Bring on Brazil! One Teacher’s Journey from TEFL Certification to the Classroom

TEFL in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is a guest post written by Shawn Hansen, who took the IDELT certification course in Rio de Janeiro in April 2014.

Once I decided that teaching English was my next step in life and that I wanted to take a TEFL certification course to enhance my credibility with this endeavor, my next decision was “where?” There were many options to get the certification online and even to take the course at a location within the United States, but I wanted a more immersive experience. After all, if I was going to go around the world teaching English; I figured I ought to find out what living abroad was really like.

I had never been to South America, but I had always wanted to go. As I looked into the TEFL courses offered in South America, there were options in a few different countries and all of them had their own enticing qualities. But as I looked them over, I kept coming back to Rio de Janeiro, one of the most iconic cities in the world, in one of the most diverse countries in the world. Why not??!! The day I signed up for the TEFL course in Rio was one of the most exciting days of this journey. I was going to spend a month in this legendary place and learn the foundations for taking this next step in my life! Many of my friends asked, “Why are you going all the way to Rio to do this?” I said, “Why not??!!….it’s RIO!!”

Once I signed up, the people at Bridge helped me with all my questions. From questions about securing my visa to where I was going to live, as well as sending me all the course materials to prepare me for what was ahead. I chose the home stay option for my accommodations because I wanted to be in daily contact with someone who could help me with questions about the city, as well as help me with my Portuguese — I didn’t know any before I came to Brazil. I knew some Spanish, but I was not at all fluent. This was also by design. As someone who was going to be teaching a foreign language, I wanted to know what it felt like to be someone learning a foreign language. I stayed in a room in the home of a wonderful woman in the Laranjeiras section of the city. There was easy access to the subway both for going to school, as well as for heading to the beaches.

Many of my friends thought that I was going to be taking a one-month vacation in Brazil. I can assure you that the TEFL course was no vacation! I was in class 40 hours per week, and then I had homework and lesson planning to do in the evenings. Since my career background was not in teaching, there were many things to learn about the process of teaching. This was one of the critical aspects of this course. There is a method and there are techniques to learn in order to maximize the learning experience for your students. This is also where taking the class in person, as opposed to online, was very helpful. I was able to ask questions from experienced instructors as well as get immediate feedback from them as I began to teach.

But rest assured – I was still in Rio de Janeiro – and I was able to experience all the beautiful and unique things about the city. From lounging on Copacabana and Ipanema beaches to visiting Sugarloaf Mountain and one of the seven man-made wonders of the world, the Christ the Redeemer statue.

During my stay and my class, I began to think about where I wanted to teach afterwards. I knew that I definitely wanted to teach in Brazil. The people and the culture were something I wanted to continue to experience, and I was taking on the challenge of learning Portuguese. At the end of the course, the staff at Bridge helped us work on our resumes and gave us lists of schools in Rio that we could get in touch with to begin our teaching experience.

However, my research had turned up the city/island of Florianopolis (known as “Floripa” to the locals) as the place I wanted to begin my teaching experience. Google it…you’ll understand. Forty-two beaches. Not much else needed to be said. I went back to the USA and prepared to take the next step. As I was looking for a place to stay in Floripa on the AirBnB website, I met an American woman who was teaching English at a school there. She was going to be moving to Australia with her husband and she offered to introduce me to her boss. I arrived in Floripa on a Thursday. I met with the owner of the school on Monday afternoon, and I was teaching Monday night.

I use things I learned in the TEFL class every day as I teach, from the lesson planning experiences to the teaching skills. I couldn’t imagine trying to do this without the things I learned during that month in Rio. As I’ve been teaching, I learned more and more about how many people in Brazil want to learn English. From those who want to feel more confident when they travel to those who want a better job or even have plans to move to America, the desire is here. It’s awesome to be a part of helping people achieve their goals and dreams!

Looking to be a part of helping people achieve their goals and dreams? Follow in Shawn’s footsteps and check out our Teach in Brazil Program to get started.

Read about Jesse, who also taught English in Brazil!