I completed the online course for the International TEFL Academy (I.T.A.) while living in Chicago and working 40+ hours each week for the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Although I worked full time and my work hours differentiated each week for the duration of the course, I was able to successfully complete the class with top marks. Regardless of a person's schedule, I.T.A. makes it possible for everyone to take their courses, and the teachers, advisers, and staff at the school are extremely helpful with questions on every topic from country suggestions and classroom-related inquiries, to payment plans for the courses and stories of their own experiences while teaching English abroad (or even TEFL teaching within the United States)!
My experience as an I.T.A. student was unique because I have taught English abroad with Peace Corps Georgia and as an independent English teacher in China, but I had no certification throughout my previous teaching experiences. The TEFL course at I.T.A. covered everything from the importance of cultural understanding and different teaching techniques, to the spectrum of learning styles and lesson suggestions on how to adhere to those learning styles while teaching. I wish I had been TEFL certified in my past-teaching experiences because I would have had a better understanding of the different ways to teach according to age group and how to change my teaching style for each lesson so the topics I taught would better resonate with students of different learning styles. It's also important to understand that classrooms abroad and cultural norms in education differentiate from place to place, and I wish I would have had a better understanding of that during my first two teaching experiences. Thanks to my experience at I.T.A.'s TEFL course, my future students will benefit from everything I have learned from the course, my broadened understanding of a classroom community and an even better appreciation for cultural understanding.
I want future participants of I.T.A.'s TEFL course to know that the course covers an array of topics and the work load may seem intense at times, but the knowledge gained from the course is absolutely worth it. As a TEFL teacher with previous experience in two countries, I am honestly able to say that the experience I had in the 11-week I.T.A. TEFL course better-prepared me for TEFL teaching more so than anything in my past. My past-teaching experiences were beneficial learning experiences, but the knowledge I have gained from I.T.A.'s TEFL course have not only left me better-prepared for my role as a teacher, but my future students will benefit as well. The entire experience of being part of the community in my next classroom with be even greater for my students and for me as an educator because I am an even better version of myself as a TEFL teacher than before.
The I.T.A. alumni community is another terrific attribute of taking the TEFL course. The I.T.A. alumni community is very active on all forms of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs) and alumni are constantly reaching out to help other I.T.A. alumni when they are traveling, searching for jobs, answering questions, or if they need a place to stay while they get their affairs in order in their new country of residence. Taking that initial leap to go abroad as a TEFL teacher may be scary or intimating at times, but the I.T.A. alumni community provides a solid foundation and such a circle of support for all I.T.A. students and other alumni at every stage of their TEFL experience.
All in all, taking the TEFL course at I.T.A. is an extremely worthwhile investment. From the readings and classroom work, to the student-teaching practicum, I.T.A. students are well-equipped with a wealth of knowledge and understanding in order to become the best TEFL teachers possible; and they are also blessed with a strong community of I.T.A. alumni scattered all over the globe to assist as a foundation of support during one of the biggest adventures that life has to offer.