Meet Denise, a TEFL teacher from Argentina who spent just under ten years in the aviation industry, until COVID-19 struck that is. We met with Denise (virtually, of course) to find out her inspiring story! From spending most of her days in the sky, to becoming a full-time TEFL teacher without a degree; this story uniquely tells us how it can be difficult ( and super exciting) to make a career change during Covid-19. Along with the sacrifices made to move abroad and start something completely new. 

In today’s world making a career change can be a battling decision, especially during COVID-19. However, in reality, it’s a perfect time. A career change during COVID-19 gives you the time to study, and time to research to find the TEFL path that suits your needs.

Some find opportunities in countries abroad while others enjoy the freedom from being able to teach English at home in their free time.

Hi Denise! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I am originally from Argentina, a beautiful country down south. At the early age of ten, my family and I migrated to the U.S. This is where I spent my teenage years and learned English for their ESL programs at high school. Learning English provided more opportunities. It only made me want to continue to travel.

A few years later, we returned to Argentina. I then enrolled in university to get a Hospitality Management degree, but soon enough I left again. This time to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. I left to pursue my career as a flight attendant with Emirates Airlines. 

Make a career change during COVID-19
Lake Khandy in Kazahstan

What made you complete a career change during COVID-19?

After spending much time in the air, a decision had to be made as it was time to become more grounded. Traveling the world is tiring work after all. This is why finding a new way to continue the adventurous lifestyle became so important.

Why did you start teaching English?

Why I started teaching English is because it came to my attention what a fundamental skill it is to have! I saw it as an opportunity from being in the position of having to learn English. It made me want to help others achieve that also. There were times when it would always amaze me. How many doors it had opened for me, and how helpful it has been this far in many situations. 

Is now a good time to make a career change during COVID-19?

When the pandemic struck the airline, the industry came to a standstill! Eventually, the traveling company was losing staff due to the pandemic, not long after I was let go. Denise found this as the perfect time to get out of aviation. Making the career change during Covid-19 was the right decision as Denise had been thinking of leaving for quite some time.

Wondering what travel is like during the pandemic? Check out Vanessa’s experience
»Travel During COVID-19 | Online Teacher Vanessa

Tell us about how TEFL came to you & making a career change during COVID-19?

After about five years of being a flight attendant, I was looking for a way to continue my unlimited traveling but under my terms. Being a flight attendant can get exhausting, and although I have a huge passion for traveling, it was taking a toll on me.  

As a fluent English speaker, I realized that teaching the language would be a great option for me. It allowed me to continue my social encounters, learn about other cultures, and of course, travel. I started to investigate the types of certifications I needed to start this journey.

It was gratifying to find so many great options on the internet, where you can do the course at your own pace. It was extremely helpful considering I was still flying from one continent to the other. I found that doing these courses in my free time is what suited me best. The flexibility in teaching is what made it the right decision for me. I found that the flexibility started immediately for me during my time learning and has continued since then. 

For me, I will continue to keep doing my freelance work as it means I have more freedom. No matter where I am in the world or what I am doing elsewhere, I can always plan to teach around my days.

Freedom TEFL
Burj Al Arab, Dubai

Do you find it challenging as a fluent Spanish speaker teaching English?

I find it to be a plus because I can relate to my students. As I mentioned earlier, I was also an ESL student and I know how English can be tricky with its grammar rules or overwhelming with its vast vocabulary. 

I have developed methods to explain things in a way that my students can understand. Especially coming from someone that has been in their shoes also. The fact that I can relate to the struggles the students have or the challenges they face. It helps me by knowing how to overcome these. I can offer advice or plan around their needs based on what helps them learn.

You made the career change during COVID-19, tell us about your career path with TEFL, have you taught abroad or just from home? 

I started teaching part-time in 2017. Whenever days off arose in Dubai or maybe on a layover that I have done plenty of times. For example, London or Paris are cities I would go to monthly. Having the hotels so far away from the city was not ideal, so I decided to take this time to stay in the hotel and give a few lessons.

During the peak of all the craziness this past year, it was the best decision to make the career change during COVID-19. I worked full time because all of our flights had been canceled, and we were stuck at home, as was the rest of the world. After nine years of flying, I lost my job in the airline last year due to the heavy impact on the aviation industry. I was so grateful that I had already started my journey with TEFL. 

It gave me a great advantage because I was working full time as a teacher and I did not need to worry about losing my job. The security of having that back-up has been fantastic. Particularly in these times of uncertainty. 

Always I have taught online and this allows me to relocate wherever I want. Many of my ex-colleagues had to adjust to their current situations. Others had to stay in Dubai to find another job for a lower salary. Many others had been forced to move back to their home countries. I decided to relocate to Bosnia, where my husband is from, and I have the freedom to decide my work schedule.

What is one thing about the life of teaching English that you never expected or were not prepared for? 

The biggest challenges occur when teaching grammar! Mostly because one thing about English is to be able to speak the language, but it is another one to be able to explain it.

This is why doing the courses is essential! They test you and brush up your knowledge on so many topics that we use daily, but we do not know why. I have found this to be the number one concern most students have. 

Also, the importance of your internet connection! Wow!

That must be my number one pet peeve! Having interference in a call can be so irritating and time-consuming. The best thing I have done was to get a 20-meter ethernet cable. Since getting this it has worked wonders and I have never had any issues since then.

Another challenge that I was not prepared for, and I recommend as my top tips for teaching would be to identify your students’ needs and goals! This will help you set the foundation for what they need to achieve uniquely to them! For example, helping pass the I.E.L.T.S exam. Start by listing the objectives needed for the exam. Then make it interesting by finding out what their topics of interest are, once you have this you can build around it and make their experience unique to them. It helps make the learning process that bit easier.

Another top tip is to build relationships with your students. It is easy to forget as you may see it as being their teacher and them, your student. But they are much more than that. Building a strong relationship and trust with them is key!

TEFL in Georgia
Denise in Georgia

Since making the career change during COVID-19, what has been your most rewarding experience as a TEFL teacher?

I would have to say becoming friends with some of my students. Sometimes I forget that I am getting paid to have so much fun in a lesson. I have some students that have been with me for almost a year, and it develops into a friendship. 

Throughout this time is where I learned so much about that person, about what is going on in their lives. This is one of my favorite things about traveling the world! Meeting new people and hearing about their stories and somehow, I get to do the same through teaching English.

Another reward would also be completing a TEFL certification coupled with a career change during COVID-19. It allowed Denise to change her career without too much of a struggle in these strange uncertain times.

There are pros and cons to everything, right? What are your top three as a TEFL teacher?

I can think of more pros than cons, that is for sure! But I think that depends on every individual and what they consider essential for them.

Not having a boss is my number one pro because I believe that being independent is a luxury in today’s world. To be able to decide your work schedule and your worth (hourly pay).

Having the opportunity to change careers during Covid-19 has also broadened Denise’s horizons and made adapting to the current situation much easier!

Pros:

  • The first pro would be the high demand. The demand is always high considering it is the number one most spoken language in the world, you will always have students wanting to learn.
  • Another essential pro for me would be the ease when it comes to securing work without a degree. I have not finished university because I joined the airline at 21 years old and that is all I ever wanted to do. I was gladly surprised how many platforms hire teachers without a degree and I believe it is a weight lifted off my shoulders.
  • Not only that, but I also find it less formal as opposed to being in a classroom environment it is not as strict; it allows you to have more fun while teaching. It also assists by being able to know your students better.

Cons:

  • I guess the cons would be spending so much time in front of the computer, but that again depends on each individual. In a traditional classroom, you can walk around while interacting with students, but you need good discipline to work online without getting any physical repercussions.
  • Another challenge would be to have a student that is not motivated. It can sometimes be a challenge in stimulating their needs. This is where I would try to find their objectives, for me this is a must because the classes could seem eternal if we are not making any progress.
  • A third one would be the scams online. I have come across many ads pretending to look for TEFL teachers, but they just want to get something out of you. You must be careful when applying and make sure the platforms are legit.
Travel with TEFL
Telegrafo Rock in Rio de Janeiro

What is next for you and your journey? 

As of now, I will settle down in Bosnia and do some traveling to the neighboring countries. After leaving Dubai, I was fortunate enough to spend two months in Argentina and then return to Banja Luka, the city I live in now. My whole trip has included some lessons along the way. Also, continuing with the choice of making a career change during COVID-19. As well as continuously adapting to the new journey!

I am still teaching a few students. Now I want to focus on helping others to start their journey with TEFL because I think it is a great opportunity to rediscover yourself. If you have been doing the same job for years, and you are looking for independence a TEFL course is something to consider.

Also, I will encourage my ex-co-workers to join the TEFL programs as it is a great opportunity while we are stuck at home. It is a chance to learn something new and earn money from it. The strongest message is that English is everywhere in the world, make the most of it!

Salary calculator

We communicate every day, no matter where we are in the world. It is worthwhile to build on our levels of communication. A great way to start is with a TEFL course.

This leads me to my favorite phrase:

 “English is the only thing connecting the world”- Denise