselves against COVID-19, they turned to the nearest accessible medical resource for advice: pharmacies. On a daily basis, Alenah answered patients’ questions about how they could boost their immune system. On top of that, locals have also flocked to pharmacies to stock up on necessities such as vitamin C supplements, rubbing alcohol and face masks. It didn’t take long for these supplies to run out.

“As medical supplies were scarce at the time, we restricted people from buying in bulk to give everyone a chance to stock up. It was hard to see others going through a tough time, so I assured to extend my care to those in need. I could never forget how grateful customers were to receive these necessities when they were out of stock elsewhere. It only showed how much a little consideration could go a long way at a time like this,” Alenah recounted.

As her shifts were cut short and she was quarantined multiple times, Alenah’s salary was affected during the pandemic. She was able to make up for the lost income by teaching English online at 51Talk.

Iris Mint, on the other hand, contracted the COVID-19 virus earlier this year and infected her family members at home.

“It’s not easy to protect my loved ones. Besides the precautionary measures that take up the time I should be spending with my family, I can’t help but worry about their safety. Getting COVID-19 was a turning point for me. At first I felt depressed and questioned my job because I no longer felt safe. Later, I realized that in order to take care of others, I also had to take care of myself. Now I make sure to take a few days off to rest and eat healthy too,” she shared.

What helped these frontliners cope with the challenges of the pandemic was teaching at 51Talk, the leading online English teaching platform in the Philippines and China. This is also true for Cecilia, 38, who works as a nurse at a local clinic in Cebu. When their day-to-day operations at work were interrupted during the shutdowns, she relied on her classes at 51Talk to keep her afloat.

“My colleagues and I feared that our company would close its doors. So many “what ifs” crossed my mind. During this time, 51Talk has become my daily bread. I also used my earnings on the platform to send money to my relatives back home,” said Cecilia, who returned to work at the clinic last August.

For nursing professional Cecilia, her classes at 51Talk have become her primary source of income during the pandemic as the clinic she works at temporarily shut down during the lockdown and only resumed last August.

The same goes for Alenah whose shifts at the pharmacy were much shorter than before. She was also quarantined without pay several times, which further reduced her salary. She was able to make up for the lost income by teaching more classes at 51Talk, which became her main source of income throughout the pandemic.

“My bank account has never dried up since I started teaching at 51Talk,” added Iris Mint, who joined the platform last year to earn money on the side. A mother of two children, she needed another means of support to ensure that she could meet their daily needs.

Alenah, Iris Mint and Cecilia are just a few of the thousands of online English teachers at 51Talk who found a stable source of teaching income on the platform when their salaries at their full-time jobs were compromised for the pandemic.

“Over the past year, 51Talk has seen an influx of applicants who want to teach and earn a living from the safety of their own homes. especially Professors Alenah, Iris Mint and Cecilia who bravely served on the front lines during the pandemic,” says 51Talk Country Head Jennifer Qué.

To meet the growing demand for online English teachers, Que said 51Talk aims to attract thousands more teachers this year to meet the growing demand for online English lessons.

To become an online English teacher at 51Talk, visit


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