Selkirk College Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program alumna Suzanne Paquette recently returned from Central Mexico where she taught junior high school students English. Photo submitted

Selkirk College’s TESOL program an unforgettable experience

‘It was frightening as anything I’ve done, but it was incredible’

CASTLEGAR – In early January, Suzanne Paquette found herself standing nervously in front of a Grade 9 class of Spanish speaking students in Central Mexico. An alumna of Selkirk College’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program, the 54-year-old Christina Lake resident had to muster the courage to teach the first class at her new school.

“It was frightening as anything I’ve done, but it was incredible,” says Paquette. “The first few days I questioned my sanity, like why am I doing this at my age? My husband hadn’t joined me yet, so I was in a strange city, in a foreign country where I speak very little Spanish. This was a new field for me, so everything was anxiety-producing. But I knew it was the challenge that I wanted.”

The first day of her three-month practicum at Colegio Aranzazu in the city of San Luis Potosi was the product of what many people grapple with when they eclipse the magical age of 50. With 30 years’ worth of experience in the finance industry and both her kids old enough to fully spread their wings, it was time for a change.

“I love what I do and I still love it because I do contract work,” says Paquette, a chartered professional accountant. “But it was time to make a change and we wanted to do it while we still have our health. You have to do it while you still can and while you still have options.”

Two years ago, Paquette was working at Kootenay Savings when a colleague who taught English in China for nine years started telling her about his experiences. With a degree in Psychology from the University of Calgary earned right after high school and her certification in accounting acquired while working and raising children, Paquette’s thirst for learning is deeply embedded. Inspired by her colleague’s stories, Paquette turned to Selkirk College for the next chapter of her learning.

The Selkirk College TESOL Advanced Diploma Program is for those interested in teaching English as a second or foreign language either domestically or internationally. Classes are offered in one intense semester of study, during which time learners gain both theoretical and practical knowledge in teaching language. Upon completion, students are eligible for TESL Canada Professional Certification.

“It’s just an excellent program, I can’t say enough good about it,” says Paquette. “The instructors are amazing and the fact that Selkirk College itself has such a vibrant and strong international student population is hugely beneficial. You get to do your practicums and observation right in those classrooms.”

Paquette’s practicum in San Luis Potosi was arranged through her program advisors. The school she taught at is a private school run by a family whose two daughters attended Selkirk College 15 years ago. During her three months, she taught more than 170 students in Grade 7 to 9.

“I saw improvement in students over the three months, both in the stronger students and the ones who were having a harder time,” she says. “By the end of my time, students came up to me to thank me because their understanding and pronunciation had improved so much. For the selfish part of me, that was the experience and results that I wanted.”

Thanks in part to Paquette’s success at Colegio Aranzazu, Selkirk College has now signed a formal agreement with the school that will enable more TESOL Program grads to head to Central Mexico and will enable young students from that school to come to Selkirk College in future years. Several other opportunities for graduates exist, including a six-month paid internship in Japan with young children.

As for Paquette and her husband’s future plans, summers are for spending in the West Kootenay and Christina Lake will continue to be their home-base. During the winters they plan to travel and teach. A return to Mexico is not out of the question, but the couple also have their sights set on Southeast Asia.

Paquette knows there are many others in her same situation and she has now gained the experience to pass onto others who might be pondering a big change in their lives.

“It sounds so cliché, but just do it,” says Paquette, who arrived back to the West Kootenay in late-April, just in time to see her 23-year-old daughter graduate from the Selkirk College Health Care Assistant Program. “We had talked about it, but if you are serious about it then you have to sit down and make some plans. It took us a few years to absorb it and think about it, but we eventually got to the point where we were ready and made some concrete plans. I’m so glad we did.”

Learn more about the Selkirk College Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program at: selkirk.ca/tesol.

For more information contact: Darcy Falkenhagen Selkirk College TESOL Program Advisor 250-365-1401

Shana Rablah Selkirk College International School Chair 250-365-1395

Just Posted

ELECTION DAY: Here’s where to vote

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Grand Forks officials spar over flood recovery roles

Members of city council say they want to be more involved in the flood recovery team.

Rossland woman, 64, completes marathon bike ride across Asia

Brenda Trenholme completed the 13,000-kilometre trek last week

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Police say suspicious death of B.C. artist ruled a homicide

Patrick Zube Aylward’s body was found in a residence on a rural road outside of Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, B.C.

Temporary roads being built in areas affected by landslide in northern B.C.

Emergency Management BC news release says Disaster Financial Assistance is available to eligible residents of the Peace River Regional District who may have been affected by the landslides

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

Most Read