Sarah Adams

Sarah is a full-time CELTA trainer at Teaching House Boston. She is originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, but she also calls Vermont and southern China her second homes.

Sarah began teaching academic writing in 2008, but a few years later when she started working with international students, she came to Teaching House New York to earn her CELTA. After taking her CELTA, she moved to China, where she taught for three years at two different universities in Guangdong Province and also trained middle school English teachers in Shenyang, China. She returned to the US to pursue an MA in TESOL from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. She also holds an MA in English literature from the University of Delaware.

Sarah is passionate about studying Chinese language and culture, reading books with provoking ideas, trying new things, learning about learners and spending time with her family.

How did you get into teaching English?

I started teaching writing to American university students as a graduate teaching assistant in the English department at University of Delaware. At first I was only lukewarm about it, but when the university asked me to start working with non-native English speakers I was hooked! My first students were mostly Chinese and I was so fascinated by teaching them that I moved to China for three years to learn more about my students and their culture. 

Where have you traveled (both for teaching and for fun)?

I studied for a semester in the U.K. during college, but I was too nervous to do much international travel until I began working abroad. While living in China, I visited many of the major Chinese cities, and I’ve also spent time in Thailand, Cambodia, France and Iceland, but my favourite travel experience has been to the vibrant East African nation of Rwanda, where I spent a month visiting my boyfriend in Kigali. My future dream trips include going to Morocco, Senegal and Tibet!

When did you realize English teaching had become a career for you (not just a means of travel)?

By the end of my CELTA course at Teaching House New York I realized how much professional knowledge I had gained, and I felt empowered to get into my own classroom and start experimenting with my teaching. The connections I built with the students at my first teaching position in China also helped me to see how meaningful teaching could be -- I still keep in touch with them and they still remember some of the lessons I taught them, which even I have long forgotten!

How has travel changed you as a person?

My short-term travels have definitely helped me become a more adaptable and creative problem-solver, and to embrace the discomfort and beauty of cultural difference – but also travel has helped me to appreciate my own culture and family even more! When I first worked abroad, I was very interested in sight-seeing, but the longer I lived abroad I realized that for me, international travel is about building relationships with people and communities. I changed my focus to try to learn more and invest more in the local situation, which has forced me to become a better listener and much more humble!

What led you to become a CELTA teacher trainer?

My own experiences living abroad were so transformative that I hope everyone can have similarly rich experiences – However, I’m not sure I ever would have gotten up the courage to actually apply for jobs and go if it weren’t for my own CELTA trainers, who were so encouraging and inspiring. It was such an intense course, but as I learned about teaching and learning I saw so many connections to my past teaching and my own personal language learning that I felt like I grew as a person as much as I grew as a teacher. From teaching abroad, I’ve also met many foreign teachers who would have benefitted from the type of training I received with CELTA, so I am very happy to continue to share good teaching!

What advice would you give people looking to travel abroad for the first time?

First – just get out there and do it! Once you arrive at your destination you will wonder why you were ever nervous! Second – keep a flexible and respectful attitude, and frame your travels as learning experiences. Culture shock follows patterns, so experiencing everything from euphoria to frustration is normal, but be determined to learn from both the good and the bad. Make friends with “cultural insiders” who can help you get connected quickly. You will start to enjoy yourself more the deeper you understand the culture. However, be sure to balance it out by being extra gentle with yourself during transition times, and be intentional about doing things you find enjoyment in!