Staff Spotlight: Colby Toussaint

Colby has a MA in TESOL and has been teaching English as a foreign/second language since 1998 in China, Japan, and the US. She has taught in primary schools, high schools, Universities as well as Corporate classes and one-to-one tutoring.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory was my first time living and working in a foreign country.

In 1998, I got a job teaching conversational English to adults at an oil company in a suburb of Zhanjiang, China. At the time, I was one of two foreign teachers in the area and most of the locals couldn't speak any English. It was an exciting experience for me to learn enough Mandarin to be able to shop, go to restaurants, travel, and have basic conversations with new friends. Because I was such an oddity in the area, I was invited to many people's homes for meals and had plenty of travel opportunities with these new friends.

There was one family in particular that really took me under their wing. A local high school student befriended me and I had a weekly date for dinner at his house. He could speak intermediate level English, so I got to know his mother and father through his interpreting skills and my rudimentary Mandarin. His mother instantly decided that since I had no family nearby that she was informally adopting me. She couldn't speak any English, but anytime I was sick, she would rush to my dormitory with Chinese herbal medicine and congee, and would regularly bring by fresh fruit and vegetables.

Throughout the nearly three years I was in China, she was my Chinese Ma. This is just one of the examples of the beautiful relationships I was able to make while I was there. At age 22, it was the first time I was completely immersed in a new culture and while it was challenging, it completely changed my world view and how I saw myself. A total life-changing experience!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Working for CIEE has reignited my excitement for the TEFL field. I haven't taught abroad since 2008 so getting to help future teachers learn the skills they need to go abroad and teach English reminds me of the thrill I had when going overseas myself. By going through the material with them, I'm also reminded of teaching methods and techniques that I can continue to implement with my current English classes.

It's made me appreciate my profession more and the impact it has on others, both students and teachers alike.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

One of the students I tutored went on the teach abroad program to South Korea. After completing her six month Teaching Assistant position through the program, she decided to extend her stay because she was enjoying the country so much.

With the skills she learned through the TEFL certificate program and practical teaching experience, she was able to find a new job on her own and continue her adventure.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

All of the programs the company offers sound amazing, but I think my first choice would be the teach abroad program in Spain.

I'm currently teaching online English classes to corporate clients around the world. Many of my students live in Spain and through them, I've learned quite a lot about the culture, food, and different regions. I would love to be able to live and work there for a period of time and experience that life!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think the staff makes this company unique. Everyone I have worked with has a genuine desire to help me be successful as well as give the trainees the best possible experience they can get in the program.

It's rare to have such a top-notch administration team that cares so much about people. For example, there was a period of time that I had to take care of some ailing relatives which created a lot of stress in my life. The staff was extremely supportive and helpful through that time and gave me a lot of encouragement. Although I work remotely and have not met them face to face, they make me feel like a valued team member.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I think having a great product is extremely important. I have worked with several online learning platforms and CIEE's is excellent for many reasons. The course provides students the opportunity to learn in a flexible way through an interactive system while giving them access to knowledge and feedback from qualified and experienced teachers. I truly believe that those that get their certificate will have the necessary tools to embark on a great TEFL career and that is due to the program here at CIEE.