Heather Suffron

Heather grew up in a lot of “M” states – Michigan, Maine, and Minnesota.  She liked Maine so much that she returned there to attend Bowdoin College and studied in Vienna, Austria her junior year.  While there, she taught English classes to 1st and 3rd form grammar school students, tutored private English lessons, and traveled throughout Europe.

After graduation, she moved to Kansas City, Missouri (another M state) where she worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters and organized community projects as a member of AmeriCorps before returning to Michigan for graduate school in environmental studies.  After environmental advocacy work in St Louis, she moved back to Michigan, where she ran the office for a busy D.O., and after her grandparents passed away, she quit her job (with plenty of notice), packed her chapstick and hiking boots, and participated in volunteer projects in five different countries.  Upon returning to the States, she established her own pet care business. 

Although she loved her clients and their pets, she grew restless for a new challenge.  Her interest in travel and education, as well as her desire to make a positive difference in the world, led her to seek out CELTA certification, which she took in spring 2017 in Chicago.  Some family health concerns made her hesitant to go overseas, so when the administrator position became available, it seemed like the perfect fit – a great way to stay involved in the ESL world, help other people pursue their CELTA, and remain fairly close to home in a city she had grown to enjoy! 

Heather likes to read, write, ski, bike, hike, try new recipes with friends and family, volunteer with multiple organizations – and explore new places!

 

What motivated you to want to work for Teaching House?

I had a positive experience during my time at TH Chicago.  I was fortunate to have a great group of fellow course-mates and excellent tutors.  I also really liked the city.  The LCA position utilizes my certification, albeit in a different way, and it allows me to remain involved in a field that I think is very important with an organization that provides superior TESOL training.

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

I’ve traveled through most of western and eastern Europe (around 15 countries), spending considerable time in Austria and England.  When I went on my one-woman volunteer adventure, I traveled to England, Scotland, Canada, Costa Rica, and Ecuador (Galapagos Islands).

What do you enjoy about your job helping prospective CELTA trainees?

I enjoy meeting new people and learning their stories.  Each person that comes though our door has a unique perspective and a reason for being here.  Life is fascinating with all of its twists and turns, and I enjoy connecting with the candidates and sharing in a part of their journey. 

Having been through the course, myself, I can also relate to what the candidates are going through – the stress and the intensity, as well as the relief and sense of accomplishment!

How has travel changed you as a person?

Oh gosh…. I once saw a quote: “You can learn more about a road by traveling it than by consulting all the maps in the world.”  I’m not sure if it’s been attributed to anyone, but it’s such a true statement.  Travel is so important – and such a gift.  It helps open our minds and hearts to new people, places, and ways of life, and it introduces us (as informal ambassadors) to those same people, as well.  You see places and do things that you’ve only ever read about or seen on TV.  You meet people you would never have met any other way.

The world can be scary, and there are certainly factions that try to separate and divide us from each other.  Travel is, perhaps, one of the best ways of combatting that.  Just sharing a moment of laughter with someone from a different part of the planet can build a bridge.

Being outside of your normal environment/comfort zone challenges you, and while I learned a great deal about other parts of the world, I also learned an awful lot about myself – what I’m capable of and what is really important to me. 

Travel has made me more aware (of the good, as well as some areas for improvement) of other cultures, other people, and other places, as well as my own culture and myself.

English, as the international language that it is, also helps build critical bridges among people in every corner of the world.

What do you enjoy about working with and helping ESL students who come to take free classes with Teaching House?

Our TP students are the best!  Similar to the CELTA candidates, the TP students each bring new and amazing stories with them – why they’re here, where they’re from, what motivates them, where they’re heading.  They are kind and diligent and loads of fun.  Many of them strike up friendships with other TP students and/or CELTA trainees that continue beyond their time in our classrooms. 

It is also a joy to see them progress and improve their English during their time with us at TH.

What advice would you give to people looking to travel the world teaching English if they’ve never traveled abroad before (and might be feeling a little nervous about making the leap)?

Do it!  There is nothing like exploring the world for a bit of adventure.  And teaching English while doing so offers the added benefit of giving something meaningful back to the community.  It can be scary, for sure, but isn’t it worth taking that leap…. ?