When Bridge grad Brandon Callahan’s workplace in New York went out of business due to the pandemic, he saw a chance to make his plan of teaching English abroad happen and seized an EFL teaching opportunity in Prague, Czech Republic. He tells us how he shifted from the retail sector to the TEFL field and discusses his cultural experience working as an English teacher in his new city.
Hi, Brandon! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m from Rochester, New York, which is home to Kodak, the Garbage Plate, and Susan B. Anthony. In college, I studied psychology and Spanish language, literature, and civilization. Before shifting to teaching English, I worked in retail management.
How did you transition to English teaching?
I began my teaching journey when the coronavirus had just shut everything down in New York for the first time. My workplace shut down indefinitely and I was stuck at home with everything else being closed as well. I had been thinking of teaching for a while as a means of having more control over my work-life balance and not being tied down to my hometown forever. So, when the pandemic hit and I was inevitably told that my store would be closed for a while, I thought, “This is it. If I don’t make a move now, I won’t ever.”
Where have you taught English?
I tutored in the past through volunteer programs but never professionally until after I obtained my TEFL/TESOL certification in June. I began teaching in the fall of 2020 in Prague.
How did you choose the Czech Republic as a place to teach English?
I visited a friend for two weeks over the summer the year prior and absolutely loved it. It’s a country with so much culture and history.
What is Prague like?
It’s a beautiful, mid-sized city where you can explore the same spot a dozen times and feel like each time is a different experience. Petřín and Vitkov Hill are my favorite spots to visit because you get stunning views of Prague. The public transportation system is efficient and easy to navigate, so that helped me with adjusting to life abroad.
How is the EFL market and demand for English teachers in the Czech Republic?
It’s strong. There are constantly new advertisements for native English teachers needed in both traditional schools and in language schools.
How did you land your teaching job in Prague?
I went through the website Expats.cz and other platforms for open positions and found Elvis Language School to be in need of English teachers. I reached out to the coordinator at the school soon after and had an interview and went through a brief assessment. I was offered a contract within the next few days.
What’s the best thing about teaching in Prague?
Students are so motivated to learn here and curious about other cultures. It’s refreshing to teach people as passionate about learning as you are about teaching.
Can you tell us more about your teaching job?
Jazyková škola Elvis (Elvis Language School) provides classes to individuals and businesses at the school and also onsite at companies. My students consist of teens and adults taught in one-on-one lessons and in small groups, both in-person and online.
What are your favorite teaching strategies or activities for teaching Business English?
It’s probably “company rundown,” wherein I have students use brochures and other company materials to explain to me what their company does and how it accomplishes its goals.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
The COVID-19 crisis has made this cliché, but I picked up baking in my free time. I also like to go trail running. And there’s a beautiful nature reserve, Šárka, inside the city, which is great for a Sunday run or stroll, depending on how I’m feeling.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected you as an English teacher?
It’s been difficult at times because you have clients that don’t want to take online classes when the situation is too severe to have in-person classes. However, there have also been more people who want to take online classes. So, it balances out more or less. It’s made me become more comfortable with teaching online and, if anything, it’s made me more flexible.
How do you make your online English classes more engaging?
You took the 120-Hour Master Certificate course. Why did you decide to take this course?
I signed up for the course because most online teaching platforms required a TEFL/TESOL certificate that was based on at least 120 hours’ worth of instruction.
What are your plans for the next weeks or months as the world deals with the pandemic?
Continue to be flexible. I can plan for upcoming classes and continue to explore what’s open in Prague right now (we’re in a harsh lockdown), but I know I cannot count on anything to be certain.
Do you have any advice for English teachers who want to work in Prague?
Be open to new experiences! The country has so much to offer.