An Interview with Louis Grech - Head of Teacher Training, Gzira, Malta
Louis is passionate about marine and tropical fish and spends of his spare time maintaining his four aquariums at home! He also loves bonsai, travelling and Italian football. However in his working hours, he is Head of Teacher Training at the Teacher Training Centre in Malta.
We asked Louis a few questions about completing the world's most widely recognised TEFL, the Cambridge University CELTA Certificate, in Gzira, Malta.
How many years have you worked within the TEFL industry and experience have you had?
I've been in ELT since the late 1970’s and taught hundreds of learners and trained lots of English language teachers in Malta where I've held the post of DoS and Head of Teacher Training since 1985. I'm also responsible for the overall management of the School.
In recent years, I've led Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) Methodology seminars for non-native teachers of EFL in a number of European countries.
I've also done consultancy work on various ELT connected projects with the Maltese EFL Schools Monitoring Board at the Ministry of Education and occupied the role of Secretary of FELTOM for 12 years.
For three years I was a Representative of Overseas CTEFLA Centres of the Cambridge ESOL (then UCLES) Committee for the Awards for the Teaching of Adults.
What motivated you to move into the TESOL industry?
I started my teaching career as a Main Stream English language and literature teacher in a Maltese private school, teaching for 11 years between 1975 and 1985.
In the summer of 1978, I joined the centre in Malta as an EFL teacher for their summer and Easter courses for foreigners, and soon realized that this was the career path I wanted to follow. In 1985, I left teaching in Maltese mainstream education and joined the TEFL profession on a full-time basis.
How much teaching did you have behind you before embarking on further study and becoming a teacher trainer? What made you choose this career path?
Teaching EFL was a satisfying career for me. However, I was soon asked to take on the academic management and administration at the centre.
It was then that I felt the need to embark on a teacher training course of study, which I still love because it enables me to share my own experiences, challenges and expertise with younger teachers, and to spread the "CLT gospel" (Communicative Language Teaching) I really believe in .
What kind of personal profiles suit the Cambridge CELTA course?
The CELTA was originally designed to meet the needs of novice teachers who wanted initial professional training leading to a Cambridge certificate recognized all over the world.
Nowadays it attracts a variety of trainees ranging from those with little or no classroom experience to experienced teachers and to people who are between jobs or looking for a complete career change.
In my experience, the most successful trainees are those who come to the course with an open mind, are not afraid of change or what might be perceived as criticism of their teaching ways.
Good trainees are also team-players who are willing to give and accept suggestions from trainers and fellow trainees about their teaching methods and techniques.
Most would say the practical component is what makes CELTA stronger than other TEFL courses. Do you agree this?
The CELTA is essentially about learner-centred teaching – as such it is a very practical course based on hands-on teaching of live classes (referred to as Teaching Practice-TP) which is observed and assessed continually by qualified and supportive tutors.
Trainees get to teach for a total of 6 hours during the course – this is complemented by the daily workshops/ seminars, observation of live classes taught by experienced teachers, peer lesson observation and four practical TP-led assignments.
I think that all this is nicely balanced with each ‘unit’ contributing to and complementing all the other units. It constitutes a very complete and intensive teacher training experience leading to trainees becoming competent and effective learner-centred teachers.
Why would you recommend the CELTA programme in Gzira, Malta?
I work for a centre that has been offering CELTA courses in Malta since 1994 – I've trained over 400 teachers, a lot of whom are still teaching EFL in schools all over the world.
Apart from following training led by very experienced trainers in a very experienced centre, our CELTA programmes in Malta also include accommodation options in residences/ host families all very close to the centre – a detail which is not to be underestimated especially when compared to the long distances trainees often have to commute at other centres in Europe.
Living in the Mediterranean for a month while doing the course also helps... 😉
What are visa requirements like for studying during the CELTA and working in Malta after CELTA?
In principle, EU citizens seem not to have any problem, but what about citizens from other parts of the world like Eastern Europe, North Africa, Australasia, or North America.
Trainees hailing from EU member countries require no visa and also have no problem in working in Malta after successfully completing the course.
I've also trained lots of people coming from non-EU member states – they have had no problem in acquiring visas to enter the country… they do require a Work Permit to stay on and work in Malta though.
What is the TEFL job market in like in Malta?
CELTA trainees end up teaching in reputable schools; a lot of the Maltese trainees typically take up full-time employment in one of the many EFL schools here; some take up jobs abroad, mostly in Europe.
Malta is fertile territory when it comes to EFL teaching job offers. It is a healthy and growing ELT destination and there are over 30 licensed EFL schools here most of which employ teachers especially during the Easter and summer periods every year.
Foreign trainees usually take up good jobs either back in their country of origin or in various other countries, including exotic destinations like Thailand, Japan and New Zealand. Currently I'm in contact with a successful CELTA trainee who’s teaching in Vietnam – incidentally, he got the job on the strength of his CELTA certificate.
For non-native English speakers applying for the CELTA course, what advice or encouragement would you offer them?
Nowadays the terms ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ have in my opinion lost some of their rigidity. We now talk of competent, fluent and accurate speakers of English rather than teachers being a native or non-native speaker.
Trainees who are competent, fluent and accurate speakers of English, should not feel in any way inferior and should embark on the CELTA adventure without any misgivings.
Having got to your point in your career, what do you enjoy most?
Definitely being in class with trainees and helping them to progress towards becoming competent and effective teachers of English as a Foreign Language to adults.
Happy TEFLing to all!