An Interview with Tara Townley: CELTA Tutor, Santiago de Compostela

Tuesday 27th August 2019

An Interview with Tara Townley: CELTA Tutor, Santiago de Compostela

  Beauty and culture is to be expected when you visit Spain’s Galician city, Santiago de Compostela! It’s renowned for the world famous pilgrimage,  Camino…


Beauty and culture is to be expected when you visit Spain’s Galician city, Santiago de Compostela! It’s renowned for the world famous pilgrimage,  Camino de Santiago where pilgrims walk 500 miles to see the grand cathedral; one of the most important religious structures in Spain.

The city is also deemed a world Heritage site by UNESCO and you can see why, as the historic quarter is elegant with old monstrosities, palaces and churches. Definitely one to see for those who want to take in the architecture!

Recently, we got in touch with CELTA Tutor, Tara Townley, who works at the Santiago de Compostela CELTA centre. She gave us a snapshot into taking the CELTA with the centre, what you can experience and also talked about her own ELT journey and how she got to where she is now.

Hi Tara, thanks for letting us interview you! Let’s get stuck in and speak about why you decided to go into ELT? What prompted/inspired you to start a career in ELT?

Thanks! I was actually considering becoming a teacher of MFL in the UK, but thought that I wasn’t sure if I liked teaching or would be good at it. I did some research and found the CELTA and thought it might be perfect to dip my toe in and see how it felt to be in the classroom. The rest is history!

Have you seen the ELT landscape change over your career? If so, in what ways?

Definitely. In my experience, ELT has changed a lot in the last decade. It has become a necessity in many countries and with globalisation and rapidly changing international commerce, the need for a common language has become apparent. I think that in terms of demographics, teaching young learners is becoming a huge part of the industry, as people realise that children often absorb languages more efficiently. I also think that technological developments have changed the way people both teach and learn, with online and blended learning becoming more and more popular.

What are some of the different kinds of challenges that teachers face at the different age levels, with young learners especially as you have quite a bit of experience working in this area?

I think that most teachers struggle at first to find their comfort zone with regards to classroom management. It’s difficult trying to ensure that you create a positive and rewarding learning environment when you are trying to manage many different characters and personalities (when they’re not yet old enough to manage themselves!) It can also sometimes feel overwhelming thinking about how to engage young learners when their interests change so rapidly and they have many other commitments aside from English language classes. However, taking the time to get to know the learners and what they enjoy and using that knowledge when planning and designing classes will have a huge benefit for everyone in the classroom.

Do you have a moment that stands out when you knew you’d pursued the right career path?

That’s an interesting question! I think there have been many rewarding moments, but I think one of the most memorable was probably during one of my first CELTA courses, when one of the candidates was really struggling to put it all together towards the middle of the course. We sat down and talked about what issues the candidate was having and different ways to manage those issues (both in planning and in teaching). The candidate went away and took some time to internalise what had been discussed. The next lesson that they taught showed huge improvements and they continued to improve right through to the end of the course. Not only were they teaching solid lessons, but their confidence in and enjoyment of teaching had grown exponentially. It was great to be a part of that.

What was the transition like from working in Vietnam for 10 years to now working in Spain?

It was actually reasonably smooth, especially thanks to those at Santiago de Competla CELTA centre, who helped with pre-move organisation. I speak Spanish, so that certainly helped. Being back in Spain is great, both on a personal and a professional level. It’s nice to be teaching Spanish learners –  they’re very different to the majority of the Vietnamese learners that I taught!

Can you explain to our readers the process of becoming a CELTA Tutor? How long did it take you?

Certainly. You will need to get approval to be trained up through a CELTA centre. Generally, in order to be approved for training candidates will need to show that they have a solid range of teaching experience, relevant qualifications (DELTA, DipTESOL, MA etc.) and often some already completed in house training will help (in house workshops, observations etc.) Once approved, the candidate will be a tutor in training. This means that the tutor will shadow at least one entire CELTA course, whilst completing a portfolio and various tasks. The tasks will include planning, writing and giving observed input sessions on the course, observing classes and writing and giving feedback, shadow marking assignments and much more. It’s an intensive experience and a lot of work, but it’s really rewarding and an interesting position to be in. Training can be spread over more than one course.

I was lucky in that I was given opportunities early in my teaching career. I became a CELTA trainer around 5 years after having completed my CELTA course.

How easy is it to get an ELT job in and around Santiago de Compostela?

There is almost always work available in and around Santiago de Compostela. At our CELTA centre, we don’t have a closed recruitment process, so we’re open to hiring all year round.

What would you recommend trainees to do in their CELTA downtime while in Santiago de Compostela?

Study! No, just kidding. Santiago de Compostela is a great place to do the CELTA because it has a bit of everything. It’s a great mixture of the old and new. It’s a beautiful place to walk around and there are many parks and open spaces to relax in and to disconnect from the course. Of course, there’s the famous cathedral to visit where thousands of people come every year to complete their pilgrimage (El Camino). Many people love just wandering around the old town enjoying the delicious coffee and tapas on offer. We’re also not that far from the coast, so if it’s the beach that people are after, then just a short train journey will take you straight there.

What are the facilities and teaching faculty like at the Santiago de Compostela centre?

They’re great. The premises is much bigger than it looks from the outside. There are loads of resources available to the teachers including many of the titles listed on the CELTA reading list (as well as hundreds of others!) All of the classrooms are equipped with a computer and projector and a normal whiteboard, so it suits you regardless of your experience with technology. The school is also very central, so it’s really convenient. You’re always only a stone’s throw away from what you need.

Thank you, Tara!

CELTA in Santiago de Compostela

Take the CELTA in Santiago de Compostela, perfect for trainees who want to take in the local beauty after their CELTA. The centre offers full-time intensive courses for those who want to hone the ELT skills or for people who are completely new to the teaching. For more information on the city, read more here. 

Questions? Get in touch with a member of the StudyCELTA team.