An Interview with Mary Grennan - Head of Teacher Training in Galway
English Teacher Training in Galway, Ireland
After your long time serving in Dublin as a trainer, what motivated you to open your own centre in Galway?
I originally developed and ran a CELTA course in Dublin for many years but I was ready for a change and a new challenge so I moved to Galway. I've always been attracted to Galway as it's quite different from Dublin. One of our students from Italy best summed up the difference between Galway and Dublin. When he arrived in Galway, having spent some time in Dublin, he said 'Ah, the real Ireland'.
This was because it was more like the Ireland he'd pictured in his head - wild cliffs, Irish speaking people on the Aran Islands, great music, friendly people, and lots of music and atmosphere. There is less English influence in the West of Ireland than there is in other parts of the country, so this adds to its authenticity.
You have breathtakingly beautiful places nearby, such as the world famous Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, the Aran Islands, and the Burren. You're also near to other beautiful counties in the West, such as Clare, Mayo, Donegal and Kerry.
Galway is a small city, so you can pretty much get around on foot, which is a lot different to a bigger city like Dublin. It's a university city, with lots of students from all over the West, as well as from other parts of Ireland also, and then in summer time, there are a lot of visitors from places such as the US, as so many people from Galway emigrated to the US. This makes Galway an interesting place to be in and there's never a dull moment!
Galway is known as the capital of culture of Ireland. There is a great Arts Festival, a small but influential film festival, an Oscar Wilde Festival (his family had a home in Galway) and lots and lots of traditional Irish music. It's also a great city for people who like fish! There's even a matchmaking festival in nearby Lisdoonvarna in September!
Further Reading: Seven Reasons Why Galway is a Summer Haven for Culture and the Arts
What facilities does the Galway training centre offer?
The CELTA centre is based in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, so the facilities are great. You have a large library, with lots of computers, as well as printers and photocopiers, a printing service, cafes and restaurants, student services, banks - pretty everything that a large college can offer a student.
The college overlooks Galway Bay so the views are really lovely. Classrooms are bright and all have computers, projectors and wifi so trainees on the CELTA can prepare lessons using the internet.
Student accommodation is also available near to the college, whether home stay and apartments, especially in summer time, when the apartments right across from the college are available.
We asked: What are your predictions for changes in the TEFL landscape in the future and what is your vision for your training centre in the future?
The CELTA is growing in demand world wide - just look at the job ads - so I can only predict that this is the way it's going to continue. Whether you're looking for work in Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia, Australia, South America, Canada, the US, Africa, all good schools and colleges worldwide have CELTA as a basic requisite for applicants.
While there are many other qualifications available, everyone asks for the CELTA, and for a good reason. It's the most recognised course in the world as it's got the University of Cambridge quality mark. Each course is externally assessed by a Cambridge nominated assessor, which means that whether you take the CELTA course you in Galway, London, Seville or Auckland, for example, it's going to have the same quality standards in place, which makes it a reliable qualification for employers.
There are CELTA centres in Dublin and one at University College Cork, but we are the only CELTA course provider in the West of Ireland. We're based at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, which is a great location to study and Galway is a lovely city to spend time in, a university town with lots of traditional music and atmosphere.
We are a new centre but we're growing and I foresee it becoming one of the best known CELTA centres. We offer dedicated tutors with lots of experience, modern facilities, and we help candidates with their job search so we offer a lot of extra support to our trainees.
We also offer preparation courses for DELTA, the Cambridge diploma which many CELTA qualified teachers opt for after a few years teaching.
The Cambridge CELTA and Delta Qualifications and Careers
For local candidates based in Ireland, why would you recommend the CELTA over the CELT course, which is the certificate accredited by Quality Qualifications Ireland?
I have long been a big fan of the CELTA course. I originally took this course in Seville over 20 years ago and I can still remember to this day actual moments from the course! What I took from that course and what I saw when I became a CELTA tutor myself, is that the CELTA offers trainee teachers the best preparation possible. It's incredible to imagine that you can complete a course on a Friday and then start teaching in Barcelona, for example, the following Monday, and with the confidence to do so, as recently happened to a former CELTA trainee.
There are many reasons why I would recommend the CELTA over other courses - it's the most recognised and sought after course for a reason. The CELTA was originally designed by John Haycraft in 1962. John saw what teachers of English needed: a strong focus on techniques and lesson planning, as well as a developmental cycle of teaching practice, which is the key part of the course. This course recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, making it the oldest, and most prestigious, course in the world, and it's now administered by the University of Cambridge.
John recognised the importance of training the trainers - unlike other courses, the training cycle of a CELTA tutor is rigorous. CELTA tutors have to have a Delta or equivalent, plus post-Delta teaching experience. Trainers in training undergo a challenging training programme, which is supervised by an experienced CELTA tutor and assessed by a University of Cambridge examiner. Tutors are constantly monitored, both internally through standardisation programmes and workshops, as well as externally by Cambridge, as each CELTA course is externally assessed.
About the CELTA course itself, some practical tips that students give us are: Get a laptop, have access to WiFi, and printing facilities. Accommodation needs to be chilled out and comfortable. Forget the nightlife for a while ‘cos you’re going to be busy! What do you think are important preparations and attitudes to have in place before going into the course?
Access to WiFi and printers is essential, and accommodation needs to be comfortable, absolutely. This is why we have all of these in place in Galway, including computers for those who don't bring laptops, but I think a laptop is an essential tool. I think it's really important to read the recommended texts and to complete the pre-course tasks. If you do both of these, you will find the CELTA course much easier.
While it's an intensive course and one that really pushes you, the feedback we get from CELTA trainees is similar: 'intensive but fun'; 'intensive but I learned a lot about what I can do'; 'intensive but I made some great friends'; 'intensive but I really learned how to teach'.
So the word 'intensive' comes up a lot! But the other comments show how much the trainees get from the course and how confident it makes them feel, ready to embark on a teaching career, be it a short one or a life time one, as in my case.
I think the best feedback of all comes from teachers who have already completed a post graduate diploma in teaching, such as the PGCE in the UK, the PGDE in Ireland, or the CAP in Spain - without exception, these teachers all say that they wish they had completed the CELTA prior to their training in state schools as they always say they would have been much more prepared for the course with the CELTA under their belt.
For people wanting to take the CELTA or Delta course, what are the benefits of training in Galway? Why do candidates choose Galway as a location for their training?
Our course is run at a modern college, with great facilities, such as a large, bright and well equipped library, cafes and restaurants, and classrooms with computers, projectors and wifi. As the director of the course, I have many years of experience as a CELTA and DELTA tutor and also as an assessor, so quality is super important for me and for the team.
Galway is a small city so candidates can reach the college easily, often on foot, so there is little travel time needed. At the weekend, candidates take off to the Aran Islands, Connemara, Clare or some other beautiful spots nearby and have a good break experiencing the West!
The Delta is offered in many different formats today to try and fit in with working teachers. Galway offers the Module 2 prep course for the online Delta. What are the advantages of this option?
The Distance Delta is a course which was developed by IH London and the British Council 30 years ago so a lot of experience and knowledge has been built up over the years. It's the course I originally did myself and I really got a lot out of it, which is why it's the one we now offer.
This course is quite flexible as you can take each module separately or together. Teachers working full time can take this course and not have to give up work, and teachers working literally anywhere in the world can take the Delta. Many of the tutors on the Distance Delta are assessors and examiners themselves so there is a huge amount of intellectual knowledge there, which is a great help for candidates.
The materials are excellent as they've been written and updated by these tutors over the years. The course tutors really keep on top of things and even though it's a distance course, you never feel isolated, as you have regular contact with your tutor, as well as with other course participants.
One great thing about Module Two is the drafting facility - you can send drafts of your essays and lesson plans to your tutor, who will help you focus on what changes you need to make to your work. This really helps you pass your Module Two assignments.
Finally, the success rate for candidates on the Distance Delta is higher than that of candidates on a face to face course, which says a lot. The course is growing and growing - the ELT Gazette always publish the names of successful candidates and this year, the number of Distance Delta candidates was way higher than any other centre.
Apart from locally, where do your CELTA and Delta graduates tend to find work after their courses?
There is no unemployment in English Language Teaching and the world is your oyster! There is a lot of work in Europe, particularly for an academic year. Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland and Russia are good places to look for teaching work as the demand is high in these countries but there is also some demand in other European countries.
There is a huge demand in the Middle East so some graduates go there to gain some experience and earn tax free salaries! China has also huge demand and we often get requests from schools there looking for teachers, South Korea too. South America is also a popular destination for many teachers.
The Galway centre is part of a worldwide network of training centres and our graduates have the option of applying for work at these centres, we can also recommend suitable candidates to our colleagues at these schools as well as help them with their applications.
And that's a wrap. Thanks for sharing your experience and time Mary!