Explore More

Ruben, From Mexico, Teaching Business English

Ruben standing in front of a river in Mexico.

Continued growth through niche building has been the path that Bridge grad Ruben Castellanos, from Mexico, has taken for almost two decades now. Having started his career by teaching at an English school, he has since expanded to teaching Business English independently and specializing in pronunciation. He recounts how he has thrived in teaching Spanish-speaking professionals, his strategies for teaching phonetics, and his plans to develop courses targeting specific ESL markets.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Ruben?

I’m from Mexico City, and I’m 47 years old. I love computers, nature, hiking, and mountain biking!

What inspired you to become an English teacher?

The truth is that I became an English teacher because I couldn’t find a job at the time. I was looking for a job after I got my Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and I sent my CV to many companies, including an English school. After seven months of being unemployed, I finally received a phone call from the director of an English school to let me know that I had been selected to become an English teacher and to get ready for a one-month training. That’s how this adventure started!

Then, just a few days after I started officially teaching, I realized I wanted to continue teaching for the rest of my life. Discovering how I was able to have an impact on students’ lives was my point of inspiration.

New to TEFL? Explore Bridge’s Professional TEFL Certificates, including the 120-hour Bridge Master Certificate and the university-affiliated, 150-hour IDELTOnline™.

You’ve been teaching English for 17 years since then! Where have you taught?

After working at the first school for four and a half years, I started teaching at a private high school. However, I realized that it was not my cup of tea. I felt more comfortable working with adults. After that, a friend of mine who was teaching Business English independently in another city, told me that I had a chance in this niche. There were plenty of groups and classes, and it was good money! So, I left everything and I moved there. We taught English at tequila companies like Tequila Patron. When there were no more classes over there, I had to move to a different town, Monterrey, which is one of the major cities here in Mexico. I had the chance to start working for a company that offers Business English to other companies. I loved it and felt that everything was back on track!

Then, I started working for a Mexico City-based company remotely. They have some customers in companies like General Electric and PepsiCo. Unfortunately, they ended the contract and I moved to Carretero, where I am living right now.

At the time with that company, I was teaching classes at an insurance company, and I started teaching online classes as well. That’s when I started teaching online. After I finished teaching in person at the insurance company, I taught completely online. It was years before the pandemic started.

Learn how to teach English online from home (or anywhere).

Ruben started teaching English in a physical classroom before switching to a virtual one.

Where are you currently teaching?

I have two jobs here in Carretero. The first is at a private junior high school that is business and financial-focused. I teach a small group of teenagers. The rest of my students are my private online learners.

Should I teach online with a company or for myself? Get advice on your options for teaching English online.

What do you like best about teaching in your home country?

I love discovering talented people! Sometimes they don’t know exactly what they are capable of, and helping them realize the potential they have to become successful professionals is really great.

Even though my focus is to teach Spanish-speaking professionals around the world, most of my clients have been Mexican professionals.

I also love the atmosphere and freedom that I have here as well as the chance to visit different places! Although Mexico is kind of portrayed as having a lot of violence, a lot of people feel safe here in Mexico City.

Read about another Bridge alumni, Andrés, an online EFL trainer teaching in Mexico.

Ruben riding his bike in Mexico.
In his free time, Ruben loves going on bike rides.

You also run your own English teaching business. How did you start teaching independently?

I decided to start my own business after an “a-ha!” moment. When I was working at the first school, I found out how much money the schools make from one-on-one classes and how they pay teachers peanuts per hour. So I thought I could also start my own business and get paid directly.

Interested in teaching English online independently? Learn more about Teacherpreneur Academy, a step-by-step program that provides training, resources, monthly workshops and networking sessions, and more!

How do you find your private students?

They usually come from:

  • Word of mouth
  • Potential students who contact me after I post some offers on Facebook groups 
  • Clients who became my students after taking free group trial lessons
  • Referrals from other teachers

Read about strategies for finding ESL students from experienced independent English teachers.

Rubin on a hike.
Ruben also likes hiking when he’s not teaching.

You’re currently preparing to specialize in teaching English to human resource professionals.

I’m still in the research stage. I’m planning and gathering materials. I do have some ideas that I want to try, but I’d really like to focus on teaching human resources because I like working with people and being able to connect with them.

I also think that by getting HR professionals as clients, I have opportunities to get recommendations to train other individuals or teams in the companies they work at.

Read about tips for getting a job teaching adults English online or abroad.

What types of classes do you give?

I currently teach pronunciation, intonation, and fluency to native Spanish-speaking professionals. Next, I want to focus on HR professionals.

Part of my niche is also students who already have at least a B1 or B2 English level and need to practice their English skills to become more confident. Some of them also work for international companies or work with teams from different parts of the world and they are English speakers.

Learn more about the difference between fluency and accuracy in English language teaching.

How did you prepare yourself to switch to teaching Business English?

When I first became an English teacher at the school, we taught general English, and they have their very own system. Then, when I moved with my friend to this little town and I started teaching the tequila producers, that’s when we started teaching Business English. We were using kind of the same system we use at that private school but with adults. Then, when I was hired by the company offering Business English classes, I had access to Business English materials. It was easy for me to acquire that information and be able to teach it.

Learn about the increasing global demand for Business English as well as the ins and outs of this lucrative ELT niche.

What activities or materials do you use to help your students with pronunciation?

I use a website called toPhonetics.com. It’s very simple. You just type a word, and you can choose to hear its pronunciation in American or British English. Then, it gives you the phonetic symbols for the right pronunciation of the words.

I usually work with the symbols of the sounds that do not exist in the Spanish language because most of the sounds are very similar. We already have the sounds in Spanish, so I only include the ones that students have more trouble with.

Looking for ideas for teaching pronunciation? Read about ESL pronunciation games for teaching kids, teens, and adults.

Ruben resting on a rock during a bike ride.
Ruben also spends a lot of time biking when he’s not working.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I usually ride my bicycle. That’s what I love. For me, it’s an extension of my body. If I don’t go out of my house, I start feeling anxious. Most of the time, I’m inside the house, so I really need to go out to get some fresh air and exercise.

I also usually spend time with my girlfriend, walking the dogs, cooking, or watching movies.

Do you remember any rewarding moments you’ve had as an English teacher?

Once I had a student who used to struggle with his speaking and due to that, he couldn’t get through a successful interview in English to get a better job. He found the ad I posted on Facebook and contacted me. We worked together for around three months, improving his pronunciation, intonation, and fluency.

A month after we finished working together, he sent me a message to thank me because he was able to feel more confident during his job interviews in English. Later on, he texted me again to tell me that he had been hired! I felt very happy and excited for him because he missed so many chances and then finally, just because he joined the classes and followed what I told him to do, he was able to find the job he wanted!

Find out how to prepare your Business English students for career success and employability with 21st-century skills.

Although Ruben specializes in teaching adults, he’s also had a lot of experience teaching teenagers as well!

You took the Specialized Certification in Teaching Business English and the Micro-credentials in Teaching English Online to Groups and Teaching English Pronunciation. Why did you decide to take these courses?

Basically, it was because of my background. I already had experience being a Business English teacher, but I didn’t have any credentials or solid proof that I knew how to do this. I was looking for certifications for teaching Business English, but nobody offered this, or if I was able to find one, it was very expensive.

That’s also why I took the Micro-credential in Teaching English Pronunciation. I also really liked the information that was provided in the course, plus I thought it was affordable. In terms of money, the investment is worth it!

I mostly give one-on-one classes, but now one of my projects is to start working with small groups. That’s why I decided to take the Micro-credential in Teaching English Online to Groups.

How did these courses help you with your career?

Although I had learned and practiced English since I was very young, I started to better understand grammar. This helped me master grammar concepts and helped me teach them to others.

These courses also helped me understand the teaching theories and strategies I needed to complement my practice and experience. It was like going backward: I had the experience and the practice, but I didn’t have much theory or methodology training. So, the theories I learned from the course supported the intuitive teaching theories I had about which strategies worked for students.

The courses also helped me differentiate myself from other teachers. I know that sometimes credentials or certifications are not that important for some clients and they don’t ask for them. But if they do, I already have them. I’ve also already displayed these three credentials on my LinkedIn profile. It’s an accomplishment for me.

Read about how to use digital badges to get a TEFL/TESOL job.

Ruben taking a selfie on a bike ride.
Ruben likes to spend time outdoors as much as possible since he’s indoors teaching so much of the time.

How would you like to grow further as an English teacher?

My short-term goal is to find more clients. But for my medium and long-term goals, I want to have multiple passive income revenue streams so that I never have to rely on just teaching.

If I can leverage what I know to develop income in addition to earnings from teaching, that will be perfect.

Do you have any tips for teachers who want to teach English in Mexico?

First, be authentic. Be very honest because nowadays, people are probably more skeptical. You’ll find many opportunities, but some of them are not genuine.

Being honest also offers a big opportunity because, in a way, negative people go for the easy things and don’t invest. But if a teacher invests in himself or herself and is honest, people notice. People are more intelligent nowadays about opening their wallets to online services. In addition, providing quality classes is important.

Interested in learning more about teaching Business English? Learn about the Specialized Certification in Teaching Business English.

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.