Karla Leal Castañeda

Karla is a full-time teacher and teacher trainer at Teaching House London. She has a BA in English and Translation which she obtained in Mexico, where she is originally from. After moving to London, she did a CELTA and a DELTA at Oxford House College, and a MA in English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics at King’s College London.

She moved to London shortly after finishing her first degree to work as a Spanish teaching assistant at a secondary school in Tower Hamlets and never imagined she was going to end up teaching English in the UK. She originally planned to live in London for a year but soon became aware of the never-ending opportunities that London has to offer.

She spends her weekends exploring London and its peculiarities. She also spends a lot of time trying to (often unsuccessfully) replicate international dishes she has tried either while travelling or which her former London-based friends cooked for her. Other granny hobbies of hers include baking and making jam.

How did you get into teaching English?
I first started teaching when I was still at university in Mexico doing one-to-ones. Shortly after I graduated, I worked at a bilingual nursery and a primary school for about a year and absolutely hated every minute of it. At that time, this experience reinforced my belief of becoming an interpreter and staying away from the classroom. However, once I started teaching adults my perspective somewhat changed and I started to find teaching enjoyable and quite rewarding.

Where have you travelled (both for teaching and for fun)?
Teaching-wise I have only taught in Mexico and in the UK. Most of the travelling I’ve done is for fun and out of interest in the culture, food and people. Some interesting places I have visited include Australia, Vietnam, Spain, Italy, Hong Kong, Australia, France, the USA and Mexico of course.

When did you realize English teaching had become a career for you (not just a means of travel)?
When I came to London I had the intention of finding the best university to do an MA in translation and also take a few courses on interpreting. Life got on its way and for one reason or another, I was never able to start that MA. Even though I had taught English before, I was quite reluctant to become a teacher and really wanted to pursue either the translation or interpreting path. One day, I decided to do a CELTA because I found out that it was an internationally recognised teaching qualification and thought that this would open new doors for me. Little did I know that I was about to meet two amazing trainers who were extremely passionate about teaching, and completely made me change my mind about my career choice.

How has travel changed you as a person?
I truly believe that travelling is a huge learning experience. I love taking long holidays and enjoy the simple things about travelling as opposed to making it about expensive hotels and touristy places. Since my everyday life involves interacting with students and trainees from different countries, I believe travelling has made me far more aware of their behaviours and needs. Firsthand experiences will always be better than word-of-mouth ones.

What led you to become a CELTA teacher trainer?
When I did my CELTA, I saw teaching in a way that I had never seen it before. Even though I had a degree in teaching, I was never given guidance on how to teach. I had been in front of a classroom for quite a few years with no one ever telling me whether what I was doing was right or wrong.

Even though the course was a highly stressful and an emotional roller-coaster, I leant an overwhelming number of things during that mad month. My trainers’ hard work and commitment to make me a better teacher stirred my desire of being in their shoes.

What advice would you give people looking to travel abroad for the first time?
Go for it! Make sure you do your research and be fully aware of the challenges and cultural differences that you will encounter. Enjoy the experience to the fullest and be prepared to have – and leave behind – wonderful friends scattered all over the world.