Staff Spotlight: John Kellenberger

Co-Owner and Director of Recruiting for South Korea
John Kellenberger, co-owner of Reach To Teach Recruiting, is an American expat from a small community in north central Iowa. Joh has been living in Asia since 2004, having spent a year in China and the rest of his time in Taiwan. John handles business development and oversees Reach To Teach's South Korea and Middle East programs.

What benefits do Korean private schools offer vs. public schools?

John: There are a number of important differences between public schools and the private schools Reach To Teach works with. First is the schedule: Public school jobs in Korea have morning/afternoon hours (typically from about to 8am-4pm) whereas private school jobs have an afternoon/ evening schedule (typically about 3pm-9pm).

Another significant difference is the number of foreign teachers per school. At a public school in Korea you will generally be the only foreign teacher at your school. However, private schools in Korea tend to have at least a few foreign teachers, while some locations have more than 10 foreign teachers! Most Reach To Teach teachers enjoy the support of having other foreign teachers around them. The school I originally taught at had five other foreign teachers and that made a big difference for me, support wise.

As far as benefits go, the packages are fairly similar across all schools in Korea. Public schools and private school jobs include a round trip flight, free housing and a settlement allowance. Good benefits all around! Teaching jobs in Korea tend to have better benefits than positions in other countries in Asia.

What is a typical day like for an English teacher in Korea?

John: The typical day for a teacher in Korea really depends on whether they are teaching in a public school or private school. Public school teachers work an morning/afternoon schedule, typically from about 8am-4pm, although this schedule may change depending on location and whether the teacher is participating in the EPIK, GEPIK or SMOE programs. Every teacher should be prepared to spend significant time each day preparing lesson plans. Always remember that your students have REALLY long days. Your goal should be to become a great teacher while also making their day a bit more interesting! We try and prepare each and every Reach To Teach teacher in Korea to care about their students and their work as a teacher. Doing a good job and making a difference in the lives of your students is rewarding!

Should teachers be worried about culture shock in Korea?

John: Any teacher planning to spend a year in a foreign country should be prepared to experience some elements of culture shock! Culture shock in Korea may be particularly intense: Korea is quite different than most western countries and the way people interact socially can be difficult to adjust to. At Reach To Teach, we always recommend that our teachers in Korea try to be as flexible and easy going as possible. Embrace the differences in Korea and immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible. Reach To Teach also sends each of our teachers special documents focused on culture shock, just in case. The above said, some teachers never experience any significant culture shock at all. Everyone’s personality is a bit different, of course, so your experience will be unique!

What is the standard of living like in Korea?

John: The standard of living in Korea is quite high and comparable with western countries. In fact, if you’re a recent graduate, you will almost certainly live a higher quality of life living in Korea for your first year out of school! The benefits are very good and Korea is a comfortable place in which to live. Koreans tend to be quite friendly to westerners and most teachers find it easy to meet new people and make friends. The food is my personal favorite! Korean food is delicious and there are a plethora of interesting culinary options. Korea is most famous for its delicious BBQ (which I love!), but the dumplings (Mandoo), Bibimbop and street food are all quite tasty. Overall, Korea offers teachers a great combination of interesting culture and comfortable lifestyle.

How does teaching in Korea compare to teaching in other countries in Asia?

John: There are a number of significant differences between teaching in Korea and other popular places in Asia. Whether these differences are pros or cons really depends on your perspective. Benefits in Korea tend to be significantly better than those of Japan, China and Taiwan (to name a few other popular destinations!). Korean children are generally well behaved, and the support provided at schools should be more professional and organized than in most other countries in Asia. Of course, every individual situation is different, but the above is generally true. Korea can also be an intense place in which to teach. There is a lot of pressure put on children by family members and Korean teachers. Our Reach To Teach teachers tell us this also means they feel the pressure at times.

The above is just a brief intro of the differences between teaching in Korea and other locations in Asia. Obviously, there is a lot more to discuss! If you have further questions, feel free to contact our friendly staff here at Reach To Teach.