Every time I travel to a far-off land, I always meet a smiling, happy expat who lives there and teaches English as a foreign language. And they always rave about how much they love the chance to live someplace exotic while doing something fun and fulfilling that makes decent money. Truth be told, I usually make a very jealous face while they gush. I’m not the only one – many people have asked me to write a story about how to become a certified TESOL instructor, which stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. A TESOL certificate can get you a job anywhere in the world, and if you’re an expat living in Malaysia, you can use it right here to help others through volunteering, to meet new friends, or make some extra money.
As luck would have it, I recently met Tana and Robert, the founders of myTESOL, Penang’s premier TESOL school. The lovely Canadian couple adopted a cat I rescued, and as I got to know them and what wonderful people they are, they told me about their school and invited me over to myTESOL to learn more.
Here’s how their teacher-training program works:
They offer a 6-week Certificate Apprenticeship Program (CAP) that runs Mondays through Thursdays from 9am-12pm. They also offer flexible options for those with other time commitments during those days/hours, and for busy working adults who are only available on weekends. During the teacher training programs, you learn the principles of language learning, classroom management, how to accommodate various learning styles and design effective curriculums, as well as develop student assessments and evaluations. CAP participants also observe and help seasoned TESOL teachers at work in their language classrooms to get hands-on experience. Once you finish the course, you earn your TESOL certificate, which is pretty much a work-visa ticket that opens the door to living in other countries.
myTOSEL isn’t like any other school I’ve ever seen – it looks more like a cross between a spa, a coffee bar and social club. Yes, they do have a classroom, but with all the learning games, activities, laughter and break-time socializing, it feels less like a school and more like a happy community of friends.
“That’s one of the things I like most about it here,” says Dominique, a French expat who first started as a student at myTESOL 3.5 years ago and enjoyed it so much that she stayed on to become a teacher. “I’ve made so many friends here from all over the world – we’ve got students from Brazil, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Australia. It makes it very lively because everyone has different backgrounds.”
During teatime break, all the students learning English, as well as teachers and those in the CAP teacher training program, spill out of the classroom to socialize on sofas and in common areas. The conversations and atmosphere is relaxed, but they’re all still working since the students are practicing their English and teachers are encouraging them. As with everywhere in food-loving Penang, the conversation revolves around the best places to eat, and many end up going to lunch together after class. “People often come here and get into the CAP program because they love to travel, but they don’t expect it to be so much fun and to develop an extended family,” says Dominique.
Ethan came from Australia to enroll in myTESOL’s CAP program. His aim is to teach English in Malaysia and in other Asian countries where he wouldn’t otherwise be able to live without TESOL employment. “I love to travel and love the lifestyle, so being able to teach and travel is ideal,” says Ethan. Since in-country TESOL positions often take care of visas and accommodations for incoming teachers, it’s an easy way to live in another country without having to worry about immigration issues.
Teaching opportunities range from short-term employment to 1-2 year contracts at international schools and language centers, teaching either adults or kids. Wages depend on experience and location. Pay rates range from $400-4,000 USD/month, sometimes with flights and housing included, for 15-30 hour workweeks. The highest paying TESOL jobs are in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Oman, South Korea and Taiwan. Find out more about TESOL job opportunities here and here and here.
There are also numerous volunteering possibilities for TESOL certificate holders, such as teaching English to refugees, orphans and underprivileged women hoping to improve their employment options. The Penang Peace Learning Centre is often in need of volunteer TESOL teachers. Many missionaries of various faiths also take the CAP course so they can teach English wherever they go.
“One of the things that sets us apart is that we teach from a western methodology, which isn’t done in Asia much,” says Tana, who founded myTESOL in 2007. “We teach the ‘communicative method,’ which is not taught elsewhere in Malaysia, and we use modern English learning methods. We show teachers how to be leaders, facilitators and helpers, which is very unique to our program.” They’ve had students from 30 countries fly in for their TESOL CAP program, and numerous expats living in Malaysia have also gotten their certification through myTESOL.
“It’s great for anyone looking to expand their lives and opportunities. We’ve had students ranging in age from 17-76,” says Tana. It’s suitable for anyone from working adults to retirees looking to spice up their retirement, and high school graduates to college students taking a gap year. “Some of our CAP students are here on spouse visas and want to do something worthwhile with their time, like tutor kids in their home or teach refugees to speak English. We’ve also had people who want to be vagabonds and teach in other countries, and college students looking to make some extra pocket money by giving private English lessons to kids, and even American university professors who need TESOL certification to teach here. There are tons of TESOL opportunities, so there’s something for everyone.”
The CAP course fee is RM4,500, with a RM500 supervised practicum option.
You can also stop in to see them Monday-Thursday mornings in Tanjung Tokong in the Prima Tanjung Business Center above the 7-eleven, across from Island Plaza. Their address and contact info is:
myTESOL, 98-1-25 Prima Tanjung Business Center
Jalan Fettes, Tanjung Tokong