What position do you hold at Samui TEFL? What has been your career path so far?
I am co-director and the course trainer at Samui TEFL.
I left the USA 20 years ago to move to Italy. I not only have a degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but also a DELTA (Diploma of English Language Training to Adults) as well as a CELTYL (Certificate of English Language Training to Young Learners), so I’m qualified to teach both adults and children.
Prior to moving to Samui, Thailand, I owned a language school in Italy for nine years. My company, Language Studios, trained teachers, placing them in contracts to teach at Italy’s top fashion houses and other businesses. Language studios also ran classes for children and adults at our own school.
Did YOU teach abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
I travelled abroad, not specifically to teach English, but to do a design course in Italy as a gap semester while doing my MBA. I was approached to teach English, but I explained that I was not qualified to do so, and was told ‘it’s OK you’re a native English speaker’, so I gave it a go.
I soon realised that being a native speaker was not enough. As much as I enjoyed being in the classroom, I realised that I needed some guidance, so I decided to pursue a career in ELT and become qualified, by doing both my DELTA and CELTYL courses.
What does the future hold for Samui TEFL - any exciting new programs to share?
What makes Samui TEFL different is that we don’t want to expand to other regions – we are not a franchise, as we want to stay on top of the program that we run, and have full control. For us, it’s not about how many teachers we produce, but rather about the quality of the teachers that graduate from our course.
For this reason, we’ve forged fantastic relationships with both schools and agents who come to us first when looking for passionate and well-prepared teachers.
We have recently partnered with Bamboo Project to offer a combined TEFL/volunteer program. Many people want to take part in a volunteer-based holiday, which often involves teaching English. However, not knowing what you are doing in the classroom means you’re not particularly effective with your students and don’t enjoy the experience as much, as you may be out of your comfort zone.
Doing the TEFL course first means that you’re able to provide the most during your volunteer services. Another reason for doing the combined package would mean gaining additional valuable classroom experience (above the classroom time you have during the course) before starting your job hunting.
What about the future of the teach abroad industry? How do you think education will change over the next 10 years?
Due to business globalisation and use of the internet, there’s a growing demand in the need for proficiency in English. This is particularly true in Asia with the ASEAN community taking effect from 2015, where the language chosen for communication is English. We’re already seeing in Thailand not only a demand for more teachers, but also for better teachers with proper qualifications and good references, as English is no longer seen as a benefit, but rather a necessity.
Online courses in many fields have become more and more popular, but one area where they are becoming less accepted is in the TEFL/TESOL industry, where schools have seen the benefits of face-to-face courses with a strong practical element in a real classroom environment.
Also, more and more technology is being used in the classroom, even spreading into small countryside schools, which now have access to the internet and other resources. Technology will never replace a teacher, but a teacher without technology may be replaced.
Which teach abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?
Well, that’s a difficult question, as who is to say what makes a place good or bad? We have trainees who are eager to become part of a local community and teach in a small countryside town, and others are drawn to the city lights of Bangkok with all it has to offer. Others want to escape to the beach.
So within Thailand, you already have so many diverse options to suit whatever it is you’re looking to gain from teaching abroad, and it’s not possible to say which rates higher, as it’s a personal choice.
The same applies when comparing different countries – some pay higher salaries and others pay less, but offer a ‘better’ lifestyle – depending, of course, what it is you’re looking for. Are you looking to emerge yourself into the local culture and gain an invaluable experience, or are you looking to add a prestigious school to your CV?