Meet the Staff: Neal Evans (ELTS & Applied Linguistics)

Neal Evans currently works in both the Applied Linguistics department and English Language Training Services and teaches on the TEFL/TESOL strand embedded in our degree programmes. He is also a CELTA trainer.

I am lucky enough to share an office with Neal and so he couldn’t escape my blogging clutches when I asked him for an interview! So he kindly took some time out to tell me a little about himself, his work, the CELTA and TEFL/TESOL courses, and what he enjoys most about teaching at Swansea.

What’s your current role at Swansea University? 

My roles are ever-changing in response to demands of my department (ELTS English Language Training Department). My primary role is as a CELTA trainer and I usually train on two part-time courses per year. I return to EAP teaching in the summer for the intensive pre-sessional course and have recently squeezed in a bespoke pre-sessional for MA students on Sports Ethics and Integrity. Previously within the university, I have taught English for specific purposes to  Japanese managers at Toyoda in Gorseinon, UG Engineers (Oil and Gas) sponsored by SABIC, Saudi Arabia, a group of Iraqi security staff, Chinese lecturers and mixed nationality, health professionals.

What modules do you teach?

I support the TEFL/TESOL strand of the department’s programmes and devised  the undergraduate third year module  ‘Issues in Current ELT’ (ALE 308). I also train on the CELTA in both teaching blocks which are open to  second year students.  I also support third year undergraduate dissertations based around teaching and learning topics such as teacher identify, current methodology and best practice, and the CELTA as an initial teacher training qualification.

Have you always been a teacher?

No, I originally studied Environmental Science and Fish Biology and worked as trout farmer in Ireland, done oyster hatchery work in North Wales for MAFF and monitored the sad decline in the Mesoamerican Reef off the Mexican coast at the behest of LNGOs. I’m also a certified PADI Divemaster and, in a former life, was a licenced publican in London’s West End, Bristol and Brighton!

So you know how to pour a pint – useful! You’ve had a varied career then. Why did you get into teaching?

Teaching, in whatever form, has emerged as a career and a passion. I initially taught science in Bristol, Jersey and Brighton and then managed KS 3 provision at the Alternative Centre for Education supporting pupils with a range of emotional and behavioural difficulties.

So where are some of the interesting places you’ve taught? 

In the field of ELT, I worked in Colombia, Mexico, The Maldives, Thailand and Cambodia before returning to the UK and gaining a MA in TEFL. For the last eight years I’ve been employed by the English Language Training Service at Swansea University. As a staff member, I instigated community ELT programmes and teaching training courses in Mexico, Thailand and Cambodia. I am a trainer on the Cambridge ESOL CELTA programme at Swansea University,  having originally helped develop the embedded courses.

What’s your proudest moment as a teacher?

There are many and they do keep me warm at night. I still remember moments with students from as far back as my first teaching job. I feel my proudest to be the most recent because it is too easy to rest on laurels and indeed what may be false feedback. Last week I sat and listening to 6 newly qualified CELTA graduates talk about what they had learnt on the course. They were a diverse group brought together by a shared goal and forged somewhat by the stresses of the course and I felt proud of the part I had played in opening their door to teaching.

A lot of people get confused with this. What exactly is the difference between CELTA and TEFL/TESOL?

TEFL and TESOL are rather interchangeable, although TEFL refers to teaching English where it is a foreign language, and this usually implies a non-native speaking country. TESOL refers to teaching in a native speaking country surrounded by the target language. This is confused by the American usage which is TESOL in all contexts. A CELTA implies the standard, universally recognised entry qualification for the profession, which is accredited through Cambridge ESOL. A CELTA is a tefl or TESOL but just about the only one which guarantees you employment throughout the world.

What do you think is the benefit of doing CELTA?

The CELTA pushes you to look at yourself, your personal motivation and awareness of your behaviour and abilities. It is a journey of self-exploration. You know at the end more of your capacities and whether you want to teach. It results in so very many transferable skills that you will use in most careers. It allows you to immediately enter a classroom and teach and a professional (possibly in Ho Chi Minh City). It allows you to command a salary of £20 per hour in this country. It teaches you the skills and techniques to survive and thrive during a year abroad when you learn about the language you speak.

CELTA is real. It accesses the professional world that exists outside of university. It can really  be a passport to more than a living somewhere new in that you can be someone new. The students doing this course will learn if they want to be a teacher or not. What is really important is that they learn about themesleves and what their motivations are or are not.

What is the most important thing for you to see happen in the classroom, as a teacher?

The growth of self esteem, definitely.

What is a successful teacher?

Someone who cares and keeps coming in the next day to start anew.

What are your hobbies?

Well, as well as diving, I started and run the inclusive and community-based Swansea University Veteran Footballer project. I also love tennis and cycling.

What’s your favourite word and why?

Caraluna: Colombia and Mexico en mi corazon, which means ‘Kindness: to aspire to’

What do you love about language and what it can do?

I love expressing ideas and language allows you to do this! I’m less of a language lover and more of an ideas lover!!

 Do you speak any other languages?

Un poco de espanol!