Catching Up with Bonnie, Denver CELTA Graduate Teaching in the U.S.


When shopping around for the right course to qualify to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL), it’s inevitable that you’ll come across the Cambridge CELTA. That’s because the CELTA, a 4-week classroom based course that originates in the U.K., is one of the most academically respected TEFL trainings available, meaning schools worldwide hold the certificate in high regard.

Nonetheless, some may hesitate to choose this “gold standard” of TEFL certification, fearing its intensive schedule, 8 hours a day for 4 weeks, and its academic rigor.

Bonnie Ulrich didn’t hesitate, but instead took a deep breath and signed up for the CELTA training here in Denver. She told us about her experience with the course, where it led her, what advice she has for future CELTA students.

Did you have teaching experience before taking the CELTA?

Before taking CELTA, I did have teaching experience as a volunteer ESOL (English as a Second Language) teacher with the Presentation Sisters (an order of nuns) in their outreach program for Hispanics, called Caminando Juntos. I did not, however, have any training or education in teaching. My professional career for 30 years was as a trial lawyer, specifically with the Department of Justice. When it was decided by the Sisters that I should teach the lowest beginning level of English because I speak Spanish, I felt overwhelmed by my lack of education in the area of teaching ESOL.

Why did you choose the CELTA in Denver?

I knew someone who had taken the CELTA course at Bridge and who recommended it. When my youngest daughter moved to Denver last year, I decided to take the course, since I thought I could stay with her. As it turned out, the course was so intense that after a week, I moved into an extended stay hotel [arranged by Bridge] where I could concentrate more fully on the coursework.  It was a great place to stay – very convenient and comfortable.

Many people might be nervous about making the commitment to such a rigorous course. Do you have any words of advice for them?

My words of advice are to plan to focus COMPLETELY on the course for that month.  I think it is easier to be away from home, where there are none of the daily, routine distractions of ordinary life.  Other than walking my dog for 10 minutes twice a day (and watching Downton Abbey on Sun. nights), I did nothing but focus on the coursework.  There are so many tasks to complete every day, it is good to do the most immediate task first and continue from there.  It also helped to remember that “it will all be over in just one month.”

The coursework is very interesting (all about language and how to teach it) and that helped. The course has theory, but is also VERY practical and useful.  The teaching practice and observation is essential to learning how to TESOL and the Bridge teaching staff was most knowledgeable.

What are you doing now with your CELTA certification?

I continued volunteer teaching in the Hispanic Outreach program, Caminando Juntos, for a year and a half post-CELTA certification.  After a year’s “sabbatical,” during which I had several other commitments to fulfill, I am easing back into teaching and will substitute during the fall semester and will teach a class during the spring semester of 2016.  I was able to convince the head of the program to purchase the Cambridge Ventures textbook series for the Basic Levels 1-4 and have used them in my classes. Using the methods and procedures from my CELTA course, I have noticed that the adult students have learned and retained more than previously.  I look forward to getting back into the classroom in a couple weeks.

Do you have final advice for future CELTA students?

Just bite the bullet and do it!  As much as is possible, take the course at a time when you will not have other distractions.  Take 5 deep breaths morning, noon, and night; get outside at least once a day in that beautiful Denver weather, and just tackle the assignments one step at a time.

Interested in getting TEFL certified? Learn more about taking the CELTA in Denver, Colorado.