Jennifer Petruzziello - Teacher Trainer
Jennifer is originally from Boston, where she earned her masters degree in English composition, as well as her initial teaching license from The University of Massachusetts. She received her TEFL certification from Costa Rica TEFL, and began working as a Teacher Trainer in January 2017. Jennifer has previously worked as a high school ELA teacher and as a private tutor for ESL students. She is also a 200-hour registered yoga instructor, and loves to read, write, and travel.
What made you decide to get TEFL certified?
I worked as a teacher and private tutor to ESL students back home, but I wanted to learn more effective methodologies and concrete strategies to better teach them, as well as gain experience teaching EFL’s. I love traveling and one of the great things about the TEFL certificate is that it’s recognized world-wide, and it doesn’t expire. Teaching abroad is a great way to earn money while you travel the world, and I had heard so many great things about the Costa Rica TEFL program that only piqued my interest to get certified.
As a Costa Rica TEFL graduate yourself, what did you love most about getting TEFL certified with Costa Rica TEFL?
It was such a rewarding experience, it’s hard to choose just one thing! I loved learning more about the communicative approach and how effective it is for second language acquisition. I learned so many effective techniques for teaching grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and more to students of all levels and ages.
I also fell in love with Samara and the people who live there. Costa Rica TEFL offers free classes for locals, and since Samara is such a small town, you really get to know your students. The town itself is filled with surf schools, restaurants, shops, and plenty to do, but it is still off the beaten path and offers an authentic Costa Rican experience. Our EFL students, my TEFL teacher trainers and peers, and this charming little town all helped to make those four weeks some of the most memorable of my life.
Why do you think Costa Rica TEFL is different from other TEFL providers?
We fully prepare our students to teach anywhere in the world, including third world countries and rural areas where supplies are often limited. Many schools in under-developed countries don’t have funding for books or fancy resources, and even the ones that do are making an effort to produce as little waste as possible. Students graduate our course with a library of games and activities that they can incorporate into any lesson using minimal supplies and resources. No matter where they end up teaching, they are able to adapt to their environment and plan a lesson from scratch, using interactive activities that sometime only require a marker and a whiteboard.
What “extracurricular” activities does Costa Rica TEFL offer participants to broaden their experience?
We offer free weekly Spanish classes and yoga on the beach! Our students work hard and we want to make sure that they make the most of their time in Samara by learning the language and taking advantage of the beautiful beach that’s right down the street from our school. We also help coordinate surf lessons, excursions to nearby beaches, kayaking trips, and other activities that provide them with the true Pura Vida experience.
Through your work, how do you help ensure each participant is prepared and ready to begin teaching English as a foreign language?
While students are in class, we learn through role-plays, kinesthetic activities, and discovery teaching. These make the theoretical framework of our course more engaging and student-centered. We use the communicative approach to teach our modules, so we're essentially modeling many of the techniques that they go on to use in their own classrooms.
Trainees apply what they learn teaching in the afternoon and evenings, when we offer free English classes to locals in the community. This provides our students with hands-on teaching experience and plenty of cultural experiences in the classroom. They are able to correct real errors in pronunciation, they learn how to address mistakes in syntax, they're exposed to classroom management challenges, and they walk away with practical teaching experience. Each trainee receives written and oral feedback from their teacher trainers and their peers in a positive and encouraging environment.
Where do you think the best place to teach English abroad is?
Costa Rica! Ok, I’m a little biased, but here's why: you’re able to teach on a tourist visa, there are plenty of jobs for TEFL graduates, it's a safe country, and there's a reason it's such a popular destination for vacationers, because it's paradise!
Other than Costa Rica, I would say that it really depends what you’re looking for. South America and Southeast Asia both offer plenty of opportunities for students looking to teach abroad, so deciding which culture you are the most interested in may help narrow down your options.
We have graduates all over the world, and many of them have globe-trotted their way from country to country. Luckily, we have contacts at schools all across globe and offer lifetime job-placement assistance, so our graduates don’t have to settle on just one place, and will always have options to choose from.
What is your best piece of advice for individuals contemplating TEFL certification?
Think about what is really stopping you. I’m not talking about the little things that you know you can adapt to or deal with anyway, but the main reason that you haven’t signed up already. Is it fear? Fear disguised as something else? If so, do it anyway, and enjoy the process of surprising yourself with how well you will conquer that fear, and excel in an environment that may be out of your comfort zone.
Wherever you are now will be waiting for you when (or if) you decide to return, but you don’t want to someday wake up and wonder what could have happened if you’d just taken the chance. Reach out, talk to other TEFLer’s, pack your bags, and prepare yourself for a life changing experience.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing participants learn during TEFL courses?
Not only do students leave with the knowledge and strategies to teach English as a second language, I have found that they often develop a deeper appreciation for language as a whole. Learning about the way we communicate with one other, immersing yourself in a new culture, and learning how to teach others is not only something that will benefit you professionally, it’s a personally enriching experience that broadens your thoughts and allows you to think more critically about our world.
Why do you enjoy working for Costa Rica TEFL?
A few months ago, as we were approaching the end of our course, one of my students who had never previously taught before said that he had finally found a job that he could actually see himself doing as a career. It’s so exciting to continuously see students grow and come to similar realizations.
Each month, I get to watch individuals from all over the world connect with each other, form lasting friendships, and learn so much about themselves the same way that I did when I was completing my course. Our students progress alongside the EFL students that they teach, and I’m so grateful to learn from them and be a part of that process. Our founding director has developed a curriculum that I believe in and am passionate about teaching, and for the first time in my life, I actually look forward to going to work every day. It’s a very cool feeling.