This post was written by Matthew Clark

Over recent years, distance learning has exploded in higher education, with degrees available in almost every discipline spanning from undergraduate to doctorate programs.  There are several benefits to distance learning, the most obvious being the flexibility and convenience of taking the course anywhere you have an internet connection. Earlier this year, Bridge launched the BCELT (Bridge Certificate in English Language Teaching; pronounced “bee-selt”) an innovative distance-learning solution for teachers interested in obtaining a TEFL certification online.  This is a dynamic, comprehensive course—the perfect base for new teachers just launching their TEFL careers or a great addition to the portfolio of the most seasoned of teachers (did I mention you can obtain three graduate-level credits from the University of Northern Colorado?).

But, why take our word for it?

I recently sat down with Jesse Myers, a teacher at Laredo Middle School (Cherry Creek Schools).  Jesse has almost 15 years of cumulative teaching experience, a BA in Elementary Ed and a Master’s in Special Education – Affective Needs.  He is also one of our first BCELT course graduates.

Tell us about your international travel and teaching background.
My international experience was primarily at an orphanage located in a small farming community in southern Brazil. I went there in ’94 and ’96 (while I was preparing to be an elementary teacher) and again in ’97, after I had graduated from Metro. I spent about 5 months in Brazil altogether, mostly in the south.

Most of the teaching I did in Brazil was tutoring students in a variety of subjects (including English), although I did get to make a couple of presentations to English language learners. During the last trip, I was even invited to do a presentation about learning disabilities for the local public elementary school. I still think that’s kind of funny, since I was just a 23 year-old American teacher with very little teaching experience; I guess whatever experience and training I had at that time was enough to make me some kind of expert in that little farm town.

Did your experiences in Brazil influence your current career?
The time I spent in South America had everything to do with why I chose to start working at Bridge [teaching ESL]. I was living near DU [Denver University] back in April 1997. I had recently gotten my Colorado teaching license and I had worked as a substitute teacher in Denver Public Schools for a few months. I had already taken two international trips and I was looking for summer employment so I could take a third trip. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, just that I loved interacting with people of other cultures and that at some point I wanted to work with “at-risk” students, like those at the orphanage in Brazil. I walked into what was then called the Bridge International School because it looked like an interesting place to work for the summer. It certainly has been interesting, enough that I have returned for many summers since!

I eventually decided to go into special education as a profession, and I now work with those “at-risk” kids every day during the school year. Not many of those days go by that I don’t think about that orphanage, and I can honestly say that every day I work at Bridge [teaching ESL] brings something to mind about my travels in South America.

Would you consider teaching abroad again?
I would absolutely love to return to Brazil, or even go to most any other country to work for a while; the only reason I don’t go now is that it’s kind of expensive to travel internationally with three kids, and I’d like my family to be able to go anywhere like that with me; so I guess I won’t be doing much international teaching until we build up the finances a little more!

Had you taken a distance-learning course previously (such as Moodle, Blackboard, etc), and was it user-friendly? The BCELT was my first true online course. Some of my graduate work involved distance learning, but only for portions of the course.  The BCELT was generally user-friendly, but it took a little while to understand the layout. Nobody in our group really used the internal communication, either; we just communicated by email. [This is another aspect of the BCELT; the opportunity to network socially with other course participants].

Was it really 8-10 hours per week of work?
I was kind of surprised by the workload; I didn’t think it would be quite as much work as it was! Even though I’ve had quite a bit of teacher training and almost 15 years of teaching experience, I had to really search through the book and supplemental material to adequately answer the questions. I was glad that it was as challenging as it was, since it was worth the time I put into it. I really didn’t think, going into the course, that I would have to spend nearly 10 hours a week working on it and I guess I wasn’t sure I’d learn anything new, but I did.