Staff Spotlight: Helen Finnegan

Helen, an Optometrist from the UK, initially came to Madrid for a short career break. After 4 years teaching, she now works at TtMadrid, helping others to make the move and supporting them in their experiences abroad.

What position do you hold at TtMadrid? What has been your career path so far?

Helen, Trainee Support Coordinator at TtMadrid

Helen: I'm the Trainee Support Coordinator here at TtMadrid. It's my job to deal with incoming trainees' questions and concerns, from the moment they make their first enquiry right up until they get their first job and onwards. Before the course I answer queries, guide student visa applicants through the process, help new trainees find accommodation and get them settled. During the course, I am here to support them both emotionally and through any issues that may arise, and then after the course I help them to find work. I'm the link between our graduates and the agencies out there – I send out resumes, organize interview open days, and keep on the lookout for new academies and agencies that will benefit from our teachers.

Did YOU teach abroad (or take a TEFL course abroad)?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Helen: Back in the UK I was an Optometrist, but wanted to work abroad before settling down and buying a house. I'd always loved Madrid, and I found TtMadrid online. I was drawn to them by the friendliness of their website and subsequent emails; and because the course was actually in Madrid, I would be right where I wanted to work. I completed TtMadrid in January 2009, and have never looked back! I was surprised to find that I loved teaching - the many different people I met through it, the way I could structure my days and weeks as I liked, and of course seeing my students progress because of me. Initially I worked for a large academy, right in the heart of Madrid, before going on to be the in-house English teacher at Coca Cola.

What does the future hold for TtMadrid - any exciting new programs to share?

Helen: Education is ever-evolving and what I love about TtMadrid is that we keep with the times. We are consistently educating ourselves on new trends and incorporating them into our course. For example, we noticed a large increase in telephone and one-to-one classes. This was due to the strong communication we have with academies and our graduates working in the field. When we saw this market trend, we added more vital information and techniques to these skill set to make our graduates even stronger TEFL teachers and more attractive to employers. TtMadrid is always in the works to be the best most dynamic and innovative TEFL course Spain has to offer.

What about the future of the TEFL industry? How do you think teacher training will change over the next 10 years?

Helen: The TEFL industry has progressed a lot over the last few years. Employers are becoming more adamant about employing a TEFL certified teacher – whereas a few years ago it was enough to be a native English speaker, most employers now require that you at least have an accredited TEFL. These new requirements have helped TEFL teachers stand out and increase their employment tremendously. I think the future will see this progress further, employers will want specific skills and knowledge (such as Skype classes). TEFL courses need to move with the times to be able to provide this.