Teaching English in Korea

Meet SIT alumna Lara Kurth 

TESOL Certificate
Assistant Professor, The Seoul National University of Science and Technology, Seoul, South Korea

Lara KurthI found the SIT TESOL certificate program when I was studying abroad in Barcelona for my undergraduate degree. There was an announcement posted in the study abroad office advertising to anyone interested in teaching and languages. At that point I knew I was interested in both, but I hadn’t decided my career path. Out of curiosity I decided to investigate.

I contacted the training site in the center of Barcelona, and they welcomed me to come and meet the trainers and even observe classes. I remember sitting in a class where beginner-level students were learning language to describe their family. When the teacher trainee began by showing a picture of her relatives, I saw how interested the students were to see her real family. Slowly, students asked about each member. Sister? Brother? Grandmother? After practicing language to explain relationships, the students drew pictures of their own family members and talked with their classmates about their own families. The genuine interest students had in the activity and the immediate real-life application of the material struck me as a language learner. Why hadn’t I learned Spanish this way? In just a few minutes, students were not only learning vocabulary, they were learning about each other’s lives. They were practicing, not with a textbook or alone at home, but in the moment, together. I saw meaningful, real interaction. Isn’t this what language learning is all about? It made so much sense.

Walking back to my apartment, I remember saying to myself, “That is what I want to do.” After graduating from my university in the USA, I worked as a tutor and substitute teacher in order to return to Barcelona and enroll in the certificate course. Learning reflective teaching practice, working closely with other teacher trainees, and learning ways of scaffolding and using realia all became foundations for my current teaching practice. Within months of completing the SIT TESOL certificate I accepted my first full-time teaching position, which was in Korea. Although being a novice teacher in a foreign country was a great challenge, the reflective practice and other skills I gained from the certificate course provided me with steady guidance. After these two years I knew I wanted to get my MA in TESOL at SIT. Eight years after completing the certificate course, I look at the experience as one of the most significant and best decisions I have ever made.