Meet Nathaniel! Originally from Rockingham in Western Australia, Nathaniel is now living full time in Cambodia (with no plans to leave any time soon!). What’s keeping him in the jungles as an English teacher? Read on and find out!

Before we dive in, we want to learn a little more about you. What makes Nathaniel, Nathaniel!? What’s your background?

This is the hardest question here, because the things that make me “me” are an amalgamation of many years of experiences and people. Some of the experiences that have informed the person that I am were my highschool life and my teachers in Mandurah Baptist College, the faith that I came to in Jesus Christ in 2009 and the church that I joined thereafter. I had a lot of experience teaching in Sunday school and working with youth.

Overall, my time in Asia has probably been the most formative. I spent some time in Nepal in 2015 after the earthquake with an organisation doing some relief work, and for six months in 2017 with an organisation in Phnom Penh teaching English. Between all of this, from 2014 to 2018, I worked as a water quality consultant, but I was much more passionate about being here in Asia, so I came back here to live.

When you started traveling, did you have plans to teach abroad?

For my first trips overseas, I had no plans for teaching. But in 2017, I had the opportunity to come and teach with an organisation in Phnom Penh, which led me to come back. Once work dried up, I started studying my TEFL so I could get work to support myself.

What TEFL courses have you completed? Did you feel like each uniquely prepared you to be the best ESL teacher you can be?

My situation is a little different than usual, as my TEFL course isn’t yet completed. I have been studying the 290-hour TEFL, which includes the Young Learners module, Business English module and exam modules. I certainly feel more prepared and can easily put improvements in place in my teaching style and method as I progress through studies.

What were the three most helpful things that you learned/practiced throughout your TEFL training?

Methodologies to match learner needs. It is always important to try to incorporate different styles of learning into each lesson.

Lesson planning. A well planned lesson means no bored kids.

️ Teaching skills such as speaking, listening and pronunciation.

What advice do you have for individuals currently traveling that are considering getting TEFL certified online?

It makes it so much easier to be able to complete studies online when you are in a place where you cannot attend a classroom. It also makes it much easier to have no in-class placements when you are travelling.

Share a favorite story from the classroom.

I have an autistic boy in my classroom who I’ve had an inkling over the last three months that he has more skill in English than he lets on in the classroom. Last week, when handing out books I asked him to help me out. Not many of my kindy kids can read all the names on the books, but he could do it! He got all of them right too.

A busy marketplace in Cambodia

Can you tell us about a challenging student/situation in your classroom and how you handled it? What did you learn from the experience for future instances like these?

My school has trilingual studies and my nursery English class has a really difficult boy who will not listen to anything or anyone, most likely because he has no basis in English or Khmer. This makes communication difficult. The way to get him to settle down and focus is to ensure he has something to do with his hands, usually an activity or colouring page.

I learnt from this that it is important to have strategies in place and to experiment with different things to get through to challenging students. You need to find “their thing”.

Where do you dream of using your TEFL certificate next? Or are you loving Cambodia too much to leave just yet?

Considering I have just gotten engaged to a Cambodian girl who I met here in 2017, I don’t imagine I will be leaving Cambodia any time soon! I love Cambodia and the Khmer people too much to leave.

If you would to read more about Cambodia, check out the following articles: