Welcome back to our ESL Around the World interview series – the series for people thinking about moving abroad to teach English. This is meant to give you all the information you could possibly need about teaching English in a certain place. It’s brought to you from people who are speaking from experience. We’ve already covered Oman, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Thailand, and Cambodia. Today we’re going to hear all about what it’s like teaching English in Mexico!
Today’s interview is with Nicole Hendrix. She’s a 41-year-old professional pet sitter, social media manager, and English teacher. She has been living in Mexico for 10 years with about 4 years of that time spent teaching throughout the country in various locations and with multiple organizations.
She found teaching in Mexico to be the best way to see the country and become a student all over again as an adult. Once she discovered the need for in-home pet sitters, she stopped teaching. Becoming a pet sitter allowed her to be anywhere anytime, helping her realize her travel dreams. Thanks to online teaching and volunteering in the local English schools, she has been able to start teaching again while pet sitting.
Currently, she plans on staying in Mexico and continuing her pet sitting business while focusing more on teaching to provide a stable income. Having the freedom to choose where to live and when to work is all thanks to teaching online.
Now that you’ve gotten to know Nicole a bit, let’s get on with the interview!
Teaching English in Mexico
Where did you teach and what was your position?
I taught in Sahuayo, Michoacan, Mexico. I was one of three English teachers in the English school. I taught there in 2009-2010.
What were the hours and pay like?
I worked 40 hours a week. My housing was covered and I got a small stipend as pay.
What was a typical day like?
I worked Monday to Friday from 9am – 1pm and 4pm – 8pm.
I taught English from the books provided by the school to small children from 6 years up to teenagers and adults.
What were the pros and cons?
Pros: I loved my location as I was able to travel to so many places around the area on weekends. For long weekends I could travel to the beach and enjoy a sunny holiday. I loved being in a completely Spanish speaking town. Being the student of a completely new language and culture for me helped me be a better teacher to my students.
Cons: It was a small town where everyone knew everyone’s business so foreigners stood out which was both good and challenging. I have friends now after 9 years ago from teaching there, both students and teachers.
It was difficult being in housing that was part of the actual school. You felt like you never left work. But it was comfortable and safe. It was shared housing for all the teachers. It was nice having others around but also difficult to be with each other all the time in the same place.
What do you need to teach in Mexico?
My experience has been with Oxford Seminars. They provided me the contact to the school so I could apply through their organization. That was helpful because it was a unique location off the grid that was connected to Oxford Seminars. There wasn’t a work visa at the time for teachers.
An exchange program example was used for providing housing in exchange for classes. After 6 months our contract was done so we had to leave Mexico on our 6-month tourist visa and could return the next semester for the following 6 months without document issues.
I have my Bachelor’s degree and with my Oxford Seminars’ certification, I was able to be accepted as a full-time teacher.
What’s the best way to find a teaching job in Mexico?
Teaching in Mexico is everywhere in the country but it’s best to go through some accredited certification and use their resources. Then you know that you are working within the legal requirements of Mexico. The laws have changed greatly over the past 10 years and it’s best to follow the law so you have a future in teaching anywhere.
Why did you choose to live and teach in Mexico? What do you like and dislike about it?
I chose Mexico because I wanted to learn how to speak Spanish. I signed up for 3 weeks of Spanish Immersion classes in Playa del Carmen and fell in love with the people, the lifestyle, the music and the freedom to enjoy life without so many “things.”
I loved how I could travel everywhere, eat well and feel safe without having to spend lots of money. I found learning Spanish to be part of daily life with or without classes. Most people wanted to help and were thankful for me trying.
I find it hard being alone as a woman sometimes, not for my safety but for the judgment about my lifestyle as a single woman, no children and choosing to live a gypsy life. It’s a very traditional country in many emotional ways and if you’re mixing into the culture the differences can be surprising.
I love how close I am to my family in California. Flights are quite economical and there are so many options. I love how easy it is to travel within Mexico by all kinds of transportation and on all budgets. I don’t like the politics of many issues here but I don’t care for my own in my country either. It’s the nature of seeing the differences and noticing them as a visitor.
What was the cost of living like compared to your earnings? Were you able to save money?
I was only making enough to really live frugally. I couldn’t save any money and plane tickets were at my expense. But you can live well off of a little depending on your location and comforts needs.
Have you taught in another city or country before?
I taught in Guadalajara and the comparison of a small ranch town like Sahuayo to the big city was startling. Great changes in types of people and activities and educational levels and broader spectrums of worldviews.
I enjoyed both locations. But ultimately I enjoyed the experience of teaching somewhere so different from my life. Guadalajara was too similar to “home” in LA and that made commuting and population and pollution less tolerable. “Different” felt thrilling and part of the experience of living in a foreign country.
What advice do you have for people considering moving abroad to teach English?
Moving abroad to teach English was the very best decision in my life. I am still involved in teaching after 10 years and will always love the opportunity to help others learn as well as learning more myself.
You become two people, your world expands and you appreciate so much in a new way that feels rewarding. You are thankful to be included and your work as a teacher is filled with so much gratitude. Both you and your students are changing lives with every word. That’s powerful and exciting and it’s the magic of teaching outside of your own country.
Teaching English in rural Mexico sounds like quite an enriching experience! If you love tacos, tequila, and nice weather, this could be the perfect fit for you.
We absolutely love Mexico. In fact, we love it so much we’re heading back to Puerto Vallarta for 6 months after this South American adventure and we couldn’t be more excited! The tacos are delicious and cheap, the scenery is incredible, and the people are friendly. Mexico City is full of fascinating culture, street art, and history and despite what the news may tell you, it’s quite safe for foreigners.
Although it may not be necessary for some teaching jobs in Mexico, it’s a great idea to get an English teaching certification such as a TEFL certificate. If you don’t have any teaching experience, you’ll learn essential skills such as classroom management, how to teach complicated grammar and phonics, plus how to be entertaining while teaching. Even if you’re already an experienced teacher, getting a certification will make you more competitive in job searches and give you a nice refresher on ESL teaching skills.
We got our TEFL certificates with BridgeTEFL and would highly recommend them. They provide a stellar course and will pair you with an online mentor to grade your assignments and help you as you progress. If you’re new to all of this and have no idea what a TEFL certificate is, we have an article about the different types of teaching certifications. Click the button below to learn more!
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Stay tuned for the next interview in our ESL Around the World Series!
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