Back to School

Words and Photography by Pete Heck

Five years ago, after attaining my CMA designation (which has since been taken from me), I swore to Dalene that I was done with learning.


Yet here I am, enrolled to go back to school and learn how to become an English teacher.

Teaching English has always been in the back of my mind after discovering early in our travels that I really enjoy it. I taught English to Bolivian street children, at a library in Ecuador, and in Roatán I played substitute and also taught math to some local and expat kids. I believe it to truly be an excellent way to connect with people from around the world as well as provide a little help along the way.

Pete's Class in Roatán

So when LanguageCorps contacted us about partaking in their south east Asia program, I was excited. This would be an excellent opportunity for me to get my TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification so I could possibly teach English professionally. The certification is recognized world-wide and so if I decide that teaching is a path I want to follow (and, if we can ever decide to finally settle in one place!), having this certificate will certainly help.

Upon arrival I discovered that I’m in a different boat than most of the other students. For many, this is unquestionably their intended career. Some of the others are young enough to be my children and are fresh out of school – they have chosen to enrich their lives by seeing another part of the world and begin their path here.


So as I sit in class, I think that it’s funny how I swore off learning yet here I find myself again. Although this time it’s on the other side of the world, and doing something I truly enjoy instead of what just might get me a way bigger paycheck.

Pete in Class

Is learning something we can ever forever avoid? I doubt it. Truth be told this probably won’t be the last time either, except next time I might be the one standing at the front.

Back to School Photo

***Our trip to Cambodia and enrollment in the TESOL certification was courtesy of LanguageCorps. As always, all opinions expressed are our own. Click through for a full review of the LanguageCorps program.

17 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • November 18 2013

    I love the inclusion of Billy Madison, first off. As an ESL professional myself, I never expected to like teaching, let alone make it a career. I went from being an assistant teacher to running a language academy! Definitely a great way to compliment travel, and a fun job at that! Good luck!

    • Pete
      November 19 2013

      Wow, very cool Cat. I’m unsure when I’ll use the certificate, but I’m guessing at some point I will. I might give you a call when I do 🙂

  • November 18 2013

    So… did you spend a month doing a TESOL in Cambodia? Do you plan to teach here in Chiang Mai?

    In any case – you’re in for a treat!

    I took the CELTA in Ho Chi Minh 2 years ago and… have been teaching and LOVING it ever since.

    We have LOTS to talk about, Pedro!

    P.S. btw, it’s not at all just for youngsters – there’s LOTS of we old fogies teaching EFL. 😉
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Loy Krothong and the Yi Peng Lantern Festival

    • Pete
      November 19 2013

      Hi Dyanne,

      Yes I did spend a month in Cambodia, but no plans to teach in CM (although I would like to). I have to catch up on all the other work I’ve neglected for the month 🙂

      Definitely lots to talk about, we’re looking forward to meeting you FINALLY!!

  • November 18 2013

    I laughed out loud when I saw you included that clip from Billy Madison. Yup, I actually lolled. I think it’s awesome you got your TESOL certification and I’m interested to read the full review of LanguageCorps…
    Emma Holliday recently posted..I LOVED Sarajevo

    • Pete
      November 19 2013

      I love that clip, so happy I found it. Dalene and I were singing it for 2 weeks.

      The review will be up in the next couple weeks, keep your eyes out!

  • November 18 2013

    Hahah even before I scrolled down to the Billy Madison video the song was in my head!

    That’s awesome – what a great opportunity. I am taking TESOL classes online right now and loving it so far.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Organization Addicts Unite (GIVEAWAY…WOOHOO!)

    • Pete
      November 19 2013

      haha, Rika, awesome that the song was already in your head, a true Billy fan.

      Best of luck completing the course online. I wonder how much more/less intensive it is online versus in the classroom? Would love to hear your thoughts.

  • November 19 2013

    Why would you avoid learning? I think you mean studying/formalized classed. 🙂 Learning is like 75% of the fun of travel!

    Have fun getting your TESOL, it’ll be useful down the road! You could even do some remote English teaching, via Skype.
    Sally recently posted..Language Misadventures: How I Adopted and Unadopted a Dog Before 8am

    • Pete
      November 19 2013

      Hehe, 5 years ago after my CMA I was seriously done with learning. I wanted to shut my brain off as I was that exhausted. Of course that is impossible, especially like you say, living the life of travel. The amount of new things I learn each day is truly amazing.

      Thanks Sally, my TESOL should be useful down the road. I’ve never thought of Skype tutoring, thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  • Sam
    November 19 2013

    That’s funny that most of the people on your course are so much younger than you. When I did my TEFL course, there was a really big range of ages in my group. Glad to hear you’re enjoying yourself, Pete. Good luck!

  • Jacquie Pohorelic
    November 20 2013


    I don’t want to be all counselley when I say this but I suspect your “swearing off learning” was a passing phase, based on some negative emotion you hung onto and that hung on to you.

    One thing I have learned working in education in both a supporting role to learners and in a teacher role is that no learning is ever bad learning and that there is no age limit on learning.

    I have also recently watched my husband move into a teacher role the last few years and what an amazing journey that has been. My favorite was a comment from a student that went as follows:

    Student: “Don’t judge me chef!”
    Scott “Our entire relationship is pretty much based on me judging you”

    And while that sounds like a negative on both sides, it turned out to be an extremely positive experience for both student and teacher.

    Here is what I have to say to you personally. I feel that you may be on a path to a true calling. There is just this special “something” that you exude which I admire so much. You have a calm yet enthusiastic, accepting, humble, patient way about you. I think you will make an amazing teacher and I salute your decision to pass on your gifts to others. I can’t wait for your stories on what you get out of this (both the learning process and the actual teaching!). I am proud of you and thrilled for the minds that will get the opportunity to learn from you. xoxoxo

  • Mariella (Bridgekeeping Traveller)
    November 20 2013

    So cool! I’d love to take English classes with you 😉

  • November 21 2013

    I have heard so much good things if you are a teacher. Fulfilling and definitely would give you more time to know yourself when you do this. Teaching + traveling, would love to definitely try this when we end our RTW trip.

  • December 4 2013

    Well now you have your TEFL certificate you will be welcome in China where there are a zillion jobs and you get a free apartment and plane ticket thrown in too.
    Ruth SHEFFER recently posted..Culture Clash

  • Carmel
    December 6 2013

    I sang the same song from Billy Madison when I was leaving for my first day of cooking class.

    There is a big difference between learning something interesting and exciting to you than sitting in a classroom because someday it should help you earn more money (even if doing so will suck the soul right outta ya…)

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