Hi, I’m Denise. I have been in Rome for over 30 years now, and still love it. I didn’t come to Rome as a teacher, but with an English company. Then I fell in love with Rome and decided to leave the company in England and entered a company, which was a tour operator. Then after 5 years I met my husband and married. We have two wonderful boys now 30 and 25.
Thanks for that intro Denise! Can you tell us more of the story of why you first moved to Rome and how long you’ve been there for?
It’s a long story. I came to Italy in the 1980s with an English company, just to stay for 6 months then go back. I was based in Torino, then Milan.
Then my best friend came on holiday in the summer so we met up in Rome. We both fell in love with Rome and decided to leave England and start our new lives here. We sold our properties in England and moved to Rome together.
That sounds like a dream for many people! I know so many people who fall in love with Rome, but not everyone can move there. I know that you were quite creative in how you made it work.
You need courage, that’s all. Just go for it, whatever, if it works great, if not go back home. Don’t ever close doors. You never know what is around the corner, good or bad.
You need courage, that’s all.
How did you get your start working as an English teacher? What were your first experiences like working in this field?
Well it’s not an easy job, and you need to be dedicated. At first in 2000, I helped a school where my 10 year old son was. The nuns asked if I could help them with my son’s class. I did it just to help. It wasn’t a job, but it worked and that’s when I realized that I loved teaching.
So I started to take courses and learn how to teach, and today I work also for Cambridge as an oral examiner.
Well it’s not an easy job, and you need to be dedicated.
You mention that it’s not an easy job. What are some of the challenges that you faced? Then, how have you been able to overcome those difficulties?
At the beginning I wasn’t prepared for their questions. So a good trick is that when you’re teaching, maybe present perfect, and someone asks about the third conditional and wants to send you off track, you say, “ yes we will do that next week”.
Oh, I have so many memories of students asking random questions when I first started teaching. That’s a good idea to redirect them. What would you say are important skills to have to be a successful English teacher?
Well dedication, patience and fantasy with your lessons. You need to keep your students involved and having a good time. Also the language also helps.
You need to keep your students involved and having a good time.
Can you give us an example of how you use patience and fantasy in your lessons?
Well, once when I was teaching a class of 19 at university, it was San Valentino so I was doing role play. I made out identities male and female for the students, and they had to find their ideal partner. Also, because they were shy and they didn’t know each other, they had to approach each student with their identity and find their ideal partner. It was fun for all and definitely broke the ice .
When we first talked you said that the private English language schools were pivotal in allowing you to work in universities. Can you explain how this works?
Yes, in Italy even with a degree and qualifications you cannot work directly with the
Public schools or Universities. So you need to work through private English schools or Foundations who have the possibility to work with them.
How does this work? If someone wants to work specifically in a university, do you approach a language school and state your goal? Do language schools often advertise for that type of position? Or is it a matter of being at the right place at the right time?
I can’t really say, because I have worked at university through a foundation, so a private company. But if you go to a private English school, they’ll have many contracts with many schools so you work through them,
That’s really helpful to know. And like we talked about before, and as Francesca Still mentioned in my chat with her, there are many benefits to working for an English language school. So, they’re a great place to start. Do you recommend others to follow the same path you did?
Where do you work now? Ha ha! That’s a point well taken. I agree that each person has to figure out what works best for them. Then build a reality that will work well for how they authentically are.
How can I recommend this? I’m pretty crazy. It depends on your spirit and sense of adventure.
Wow, you do a lot! What has been the best way for you to find private clients?
It depends on your spirit and sense of adventure.
I work directly with private students, and have my own private studio.
That’s true. Passion can get you far. But I think that passion with a plan can get you much further. That’s why I’ve made a lot of resources to help teachers plan for success. They can get started with this If someone wants to work for a Cambridge Centre, how can they do that? It helps any teacher seem more professional and get more private clients, even when they’re just starting out. That’s a good point. Especially because Cambridge gives a lot of details on their site. If anyone is interested, they can visit If you could go back in time, is there anything you would change about your English teaching career? Become A Cambridge English Examiner . That’s so nice to hear! What is one thing that you would recommend to others so that they can achieve a “good level”, like you mention?
I also work for a Cambridge Centre, who have sponsored me as an oral examiner. And also I work for companies who contact me for classes for their staff in English.
I completely agree with this. And I think that once you know a lot about your content area, then you’ll see areas open up where you can be more creative. What’s your favorite thing about living and working in Rome?
Internet, and word of mouth, seeing that I have been teaching now for over 20 years.
It’s important to start, and be passionate about what you are doing.
Well that’s not an easy question, firstly you need a lot of qualifications and to be an oral examiner I do at least 7 exams a year to keep my qualification as an oral examiner.
Better check with Cambridge for the details.
No. It’s not an easy road, and you need to start from scratch, so it takes time. But when you manage to get to a good level, the satisfaction is incredible.
When you manage to get to a good level, the satisfaction is incredible.
Study, Study, Study you never finish to learn more, be creative in your work.
Obviously, the weather, the food and the people, as well as I am living in an open-air museum. Rome is the most beautiful city in the world.
Those are such great points. I completely agree with you that Rome is an open air museum. I’ve spent a lot of time there, and I still marvel at the sites.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?
Yes, I am still studying and hope to get my master in teaching soon, because I want to do more. Always take it to another level until you can. I am now 62 years old and as far as teaching is concerned I’m just starting my life.
That’s such an important point. I agree that we should never stop learning. I personally think that it makes life so much more fascinating.
Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: denise [ dot ] bussey58 [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com
Good luck to you all!
Thank you so much Denise! And, best of luck to you!
Thanks! You are welcome, and hope to see you soon in Rome.