We’re running a series of blogpost interviews with the TEFL Iberia team and first up is Richard, our founder and course director. Richard grew up in Scotland and studied Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. He moved to Barcelona in 2008, where he worked first in a bar and then as an English teacher. He set up TEFL Iberia in 2012.
Hi Richard! What first attracted you to the TEFL industry?
Between my third and fourth year in uni I spent the summer abroad, working in a hostel in Italy. I loved it and wanted to repeat the experience when I graduated, so I came to Barcelona. I spent six months working in a bar and fell in love with the city. I knew I wanted to stay long term, but I also knew I’d get bored of bar work quite quickly, so becoming an English teacher seemed like a good career option which would enable me to live and work in Barcelona
And how did the idea for TEFL Iberia come about?
Well I’d been teaching at a few different language schools for 4 years, some better than others. One of the schools I’d been working for launched their own TEFL course, but I didn’t like the way they did it. It was badly organised, unprofessional, and the whole time I was thinking, I could do a much better job of this – so I did! I spent my time working on the website, putting together a course, researching the premises – and then I had my first sign up and it all came together.
What makes Barcelona a great place to do a TEFL course?
Barcelona is like a mecca for TEFL training! It’s just such an amazing place to live. You have the beach, the mountains, the climate is wonderful, there are so many festivals, and the city itself is beautiful. And apart from those factors, Barcelona is very cosmopolitan and outward-looking. It’s a very international city, but conversely the level of English in general is quite low, creating the perfect conditions for a really high demand for English classes.
How does your experience of teaching in Barcelona help you to support the students?
Well, having done it for four years, I know exactly what the job entails! I had a lot of varied teaching experiences – teaching general English, business English, exam prep, teaching adults, teaching kids, doing summer camps and in-company classes – and now I’m able to take it to the next level and pass that knowledge on.
What is your best piece of advice for someone thinking of doing a TEFL course?
Do the TEFL course in the city where you want to work. Doing a practical course in your chosen destination is the quickest and easiest way to start working as a teacher – you’re benefiting from immediate contact with the local market.
Where do you see the TEFL industry in 10 years?
That’s an interesting question. Lots of TEFL courses seem to be happening online, but I’m really not convinced by online TEFL courses. For me it would be like learning to drive without ever getting into a vehicle. You really need that practical experience, and if you shy away behind a screen you’re not going to do well in front of a classroom. That being said, it would be nice to go paperless – that’s definitely one of our goals over the next few years, and one of our next challenges will be designing resources and materials to fit that format.
What makes TEFL Iberia’s courses one of a kind?
We have a young, enthusiastic, professional team. It’s not like a big company where it’s a bit faceless and people don’t feel valued – we’re a tight knit team and very dedicated. The people who work here have been involved for a long time and really care about it, and I think that shows in the great experiences that TEFL trainees have at our school. Our school is also in a beautiful building. It’s very modern, with interactive classrooms and a Mac suite, lots of light – it’s a lovely place to study.
How has TEFL Iberia changed over the past 4 years? What accomplishment are you most proud of, and what is the most rewarding part of your job?
Well, it’s evolved from being a very small company – a one man show in fact. I was doing everything – I was the tutor, the receptionist, the cleaner, the course coordinator. And now it’s grown into a team, and I’m incredibly proud of the amazing team I’m working with now. The most rewarding part of my job is definitely seeing the change in our students, from their first day to their last day at TEFL Iberia. For example, learning a language is a very long process, but on our training course it feels like a big evolution in a short space of time. They have no idea what they’re doing on the first day, and one month later they’re proficient teachers. Moving abroad is a big deal – I have such fond memories of my first years in Barcelona, and it’s very rewarding to be part of that important step in someone’s life.