As a teacher, I love thinking of activities that engage my learners.
Living in Italy was my dream and I made it come true.
I love to cook when I’m not teaching.
Hi Sheila, with that introduction, I’m really interested in knowing more about your backstory. How did you first get started teaching English?
I first started teaching English in a private language school north of San Francisco, California. I had a friend who was the director of this school and he called me looking for teachers. I worked there for about two years, when he said to me, “if you ever want to teach English in Italy, you can transfer to our partner school in Florence.” Of course, I jumped at the chance because living in Italy had been my dream since I first spent three months in Parma, Italy in the summer of 1984.
I worked there for about two years, when he said to me, “if you ever want to teach English in Italy, you can transfer to our partner school in Florence.”
It sounds like moving to Italy was really meant for you. You’ve pivoted a bit from those early days. What are you doing now?
I still train English (and other) language teachers, which is my passion. I teach and market a 20-hour Weekend TEFL certificate course in Florence, Italy along with a 120 Online TEFL certificate course, which can be found on my website. I also teach several other 25-hour courses: a Language Teacher Refresher course, a Content and Language Integrated Learning course, that focuses on the city of Florence, a Project Based Learning course, and Classroom Management to primary and secondary teachers from all over the European Union.
I first “found you” through the Teaching English in Italy Facebook group, and I was interested to learn that you run that program through another school. Can you talk about how you set up an online presence to market this teacher training program?
Yes, I teach my Weekend TEFL course, which you see on my website www.teachingenglishinitaly.com , at a teacher academy in Florence, Italy. I’ve been teaching it for years and it’s offered about 6 times a year (pre-Covid figures). Along with this course, I also represent an Online TEFL certificate provider in London, England. Those that sign up can take either the onsite or online course, or both for a blended learning program.
I set up the online presence because I wanted to offer people the possibility of obtaining a 140 hour TEFL certification without having to attend a four-week onsite course, which is often prohibitive to people because of either time or money. I also wanted to be able to offer a high-quality teacher trainee experience that would be accessible to everyone at a reasonable price.
I set up the online presence because I wanted to offer people the possibility of obtaining a 140 hour TEFL certification without having to attend a four-week onsite course.
You know, I’ve actually referred a few people to you because you offer options that allow people to economize on time, money, or both. You’ve said that your purpose is “inspirational” teaching. Can you talk about that and tell us what you mean by that?
To me, inspirational teaching is all about making sure students feel as much a part of the classroom experience as I do. It’s about being student-centered and giving students the opportunity to feel that learning is about getting involved, and not about sitting in a classroom chair and listening to the teacher. It’s about collaborating, questioning, and getting opportunities to work on tasks in a multitude of ways that includes both pair and group work.
Inspirational teaching is all about making sure students feel as much a part of the classroom experience as I do.
Okay, that actually sounds like what my teaching looked like the last few years I was in the classroom. I find it so much more enjoyable to teach that way than to have a traditional teacher-centered setup. You and I have talked about how important culture is to running a business and a brand in another country. What would you recommend that someone consider if they wanted to Make A Leap to working as an independent language teacher in Italy?
I’d recommend that they come with savings in their pocket and plan on ways to create multiple sources of income. Living in Italy, as an outsider, isn’t easy if you don’t have lots of money or a family to support you. It’s also important to keep in mind that Italians like personal contact and jobs are often found through those one knows. Finally, it’s important not to expect people to behave or things to work in the same way as in your own country.
I’ve now interviewed 15 teachers in Italy. You’ve all emphasized how important personal connections are there. This echoes my own experience in Italy, having good friends and family there can make all the difference. If you could go back in time, is there anything that you wished you’d known about earlier when it comes to your language teaching career?
Paying for an expensive university degree doesn’t mean you’ll be able to make the money back in the earnings you make teaching in Italy.
Oh, that’s what goes through my own head all the time. I haven’t found that an expensive university degree always helps in the U.S. either.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?
I enjoy documentaries, biographies, and spending time in historical places.
Those are all topics that I’m sure we could both spend a lot of time talking about.
Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: sheila [ at ] teachingenglishinitaly [ dot ] com