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Rory Falls, From Canada, Teaching English Online to Brazilian Students

A side gig to his career in finance, running his own online ESL school has enabled Rory Falls, from Canada, to teach learners from Brazil. After connecting with Rory at the recent Language Summit event, we interviewed him to ask about building his online ESL student base in South America, specializing in teaching Business English, and how he upgrades his skills through professional development (scroll down to watch the video).

Hi, Rory! Can you share a bit about yourself?

My name is Rory, I’m 25, and I live in a city called Chilliwack. It’s in British Columbia, Canada, one hour and a half from Vancouver. I’ve lived in British Columbia for about 10 years now, and before that, I was in a different province, Alberta.

Can you tell us about your teaching job?

I’ve been teaching for just over two years now, and I created my own company. It’s called The Language Mountain. The idea behind that is that it’s not just about the view, it’s about the journey, so I help people kind of reach those new heights. With that, everything happened really naturally and organically. I first got on my schooling, done through Bridge, and I started networking through other applications. And my network actually really started to grow in South America. Now, two years in, my entire student base is out of Brazil — all of my students are Brazilian.

I do have another full-time job that pays the bills, but then as I started teaching more, I realized that I absolutely love it. So now, my entire student base is from Brazil. I have eight full-time students a week — on top of my full-time job. It keeps me busy, but I absolutely love it. The company is now advertised through them, and they’ll be like, “Hey, my friend recommended me to you.” Everything happened really naturally and congruently.

Rory’s flyer for his online English school

What is your full-time job?

I work in a manufacturing plant in the finance department. It’s a completely different, completely opposite side to everything, but that’s kind of allowed me to teach Business English from a different perspective because I understand the business side of things. I got my Business English specialization so that I could actually teach what I know with my own experience, which has helped a lot.

Find out how you can teach Business English, like Rory!

How do you market your online English classes?

  • Right now, one of my two main things is Instagram. It’s a great platform. Obviously, I have many followers that are Brazilian, for example, so I try to make posts that are in Portuguese or Spanish. Maybe people are not going to pay attention if it’s in full English, but if they’re like, “That teacher also speaks Portuguese or Spanish,” that can be a huge motivator for someone.
  • I have tried to utilize LinkedIn a lot more for Business English-centered classes to hopefully reach out to other companies in the future.
  • Through friends I have. I create marketing material myself and friends tell me, “Rory, let me know. I’ll send it to all of my friends that I know.” They post it on their own social media. So, it’s cool to have that friend support in other countries.

Get tips for finding online ESL students from other freelance English teachers.

The Instagram page of Rory's online English school
The Instagram page of Rory’s online English school

What do you like best about teaching English online?

Honestly, everything. The ease of it, to be able to just have a class and a conversation with my students who are in different time zones. South America is kind of my target demographic, so teaching online allows me to do that. I’m not limited to what’s happening in my city, for example. The city that I live in is very small and it’s not very diverse, so if I were to have in-person classes, it would be a lot more difficult. So, having it online allows for so many more opportunities, and I can help so many more people. What ultimately drives me to teach is that I can inspire and motivate and encourage my students wherever they are.

Here are more reasons to become an online English teacher.

Can you share a memorable experience teaching online?

For two years now, there are countless numbers of interesting conversations. I teach in a way that’s very relaxed. I’m not a very strict teacher because my philosophy is that English is fun and it shouldn’t be a chore to learn; it should be interesting. Students are like, “I have English class today!” So, that’s what I try to portray. Because of that, my students are really comfortable and have a really fun time with it.

I think something I’m really proud of is that I’ve helped one of my students who finished his Ph.D. and he mentioned me in his thesis. That was really cool. He sent me a screenshot as he was writing his thesis, and his acknowledgments included so many doctors and professors, and it was really cool to have me there and that genuine gratitude of getting a “Thank you. You really made the difference for me.” That was really cool to have.

Rory teaching English online
Rory teaching English online

What inspires you to teach English?

Being able to at least be that one person in a student’s life who can be encouraging and motivating for them. I always try to be their number one fan because everyone has so many things going on. I try to be their teacher but also a friend — someone they can really rely on with consistency. Life’s crazy nowadays, so if I can at least be that one piece of encouragement and say, “You got this. You’re doing great.” That really motivates me to help them because I see the difference.

I think as adults  — I only teach adults — people don’t get that anymore. It’s hard to say like, “You did a good job.” Unfortunately, that’s a lot rarer when you’re an adult, and especially when you’re learning something new. So, if I can provide that, it’s pretty cool.

Find out more about the differences between teaching English to adults vs. kids.

You took several Bridge TEFL/TESOL courses, including the Master Certificate, Teaching Business English, and a Micro-credential in Teaching IELTS Exam Prep. How did you choose these online TEFL certifications?

  • I started with the 120-Hour Master Certificate. I did my research for all of the different TEFL certification schools that were out there, and I landed on Bridge because it just really lined up with my philosophy on things, and it’s very user-friendly. When I started the 120-hour course, I thought it was laid out in a way that’s really easy to understand everything.
  • I finished that in January 2019 and not long after, I decided to take the 40-Hour Specialization in Business English course because, by then, I had had a couple of months of experience and I was ready to invest in myself again to further some specializations. Once I took the Business English course, I said, “Great. This helps align with my current experience and it’s another thing I can provide.” Business English is in huge demand all over the world, and after learning to teach it, I began helping mostly adults. A lot of friends say, “I need a job. I need interview preparation.” I love helping students prepare for interviews. It’s so fun.
  • After I got my Business English specialization, I decided to take the 20-Hour Specialization in Teaching IELTS. I still actually haven’t had any students who need to take that. It just hasn’t been something that has come up — my schedule has been full, and no one has needed to take IELTS prep — but I thought I would rather be prepared and be able to offer that, if needed, rather than saying to someone who wants to take this exam, “I can’t help you with that.” So, it was another thing that I just wanted to have in my tool belt to be able to offer if needed.

Check out these 10 tips to attract and retain students as a freelance online English teacher.

What’s next for you?

  • I want to keep challenging myself. There’s a good quote: “If you want to do more, be more. If you want to be more, do more.” That’s where I am.
  • I would love to be able to teach full-time — that’s the goal. Unfortunately, where I live is very expensive and I still have to pay some bills too, so I’m pushing myself. I’m self-marketing more, pushing my business, and putting myself out there, and I’m really proud of the progress that I’m making.
  • I do plan on going to Brazil and Chile later this year, as restrictions allow. The plan is for three weeks in both places, so that will allow me to really focus on finding new students and improve my Spanish and Portuguese as well, which allows me to communicate with those who have a basic level or no level of English. It’s hard to market when they don’t know or understand what you’re marketing. That’s something I’ve learned too. So, what’s next is everything. I don’t have a specific goal other than to push myself as far as I can to be able to help as many people as I can.

Watch the interview with Rory:

Thinking of moving to the virtual classroom so you can work from home? Check out this ultimate guide to teaching English online!

Back in her hometown in the Philippines, Krzl worked as a writer at a TV station before moving to Chile. After she completed her TESOL certification, she worked for language institutes and then decided to become an independent English teacher to business professionals. When she’s not giving classes, she’s either surfing along Chile’s long stretch of coastline, traveling, or practicing photography by the beach.