09 May Meet Our Teacher Trainers: Robert Martínez
- Robert, when and where did you start teaching English as a foreign language? Tell us about your background in TEFL.
I started teaching English in Bogota, Colombia, in 1994 at the Centro Colombo Americano. I had just finished college and was in Bogota when I was offered a teaching job. I completed a one-month teacher training course very similar to the CELTA which was offered internally and that was the beginning of my ESOL teaching career. I’ve now been in ELT for 24 years and have loved every minute of it!
- How long have you worked with International House and what do you appreciate about it?
I’ve worked for IH in different positions since 2006, when I worked as Director of International House Palma de Mallorca. While there I was also DoS and Teacher Trainer, so a very challenging post, but I learnt tons and made friends for life, too. I then worked for GIGA IH Catania for 8.5 years and joined them in Sep 2010 to help them set up their Teacher Training Department, which I headed for all this time. I particularly like the fact that IH is a big family which cares for people – you’re not just a number, but part of a bigger and extended family. There is so much support going on between all the different departments inside IHWO, like the DoSes groups, Teachers groups, etc. and that means you can always count on your colleagues and friends.
- When did you take up teacher training? Tell us about your motivation to become a teacher trainer and the experience you have gained so far.
I started officially as a teacher trainer on CELTA, IHCYLT and Distance DELTA Local Tutoring courses in 2007, but I had been involved in teacher training in Italy with primary, secondary and ELT sector teachers for about 6 years prior to that, and I loved it. I then started also working on YL Extension to CELTA courses and a wide range of other TT courses when I joined British Council Singapore (2008-2010). I’m very interested in pedagogy-driven technology integration and so I’ve also been a Lead Tutor for TheConsultants-e.com CertICT online course since 2012.
- What are the main joys and challenges of teacher training?
I feel the best reward is to see colleagues at different stages of their career (novice or experienced) grow and develop, and know that I am part of that growth. Also, the fact that I can grow at the same time as we learn together while on their journey and my own journey! The challenges, I believe in a world that seems to be getting crazier than ever, one of the challenges is ensuring we bring everyone together and learn to be more empathetic. I believe teacher training is not just about the content of the course but also about life, about us as human beings living and working together!
- Besides training, are there any other professional projects you’ve been involved in (e.g. course design, textbook writing, etc.)? If so, please tell us about them.
Yes, I was asked to design a blended course for my previous employer and so I was happy to be able to put together a B2 Speaking Practice course and one on English for Lawyers. I’m also busy keeping up with my YouTube channel methodology videos for English teachers.
- What should a prospective CELTA trainee know before they start the course? How should they prepare for it?
They should inform themselves as to what the course is about, the syllabus and the content. It’s important to know from the start what the course is and is not about. It would be useful to speak to someone who’s done the course or watch testimonials of people who have. They should ask lots of questions about the course at interview stage – the interviewers will tell them about the course anyway, but it’s useful to ask all questions you may have at that stage and before the course. Depending on how much time they have before the course, it would also help to start doing some of the course suggested readings or if you feel your grammar is rusty, then an online general English grammar course.
- In what ways does a CELTA course usually change an English teacher? How are they “transformed” by it?
In my own case, when I did it in 1998 at British Council Milan, I had 5 years full-time teaching experience already and thought I was better suited for the DELTA at the time. However, I soon realised while on the course that I was doing some things well, but others not that very well, so the course was an eye opener. It was intense, but I loved every minute of it and I got my first job with British Council in Egypt in the last week of the course. It changed me in many ways, as it gave me the grounding for better teaching, good guidelines which would inform my future teaching while always putting the students first!
- Share with us a nice memory you have from a CELTA course that you’ve run.
That’s a difficult question, as I’m lucky to say I have mostly happy memories from the courses I’ve run so far. I’d say it is a course a few years back in which one of the candidates really struggled in the first half of the course and so we thought they were not going to make it. However, in the support meetings we had they displayed a super positive and professional attitude which allowed them to take the most of our feedback and incorporate it into their teaching, allowing them to finish the course successfully. It was a pleasure to see such a truly open and professional candidate. We’re still in contact to this date!
- Finally, share with us the three professional achievements you’re most proud of as a teacher trainer.
Nice question! For the first one, I’d say I’m particularly proud of the fact that the Teacher Training Department at GIGA IH Catania is my baby. We were the first ones in Italy back in 2010 to offer the CELTA Online course within the first year of accreditation to offer the YL Extension to CELTA, TKT Practical (discontinued in 2016) and DELTA Modules 1-3, and the first ones to offer the CELT-P and CELT-S courses in Italy. The second one, I’d say having won the Weston Scholarship from the University of Nottingham to do my 4th MA level qualification – an MA in Digital Technologies for Language Teaching for which I got a double distinction. And the last one, having been invited to be a tutor on the IH Certificate in YL Centre Management course after completing the IH Diploma in Academic Management – it was thrilling to receive recognition for my experience and hard work on the course.
Thank you very much. J