Alumni Spotlight: Jack McKinnon

Jack enjoys international travel and his most recent visits have been to India, Thailand, and the Philippines. He has earned degrees in mechanical engineering and information systems as well as certificates in quality management, transportation planning, and geographic information systems. He intends to obtain work in corporate training or as an English teacher. Jack enjoys hiking, photography, train travel, and keeping track of developments in urban planning and transportation. He currently splits his time between Los Angeles, California, and Dumaguete, Philippines.

Why did you decide to get TEFL Certified with ITTT TEFL in Cebu?

Jack McKinnon - ITTT TEFL Cebu Participant

Jack: I had been to the Philippines previously and had enjoyed being in the country. But that was during my service in the U.S. Navy 30 years ago. I wanted to keep my costs reasonable and also do a bit of touring in a part of the country that was new to me. The course costs in Cebu were the same as other locations, however housing, transportation, and other living expenses were lower. I also had friends in a nearby province and I could visit them easily from Cebu. The other school that I had been considering did not offer their course in the Philippines. And I was happy to find that the school was in Cebu rather than Manila.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering this TEFL Course and teaching abroad?

Jack: Carefully consider your post-course goals. In my case, my goal was to gain a working level of knowledge and experience in teaching, as I was considering looking for work in a corporate training setting and was less concerned about finding a job where I’d actually be teaching English. But during the course I became more interested in teaching English, and only after examining job listings in Asia did I become aware that age restrictions and gender preferences could be barriers to employment. I would recommend doing a lot of research into the available jobs and the desired candidate profiles, not assume that certification is a guarantee of a job, and be flexible about the type of job, its location, and salary.

With respect to traveling to Cebu, most international flights go to Manila and arrive at either Terminal 1 or 2. A limited number of domestic flights use Terminal 2, but most of them use Terminal 3. Getting to and from Terminal 3 is neither simple or fast, and I would recommend about a three hour period between flights in order to assure connections.

What was the highlight of your experience?

At the Buglasan Festival in 2013 in Dumaguete

Jack: There were several, but the one I will probably remember most was sitting at the front of a class of fourth graders, with students sitting on each side of me, and taking turns reading poetry with them. I felt that I was really projecting my enthusiasm, the students were genuinely interested, and they were actually connecting with me and enjoying the lesson. Previously I had not considered teaching such young students, and this was probably the turning point in my outlook toward potentially teaching at the elementary level. I still wonder if I can sustain the energy to handle a class of 6-12 year olds every day, all day long, but at least I’m now considering that option.

A highlight outside of the course was the October 15 earthquake in Bohol, which also shook Cebu. It took about ten lives in Cebu and about 200 total. I had visited Bohol only a few days earlier via the ferry and had also recently visited the Santo Niño Church in Cebu’s Colon district. Colon is the oldest part of Cebu, and the church and several other old buildings were heavily damaged.

Anything else you would like to share?

Jack: The Philippines is quite accommodating with respect to immigration. Because of some planned travels following the course, I had to visit the immigration office to obtain a visa extension. The office was crowded and seemed rather disorganized, but the process was not unpleasant and it took only about an hour and a quarter. Regarding Cebu, I had been warned from several sources that I should be extra careful because of pickpockets and “snatchers”. I watched my surroundings closely and didn’t wear anything of great value. But I didn’t let fear keep me off the streets, even at night. Throughout the entire month I experienced no problems with crime.