GoAbroad Interview

James Jenkin - Academic Director

James studied languages at university and his first job was as a Russian tutor. He fell into English teaching when someone suggested he do a CELTA. For ten years James worked for RMIT University, where he taught all sorts of students from Vietnamese government ministers to Chinese pilots. As James became a CELTA tutor, he discovered his love of TEFL training. He later worked for several language schools as a teacher trainer and manager before he began working as Academic Director for i-to-i TEFL.

You’ve been in the TEFL industry for 20 years, how and when did you get connected to i-to-i TEFL?

In 2006 I was managing a language school in Melbourne and missed teacher training terribly!  I saw an ad for an i-to-i Weekend TEFL tutor and thought it would be a fun thing to do, and it was! I also really respected the people I met at i-to-i and felt proud to be associated with them.

One-on-one TEFL lesson

James giving feedback after a lesson

If you had to summarize what TEFL is and what i-to-i offers to someone unfamiliar with TEFL what might you say?

When you teach English as a foreign language, you’re making a huge difference in people’s futures, you have a reason to participate in another culture, and it will change you forever. There are opportunities in almost every country in the world, including North Korea! There are over a billion people learning English now, and the British Council estimates this will double by 2020. You can easily find work to live comfortably virtually anywhere.

You’re known as a TEFL guru, what kind of experience did it take to earn this title?

I feel honored! I guess it’s because I have a background in languages and applied linguistics, I’ve been a teacher trainer for nearly 20 years, and I’ve worked in all sorts of countries and teaching environments. But maybe the most important thing, I respect and empathize with our students, and I’ve tried to work out what they need to be successful. Knowledge on its own isn’t enough, you need to make it useful.

As the Academic Director for i-to-i you spend a good amount of time arranging TEFL courses and working with interns, what does a typical day look like for you?

It’s a very 21st century job! The head i-to-i TEFL office is in Leeds, in the UK, and I work in Melbourne. There’s no typical day actually; it might involve working on a new book or course, corresponding with students and tutors, visiting a local school to shoot a video, teaching a course, running a webinar, or even talking to the offices in Leeds and Dublin. There’s quite a lot of travel involved, as we work with schools internationally and run internships in three countries (China, Thailand, and Vietnam).

Can you tell us a little bit about the structure of i-to-i’s TEFL courses and what makes them so effective?

We have a 120-hour Online Professional Certificate and a two-day classroom-based Practical TEFL Course, where you learn all the essential TEFL skills. In addition, there are a range of specialist courses, such as Young Learners, Business English, and Teaching English in China.

The first thing that makes our courses different is they all have practical outcomes. Rather than just digesting lots of facts, you learn and practice skills to make you confident and effective in the classroom. For example, on the Practical TEFL Course, you learn and practice ten essential classroom techniques, and most of the two days is spent role playing teacher and students, so these skills become second nature. 

Another factor is expert support. You receive tutor feedback throughout your online course, and we run several webinars every week on teaching and job-related issues. You can trust the guidance you receive, as all of our more than 60 tutors have a DELTA or equivalent, and years of international experience.

James Jenkin presenting at the IATEFL Conference

James presenting at the IATEFL Conference

What is a typical i-to-i TEFL course participant like? 

They’re special! They want to do something meaningful and exciting. They often have a dream; they know where and who they want to teach.

You can’t identify a TEFL personality though. Great teachers can be high-energy and extroverted, or they can be quite shy. Some of the best teachers I’ve seen have been quiet and thoughtful.

Effective teaching isn’t about performing, it’s about getting students involved and being aware of what they need. 

From an academic standpoint, how are i-to-i’s TEFL courses differentiated from all the other TEFL programs out there?

We have a full-time academic team whose job is to ensure the quality of our existing courses and any new products. We’ve actually been approved by Pearson Education to run a CELTA equivalent course, the Pearson EDI CertTEFL, which shows the industry’s trust in our quality standards.

What is the biggest skill participants can expect to take away from i-to-i’s TEFL programs?

They will be confident they can walk into a classroom and teach an engaging and effective lesson.

You’ve written books and created many lesson plans in your day, what stands out as your biggest achievement since joining the i-to-i TEFL team

Launching the new classroom course, the Practical TEFL Course, and seeing the lessons participants can teach at the end of it. I remember watching one guy who said he was really nervous, who ended up delivering this brilliant lesson; I even had a tear in my eye!

You’re based in i-to-i’s Australia office. What is your favorite part about being a part of i-to-i TEFL down under?

It’s close to Asia! It’s a good excuse to go to China, Vietnam, and Thailand as often as possible.