Alumni Spotlight: Robert Allan Sullivan, Jr.

Robert was a returning student to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. After receiving his first BA in English in 1985, he spent the last three years as a full-time Social Science Secondary Ed major to graduate Cum Laude with his second BA in early May 2018.

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Why did you choose this program?

My prospective employer in China, Aston English Schools advised me that the Chinese officials who were to grant my work visa required a 120-hour TEFL course in lieu of one year's actual teaching experience. I chose the TEFL course from teachingnomad.com because they offered an authentication service for their certification.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The structure of the course is designed so that the student can proceed at his or her own pace. I've had experience with online courses before at FAU and I've done lesson plans before, so when the course teacher asked me to rewrite my lesson plans in a different format, that for me was not a problem.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I wish I had given myself a week or two extra time so that I wouldn't have felt so rushed. My contract with the school I am to teach at in China begins in a few weeks, and I hope to be on time or at the least, not very late. I am very excited about my new job, and I hope to be teaching in China very soon!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Because it's a private school, Aston must work around the public school schedule, so I am to teach mostly afternoons and weekends. It's a 23-hour work week, with three hours a week in the office going over lesson plans with the Chinese co-teacher, and the other twenty hours actually teaching a class of no larger than ten students.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I've never traveled abroad, so I had to start from scratch – from my passport to my background check to my physical medical tests. All the paperwork had to be prepared in fairly rapid order for my application for the work visa in China. My biggest fear was that the task of so much paperwork was simply too daunting, but I've learned to make a plan and stick to a schedule.

Why did I decide to teach overseas rather than locally?

I discovered in observing the local public school system and later teaching that students can be held back only one year; after that, it's social promotion regardless of ability. I didn't realize the implications for this policy until I started student teaching in my last semester; that's when I realized the usual program wasn't going to work for me.