Tetiana hales from the Ukraine, but leads her life by example: Having two children under 13, two cats, and a husband didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream of learning English herself and then teaching abroad with her hard-sought skills. She’s now upped her certification to a CELTA and has her sights set on destinations beyond China and Spain, where she’s already taught abroad. Read on to learn more about this Non-Native TEFL hero!

Non-Native TEFL hero, Tetiana in China

Tell us about yourself! What makes Tetiana, Tetiana? 

Once, being inspired by a talented English teacher at the age of 14, I realized that it is not a hardship to learn the language (like it was taught in public school), but indeed an adventure and a bit of a challenge. As a result, I got my Master’s degree as a teacher of English and English/American literature, teacher of German and German literature, and a psychologist. 

I have always kept a very active lifestyle, full of sports, travel, and creativity. Constant self-education in various spheres always gave me a little bit of an advantage. I was the very first one in my family to start a small business. I chose translations. That opened the opportunity for me to meet foreigners frequently and improved my speaking skills. 

At the same time, I started tutoring students of various ages. Their progressive results inspired me to keep teaching. I started group teaching, sometimes volunteering. I passed IELTS successfully for self-training and improvement and decided to try out China. I loved that experience with very young learners! The biggest hardship there was learning Chinese, but I still did my HSK3!

Tetiana with a student

Recently, I accomplished a CELTA course in IH Barcelona and have big plans for the future. My biggest inspiration to do that is my own family—my beloved and two amazing kids of 13 (son) and 3 (daughter) years old. It is a huge part of my nurturant philosophy—to be an example instead of an explanation.

Tell us about your TEFL course experience, plus the most helpful thing that you learned during it?

I got my CELTA certificate in IH Barcelona. It was both something new and the facts or methods I knew before, however more intuitively. CELTA helped to accumulate all my knowledge and put them in particular order. The most important part was practice with real students.

Being judged all the time both by tutors and groupmates was not an easy experience to go through, but was extremely helpful in the end. I gained an ability to comprehend reasonable critics. My tutors inspired me and motivated for further development. I could see wider horizons in educational sphere than I thought before. One of the best things I took from the course—deeper understanding about teaching English without involvement of mother tongue.

Tetiana standing by stairs in China

What makes teaching abroad an attractive pursuit for you? Can you tell us about it and how it motivates your work?

Teaching abroad means using only English even for students who never studied English before. Together with culture shock, that’s a challenge! I have to use anything I can think of to help students understand the phrase or word. I also love that I can add more creativity during the lesson and model it according to my personal vision. It’s amazing, especially because this is the way I see the educational process has to proceed. 

I’m motivated by seeing my students reach a particular level; this is my personal award. I love teaching English when there are results!

Non-Native TEFL teacher, Tetiana with her students in class

If you were to go through the process of getting your TEFL certificate again, what would you do differently? Any advice for those considering following your footsteps?

If I had to go through a TEFL course again, I would devote a bit more time to small details, like the precise presentation of some grammar or vocab. With all the smallest steps. Sometimes, it is not as easy as it seems. And there might be some very weird questions from students which I have to answer immediately. The biggest challenge is to answer as simple as it possible. Even very experienced teachers might not always find it easy. 

I would talk more to teachers and not be afraid to ask extra questions, even if they seem silly. Don’t hesitate to ask anything from your tutors!

 

Great Wall of China

What has surprised you most about life in China?

There are many things that surprised me in China. Food and relation to food. Traffic in the streets—too overwhelming. The Chinese seem to not care about driving regulations—both drivers and pedestrians. There’s a cap on the number of people who can drive at any given time, and sometimes, people wait in line up to eight years to get license plates in order to drive a car in Beijing alone. 

In winter, kindergartens are not warm enough and kids can walk outside in very light jackets without any hats while it is -12C! Their subways are organized extremely well. Clean and safe! But youth do not consider giving up their seats to seniors or pregnant women. Kids are very cute, though! 

It is easy to fall in love with Chinese nature!!! Extremely beautiful, especially in the mountains! Fabulous views take my breath away! 

WeChat messenger has been a real discovery for me! Multifunctional platform. All you need is your phone when you pay (QR code), even if you buy carrots from an old lady-gardener! Money transfer, renting a bike, pay for electricity and water, etc, etc.

Tetiana with her students

If you were to start over the entire process for teaching abroad, would you change anything? If so, what?

I don’t think I would change anything. I also believe that no matter where I teach, there is a specific approach. People are different, but their abilities in learning languages are more or less the same. The main point is to motivate them and be an excellent example to inspire for further language challenges.

China

What are your three favorite things about teaching English abroad?

  • New environments, places, other cultures—always special inspiration for me. Under any conditions!
  • Teaching kids and adults that do not speak my language. And I do not speak theirs. It is both a challenge and an amazing progress both for me and my students! And a lot of smiles too!
  • Learning a variety of teaching methods and approaches, meeting new people, other teachers and tutors to exchange with our experience and knowledge and go on learning during trainings

Thank you for taking the time to share your magnificent story with the Premier TEFL community. Happy travels!

Read on to see how you can become a Non-Native TEFL hero!