We caught up with CELTA Tutor, Marie Pettigrew, who teaches the CELTA courses in Nottingham, UK. For over 30 years, she has been a CELTA Tutor, Coordinator and Assessor and travelled to many countries such as Singapore, Oman, Spain, France, Saudi Arabia and Australia. She now mainly works at the Nottingham centre where she previously held Director of Studies. With her depth of knowledge on CELTA, she shares with us her own experiences and how the CELTA can add value to a teacher’s career.
Hi Marie, before you were an EFL Tutor, you were working in the arts with your own private gallery and crafts shop. What made you decide to change you career and become a teacher trainer? How did you go about this?
Prior to being an EFL teacher/teacher trainer, I worked in a private art gallery, The Stirling Gallery, it was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by beautiful craft items and have an unlimited budget to buy in pottery, engraved glass, craft made leather good and silver and gold jewellery by the best craftspeople in Scotland. I also arranged 13 exhibitions and private views a year.
The problem was, I had itchy feet and wanted to travel. Teaching English seemed the best way to combine work and travel. I took a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) in Hastings. It turned out to be an excellent decision as I worked with some of the best known practitioners in the field: Adrian Underhill, Jim Scrivener, Tim Bowen, Jonathan Marks and Vic Richardson.
What was the transition from an arts administrator to an EFL Tutor and CELTA Trainer like?
Having completed my initial teacher training course in Hastings, I was invited to work there. After a year, I was ready for my first adventure abroad. The transition was smooth and my first posting was to Singapore (Advanced Training Techniques). The school made the move easy with a couple of weeks to acclimatise in a hotel and help with the visa, finding accommodation and there was private medical insurance and return air fare, so I was not out of pocket. I think these are the basics you should expect when you take up work abroad.
What is it like taking the CELTA at the Nottingham centre?
It is very much the same whichever centre you take CELTA as standards are maintained in all centres. The facilities at the CELTA Teacher Training Centre in Nottingham are excellent and the tutors are experienced and approachable. Our centre has been offering the course for over ten years and can offer student accommodation of a good standard and at a reasonable price so it is convenient if you are coming from abroad.
You’ve worked over the world – what has been your favourite country to teach in so far?
Each country has its charm. In Singapore, I learned to SCUBA dive and water ski and made some friends I am still in touch with today, both students and colleagues. It was an easy first posting as it was comfortable and, until you peel away the corners, not too much of a culture shock. Singapore is also a good place to visit other countries in Asia. I would probably say, Singapore, but it is hard to choose.
What made you decide to become a CELTA Assessor?
It was a natural progression after years of teacher training and the opportunity presented itself. It is a way of keeping myself on my toes regarding standards and an excellent way to see innovation in practice in the various centres. It is also good to see that standards are fairly uniform throughout the world as I also get to go abroad to do assessments and meet colleagues.
The Cambridge CELTA is unique in that it is a short 4 week course that provides the basic techniques to enable a novice teacher perform effectively in the classroom, and standards are maintained as each course is assessed by an external assessor from Cambridge Assessment. It has been honed and crafted over a period of more than 30 years and never stands still. Teachers and teacher trainers are always looking at how it can be improved upon. It is the gold standard for a number of countries around the world, including Libya, Saudi Arabia, Europe and China.
As CELTA is an intense course, it is always beneficial for individuals to be prepared beforehand. What advice would you give to people who will be starting the CELTA?
Make sure you get to grips with learning grammatical terminology and building your language awareness by doing a pre-CELTA course. I would also stress that it is not for the faint hearted and that it will be 4 intensive weeks so be prepared for a lot of hard work. It is fun and stimulating and will open so many doors for you so it will be worth it in the end.
Is it easy to find work in the UK and abroad post-CELTA?
If you have a degree (any degree) and CELTA it is relatively easy to find work. There are many countries which will not entertain employing someone if they do not have a degree and that will restrict your choices. Some employers are reticent to employ non-native speakers, but that is frowned upon and the attitude is changing as schools realise that non-native speakers are usually much more knowledgeable where grammar is concerned and have already learned English to an exceptionally high standard.
Some countries may have upper age limits so if you are 60 or over you need to check which countries might not offer you a visa. In the middle east they like you to have had two years post CELTA experience. In China, you should make sure you have the appropriate Z visa to avoid being jailed for illegal entry.
You also have a DELTA. What advice would you give people thinking about taking the Delta?
The DELTA is a three-part level 7 qualification for teachers who have two years post CELTA experience or 1500 hours classroom experience. In some cases it may even be possible to do the DELTA without the CELTA if you have a few years relevant teaching experience, but that would be at the discretion of the centre offering DELTA.
Back on to Nottingham where you teach now -- why would you recommend people to take the CELTA in the city?
Nottingham is a large enough city to have plenty of entertainment and, having two universities and a large college of further education, it is geared up for young people. It is small enough not to be too intimidating and prices for going out are very reasonable indeed.
Finally Marie, what is your favourite place in Nottingham?
I really enjoy having lunch in the Tarn Thai as it is very reasonably priced and a great place to meet friends and chat. The food is always excellent and is beautifully presented. The Kitty Cat café is fun for cat lovers and Rock City is a great music venue. There are really too many places to mention.
TESOL in Nottingham
Nottingham, known for Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city based in the heart of the UK. Built on centuries of history, Nottingham has a famous castle, historic caves to explore and also home to Wollaton Hall (also known as Wayne mansion in the Dark Knight Trilogy). By night, the city is filled with cultural activities, such as live concerts and theatre, and has a plethora of restaurants and one of the oldest pubs in the UK that has been a Nottingham treasure for over 800 years.