CIEE TEFL Alumni Spotlight: Bob Abbey

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Hi, everyone! My name is Bob Abbey (he/him) and I’m a public librarian in Oregon. I’m also a brand new member of the TESOL community, having only just completed my 150-Hour Certificate program through CIEE TEFL in March of 2023.

1. Why did you decide to get TEFL certified? How have you used your TEFL training?

I first started thinking about getting a TEFL certificate almost 10 years ago, but for a variety of reasons, I just didn’t feel ready to commit. That all changed during COVID, when I decided to explore new personal and professional challenges. I looked around my neighborhood and the community where I work and saw some significant gaps in services that emerged as a result of the pandemic, including a shortage of English language classes and teachers. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to revisit the idea of certification.

2. What have you found most fulfilling about teaching English? 

There’s really nothing like seeing the lightbulb come on for a student who’s been struggling with vocabulary, pronunciation, or a tricky grammar point. The sense of accomplishment they get in that moment of insight or sudden discovery is so evident, especially since it allows them to take more ownership of their own path to learning English. 

3. Where are you working now? How do you apply your CIEE TEFL training in your current job? 

Right now, teaching English is something I get to do on the side when I’m not working full-time as a librarian, and while that fits my schedule nicely, I’d eventually like to transition to something more long-term and permanent. Thanks to a local literacy organization that offers evening classes for adult learners, I’ve been able to put my newfound ELT skills to use in the classroom and online, and I’ll have more opportunities to teach once classes start up again in the fall. 

4. Looking back on your CIEE TEFL training, what aspects of the training process or curriculum stood out to you the most, and how did they shape your perspective on language teaching and cultural exchange? What was the most important thing you learned in your CIEE TEFL course? 

The TEFL training I received through CIEE provided me with the tools and training to be more intentional about what I teach and how I teach it. I entered the program with almost 15 years of classroom teaching experience as an academic librarian, and while my goal was to create engaging course content, I realize now how much more work I could have done to create a truly interactive and student-centered learning environment. After completing the program, I feel much more confident about my ability to design, deliver, and evaluate the kinds of activities that meet the needs of a very unique set of learners.

5. What advice would you offer to future CIEE TEFL students? 

Don’t skip out on the weekly tutorials! In addition to offering super helpful tips for completing the graded assignments, they also provide an opportunity to spend time interacting with your instructor and members of your cohort. Online coursework can be a bit anonymous, so I would urge everyone to take advantage of these face-to-face sessions as often as possible. They’re a great way to feel connected to the learning process and to find out more about the range of experiences your fellow students bring to the program. 

6. How would you describe yourself in one word?

If I had to pick one word that best describes me, it would have to be…curious. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated about the world around me, and I’m constantly looking for ways to satisfy my almost insatiable desire for learning and solving problems. This natural sense of curiosity allows me to find out more about my students’ lives, backgrounds, and language learning goals, and it’s also one of the things that led me to a TEFL certificate! 

7. What's your favorite book you've read / podcast you've listened to / movie you saw recently?

As a librarian, I get to indulge my love of reading as part of my job, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I always have at least half a dozen books going at any one time. I just finished The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocum, a thriller about a musician whose prized instrument is stolen and held for ransom just days before an important international music competition. In addition to being very suspenseful, the story also touches on issues of race and the powerful role music played in the lives of former enslaved peoples in the South during the period after the Civil War. I’ve recommended this book to several of my musician friends, and they’ve all really enjoyed it.

Thanks Bob for sharing your experience as a CIEE TEFL student and teaching English in your community!

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