GoAbroad Interview

Stephanie Vogel - Director

Stephanie Vogel - Director

A descendent of mountain man Thomas “Broken-Hand” Fitzpatrick, it’s no wonder that Stephanie has had a lifelong wanderlust. As a humanities and anthropology major at Michigan State University, there’s no surprise that she loves learning about people from all over the world too. Stephanie could be considered a world-class talker as well, so there’s nothing shocking about language being involved. She completed her CELTA and Delta, became a tutor of both, and has never looked back.

You earned your bachelor’s degree in humanities and anthropology, and also spent some time in med school. How did you end up working in the TEFL industry?

When I was a second-year medical student, I was hired to teach review sessions to the first-year cohort. I found myself more interested in my work teaching than in my work preparing to be a physician. At the end of my second year, I decided not to continue medical studies. As a med-school dropout, I felt very disoriented about what to do with myself. My now sister-in-law had her CELTA and suggested I do the course and spend some time travelling and deciding what to do when I grew up. Well, the travelling happened, and the growing up didn’t. That was many years ago.

Stephanie Vogel, Director of Teaching House
Stephanie where she is happiest: in a classroom.

How do you use your educational background in your current role?

Indirectly, my bachelor’s in humanities and anthropology help inform the way I view the world and the nature of humankind. I can’t say there is a very linear connection between what I studied as an undergraduate and what I am doing today. Although, I feel at my core an anthropologist, despite not practicing. Observing people in different contexts is one of my life’s great pleasures and I’ve been being paid to do that for a long time now.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

Now that I am director of Teaching House USA, my role is very administrative. Let’s just say I spend a significant amount of time being intimate with spreadsheets. That said, from time to time I need to cover for a trainer and I get to work on a course. Despite the increased work load, I do love training and reminding myself of what our organization aims to do: to help people learn to be effective teachers of English. Our CELTA graduates are all over the globe, helping communities learn English, and I feel like I’ve played a part in all that; it’s incredibly rewarding.

How do you share the insight you’ve learned abroad with incoming or prospective students?

I tell the truth. Being an English teacher, both abroad and here with immigrant students, has been one of the great joys of my life and none of it would have been possible without having taken the CELTA.

What do you think makes teaching English abroad the best job out there?

Making a significant and evident contribution to the quality and tenor of the lives of the people I have taught. I have worked in a lot of fields and nothing else matches it.

Foreign teacher with students in Vietnam
Stephanie with Vietnamese students in Saigon.

What is the most frequently asked question you receive from prospective students?

How are you going to help me get a job? It’s an easy question to answer because having a CELTA certification, by definition, makes an applicant attractive to language schools. The second most frequently asked question is how to pay for the course; that one is harder to answer!

How many participants does Teaching House receive on average each year?

We trained more than one thousand teachers last year in 16 different locations, making us the world’s largest provider of Cambridge CELTA courses!

Why should aspiring TEFL teachers choose Teaching House?

As we run so many courses, our trainers have a wide base of experience informing their training. The course is standardized, but here at Teaching House we’ve tweaked the curriculum to emphasize approaching and managing the job market.

When taking a course as intense as the CELTA, you want to be located in a place that is familiar to you; you don’t want to be figuring out how to stage systems lessons and how to get postage stamps at the same time. Do the course somewhere familiar, to eliminate that distraction.

CELTA courses at Teaching House have multinational teaching practice classes, meaning you will have experience teaching a broad array of students with different linguistic backgrounds. In fact, it’s my favorite part of our school, being able to interact with and observe the international community that exists in our school. Watching the news, you’d think there’s no place on Earth like this; there’s something beautiful and magical about that.

CELTA graduation party at Teaching House in Boston, Massachusetts
Teaching House Boston full of happy students and CELTA graduates.

What should every participant know prior to starting their TEFL courses?

That the most important thing to focus on is the learners themselves. Their job, speaking a foreign language publically in a room full of trainee teachers, is so much harder than anything we’re asking you to do on the course. That said, be mentally prepared for the very challenging intensity of the CELTA. Research this online so you get an idea. It’s best to be prepared.

Why do you love working for Teaching House?

So many reasons it’s hard to say! But I can tell an anecdote which sort of sums it up:

I took an Uber to work the other day. My driver was a friendly, talkative Haitian man with excellent English. We were chatting away as people who are fully fluent in English do. When he pulled up to the office, he said, “Five years ago when I first came to the U.S., I took free English classes in this building. It made me love being here in the U.S.”

That is a memory I will cherish for a very long time to come. I’m so proud and honored to work in an organization that contributes in this way, and I work with wonderful people who choose to do the same. I am very, very lucky to be here.