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Danny’s CELTA experience – Why I did it and what it did for me!

Updated: Feb 22

Danny Wilkins | DC Teacher Training Director
DC Teacher Training's Danny has travelled the world because of CELTA.

I’ve interviewed many, many CELTA candidates over the last few years and a common question I get asked is ‘What was your experience after CELTA?’, so I thought I’d write about my CELTA journey – focusing on why I did a CELTA course in the first place and what I did once I was a qualified teacher.

What motivated me to get a CELTA?

A lot of people graduate from university and don’t know what do afterwards. I was one of those people. I had a degree from the University of Birmingham in Drama & English and had no idea what I was going to do with it. I moved back home to Manchester and started working in a reputable law firm. Somehow, I manged to work my way into a fee-earning position as a paralegal, with absolutely no law background. The money was okay for a graduate, but I knew quite quickly that a legal career wasn’t for me. I couldn’t sit behind a desk for the next 40 years of my life. So, what did I want to do?

I knew I wanted to travel – seeing the world, experiencing different cultures and meeting people from all walks of life was high on my priority list as a 20 year old. The only thing holding me back was money – I had none! I didn’t really want to work hard for a couple of years saving thousands of pounds only to spend it all in one go on a year-long holiday. I wanted to travel and work at the same time. See the world, earn money while doing it and learn new skill I could come back home with.

After some online research into ways I could work and travel, I came across the CELTA course. I’d never heard of it before. No one mentioned it at any career’s meetings. None of my friends knew what it was, even those who were going into teaching. Qualify as an English language teacher in just 4 weeks? I didn’t really believe that was possible and certainly didn’t think I’d be able to use it to teach in countries all over the world. So, I did more research, this time into the jobs available to CELTA-qualified teachers and found the website which I’d later learn is every CELTA-qualified teacher’s go-to place when looking for a job. I was amazed. There were hundreds of jobs listed. In exciting places like Japan, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, South Korea and lots at home in the UK too. Pretty much every job advert had ‘must be CELTA qualified’ listed as a requirement. It became obvious to me that a CELTA was recognised around the world and was the most requested qualification for English teachers to have. If I wanted to spend a few years travelling and teaching, a CELTA was going to be what I needed as a minimum.

So, in August 2012, with no teaching experience at all and a very basic understanding of English grammar and terminology, I applied to do an intensive 4 week face-to-face CELTA course at a teacher training centre in Manchester. I quit my job and felt very nervous about what I was about to do, scared about my lack of teaching experience.

The course was as intense as I was warned it would be. There was a lot of work to do in 4 weeks. But I learned an extraordinary amount and really loved the students I was teaching. Before I knew it, I was a qualified English teacher. The 4 weeks flew by, and I was suddenly looking at actual jobs that I could actually apply for on Less than 2 weeks after my final CELTA lesson, I had been hired and was on a plane to…


I was hired by a Taiwanese company called ALV, a provider of English language learning experiences to teenagers on their school holidays. Taiwan sounded exciting and was a far-away place I hadn’t heard of many people going to. It was exactly what I wanted. The other very attractive thing about teaching in Taiwan was that lots of schools were including things like travel and accommodation in their contracts. ALV paid for my outward flight to Taiwan and covered all accommodation and food costs while I was teaching with them over 12 weeks. They collected me from the airport and even gave me spending money to use in my first few days in Taipei before I began teaching. I felt very lucky and knew already that my CELTA qualification was going to be my passport to adventure and an exciting few years.

The capital of Taiwan, Taipei, is big, noisy and exciting. A sprawling city, the air is filled with weird and wonderful smells and the sounds (and fumes) of a thousand scooters zipping up and down Taipei’s grid-like traffic system. After sundown, the streets come alive! Little old ladies on their market stalls insisted I try many unidentifiable, but very yummy, barbecued meats. Workers flocked to beautifully ornate temples for prayer and reflection and the neon street signs lit up the night. My adventure was well and truly underway.

Teaching was scary. I no longer had my CELTA tutors guiding my every move, but my very first class were a joy. They taught me tongue twisters in Mandarin, gave me lots of recommendations for things to do after school and in the 13 years since teaching in Taiwan, I’ve met up with several of those students from my first ever teaching job. Lots of them have moved to the UK to study and I’ll always look back on my time in Taiwan fondly. The cities are an assault on the senses, the people are delightful, it’s safe, cost-friendly and the east coast of the country remains untouched and reminded me of scenes from Jurassic Park. It was the perfect country to start my teaching career in and I would recommend everyone add it to their travel bucket list!

group of students and teacher jumping in the air
My first ever class of students – Taoyuan, Taiwan, September 2012
neon street lights at night
Taipei by night
Taiwanese temple roof decorations
Ornately decorated temples found around every corner on the city streets in Taiwan

Short teaching contracts in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

After my 3 months in Taiwan, I stayed in Asia for several shorter contracts. English First (or EF) were recruiting teachers for two, four or six week contracts in different cities in Malaysia and Indonesia. The positions did not require much experience, but as was usual, applicants all needed to have a CELTA qualification. These shorter contracts were perfect for how I wanted to work at that time. A couple of weeks teaching, followed by a month or so travelling. I wasn’t being paid much by UK standards, but it was more than enough money to travel and still have left over by the time I began my next contract in a new town, city or country. Every teaching job I worked at in Asia and South-East Asia provided accommodation, so I wasn’t paying any rent. That money was going straight into savings – perfect for travel funds or to use back home in the UK.

Once again, the people in Malaysia, Singapore and especially Indonesia were wonderfully friendly. I was welcomed into every school with smiles and excitement. The students were motivated and enthusiastic about learning English. The cities were all big, all noisy and all hot. Not all of them were picturesque. You’ll be hard pressed to find a scenic vista in a city like Jakarta, but South-East Asia has some of the most idyllic beaches and wonderful jungles. What more could a 22-year nature-enthusiast wish for. By the time I flew back to Europe in November 2013, I’d taught in over 15 schools in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and had spent my weeks off travelling to The Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand and Brunei.

teacher with Malaysian students
Night school in Kuala Lumpur
man at Borobudur temple
Exploring the lost temple of Borobudur in Indonesia
man and bikes on ocean cliffs
Cycling and swimming along the northern coastline of Borneo

English in Action – short contracts at European schools in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Turkey and Azerbaijan!

I spent over a year teaching and travelling in Asia thanks to my CELTA. It was nice to be in my own bedroom at home for 6 weeks and see my family for Christmas. But, the travel bug had not left yet. I loved the short contract experience I’d had in Asia. There was no time to get bored of one place and I enjoyed the transient lifestyle the contracts offered me. I was keen to find something similar that would help me teach and travel in Europe.

I came across a wonderful company specialising in just that – English in Action. CELTA-qualified applicants taken on by the company are offered 1 to 8 week long contracts, working in partner schools in Europe mainly, with a few contracts in Japan and South Korea. The idea is that a group of teachers go into a secondary school and speak and teach English, immersing the students in the language for an entire week. At the end of the week, there are presentations, debates, parent workshops and sometimes entire scripted performances all done in English by the students for their parents and teachers. It was such a fun company to work for. Again, my flights and accommodation were all included and the European pay scale was much higher than in Asia, so I was really able to save during my 2 years with EiA. The other really nice thing about EiA was that they provided a lot of teaching plans, lesson ideas, materials and resources as well. Each course I worked on also had a designated senior teacher who was available for advice and guidance, especially for newer teachers with little or no experience. I learned a lot with EiA and really honed my craft as and English language teacher at the company. There was a real ethos centred around development and progression there and by the end of the two years, I myself was working as a senior teaching, helping the newer recruits if they had doubts. I’d say I taught in over 50 schools during my time with the company, starting in Bavaria in Germany and then moving my way through the snowed capped Austrian alps. Before going to Italy, Poland and Turkey. One of my fondest memories was night sledding with students after lessons. The school was in the remote village of Steinach in the Tyrol region of Austria. In Azerbaijan I felt like a bit of a celebrity. It wasn’t everyday that the locals saw a very pale, very blonde man walking down the streets of Baku, sweating in 40-degree heat. They laughed at me at first, but then smiled and greeted me every morning on my way to school. And the lovely children I taught in Bulgaria showered me with gifts too heavy to take with me after I left my 2-week contract with them in Sofia.

After 2 years, I’d taught in another 8 countries and, by now had been living out of suitcase for 3 years. I’d also tired of teaching young learners for so long. Kids are great fun, but really tiring. I had developed as a teacher and wanted something longer term. I’d always dreamed of living and working in London but knew job-competition in London schools was stiff.

two people walking in snowy forest
A wintery commute to school in rural Liechtenstein

man on sled
Night sledding with students and local teachers in the Austrian alps after school

man in front of Salzberg mountains
Views from a school I taught at in Salzburg, Austria

children and teachers in Baku
A student field trip in the sweltering heat of Baku, Azerbaijan

children making poster
A student research project on Big Ben in Sofia, Bulgaria

Teaching in London – building experience in the EFL sector.

Summer school is big business in the UK English language teaching industry. If you want a guaranteed job in the UK after you CELTA, aim to qualify just before or during the summer months. Thousands of budding English speakers flock to UK destinations to improve their English in schools in the morning while heading out onto the tourist trail in the long summer evenings. I’d applied to be a summer school teacher in an established EFL school in central London and was lucky enough to be kept on at the year-round adult school shortly after. I had some experience teaching adults, but not much, so this was a big change. Adults, paying for their own courses in an expensive city like London demand results and want to feel like they are improving. I soon learned that games and field trips weren’t going to be enough.

Working at the school in London feels a lot more serious and structured. Teaching wise, it made me focus on my teaching methodology and language awareness properly for the first time since CELTA. Working in an established year-round language school is very different to popping into schools for one or two weeks. There are structured departments keeping different aspects of the school running and it was my time in London that I explored different areas of work that are available in language schools operating all year round. I lead and organised activities for students after school, organised accommodation placements for students in residences, house shares and homestays. I taught exam classes and managed student exam days as well. I dealt with student databases and their development and eventually moved into the teacher training department- a full circle moment. Interviewing and preparing trainee teachers for their CELTA upcoming CELTA courses.

Obviously, in 2012 when looking into ways to see the world and earn money, I had no idea that a four week long CELTA course would lead onto a decade’s long career in the English language teaching industry. But it did. It’s a really exciting industry, filled with opportunity and possibility. CELTA really is a platform that can lead to lots of varied career paths. I know colleagues who have gone on to have careers in publishing, lecturing, assessing and examining and running their own schools. I’m now running my own CELTA centre. DC Teacher Training – Birmingham’s only year-round CELTA centre, offering face-to-face CELTA courses in Birmingham city centre and online CELTA courses as well. So, there you have it. Quite a long answer to the initial question. CELTA really was my passport to travel, passport to adventure, passport to freedom 😊

The lovely people at the University of Birmingham's BURN FM podcasting team invited me

to record a podcast where you can hear me talk more about my CELTA experience and DC Teacher Training here by clicking below:

Danny Wilkins graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2009 with a degree in English and Drama Studies and went on to get his CELTA qualification in Manchester in 2012.  Since then he has taught English in over 10 countries including Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Austria, before settling in the UK. Danny has previously managed one of the largest CELTA centres in the UK and is thrilled to bring CELTA courses to Birmingham, having lived and graduated in the city.

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1 comentário

Such a wonderful and inspiring story. Seems like you‘ve had some amazing adventures and so nice to now be in a position to help others qualify and hopefully get the same opportunities.

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