Notes from the Field: Meet Graduate Jennifer Hamblen


Hello faithful readers! You may have been reading my blogs but wonder, what does this girl do? Everything! My role at Bridge involves all the aspects of all of our TEFL certification courses. I handle the enrollments for and coordinate all of our on-site students heading all over the world for IDELTCELTA and TEFL programs. I am also the unofficial supervisor of – supporting online trainees with technical support, certificates, and any problems or concerns they have.

One of the perks of this position is that I get to glance through all of our feedback letters from students who have completed their courses. I must say, not to toot our own horn, I am quite pleased with them and we are happy we have helped so many to pursue their dreams of teaching English abroad!

So what about you? What are some things you might like to know about Bridge’s online TEFL courses and teaching afterwards? Sure, I could tell you lots of things that I’ve learned over the years, but I have an even better idea: why don’t I let one of our graduates tell you?

Meet Jennifer Hamblen, a graduate of our 120-Hour TEFL Online Master Diploma course. She might be able to give you some better, and perhaps even more reliable, insight!

What drew you to teaching English? Had you taught before taking the TEFL course? What is your original background in?

Two months before I was planning to move to Russia, it dawned on me that I had no “universally transferable” skills. I’d spent my life in retail management or online retail. Yes, Russia definitely has retail stores but I speak terrible Russian so that would never work. How could I pump up my crew or take care of customers if I can’t create a more complicated sentence than “I don’t like when I fall”?

That’s when it dawned on me. Language. It’s so important. I worked with many Russians when I worked for an online retailer and had assisted them with their English. I had absolutely no teaching experience but I had mentored quite a few coworkers. I was hoping this would be enough. It was!

I love the English language and am excited about sharing it. In hindsight, this choice seems only obvious. I now have a job I’m deeply in love with and feel is important.

Where were you hoping to work as an English teacher?

For me, it was always Russia. I had taken private Russian language lessons in San Francisco so I knew how not to teach a student. I didn’t learn a thing after a year! And I was a very eager student. So small failures can lead to ultimate success.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that you have encountered?

I’ve heard from some that it’s difficult to establish yourself if you’re over 40. I began at 45 and haven’t had that problem. Russian job classifieds often state “Only people from 22 to 30,” so I was apprehensive but, being a native English speaker, I fulfill a niche that only a few can. Age didn’t matter for me.

The biggest challenge was just getting started. Who am I to think I can teach after I complete an online course? I had my doubts. The very first school I called (the most prestigious in Saint Petersburg—hey, why not start at the top?), hired me. I began teaching the next day.

I was terrified. I’m a shy person and don’t speak much as a rule. But here are my eager students, wanting to learn from a native speaker… I just did it. I had fun with it. I learned from the first dozen or so lessons and grew. It’s a wonderful experience. I cannot recommend it enough. You’ll never be the same.

What type of teacher do you aspire to be? Have you ever had a teacher that really influenced you in a positive way?

I had two phenomenal teachers in high school that I always try to emulate.

First, Mr. Williams, who taught American history in a very visceral way. He was extremely animated and demonstrative and you could not forget a thing he said because the visual of him was stuck in your brain. I try to do this when my students ask me what a word means. I don’t just give a dry definition (if I can help it); I get up and act it out.

Second, Mrs. Thiebert, who taught English in a way that rewarded original thought more than rote memorization. She wanted to know your opinion on what you’d read. I use this style a lot with my students. It shows me that they not only understand but can formulate their thoughts in English.

Who would be your ideal student? Old, young? Business professional, immigrant?

My ideal student is anyone who really wants to learn. I’ve taught 40-year old housewives who want to brush up on their English, students under IELTS deadlines, young professionals only studying English because their job requires it, and a seven year old about to move to America. They’re all absolutely delightful in their own ways. I adore my students and I think it’s reciprocal.

This post was written by Kaye McDaniel.