GoAbroad Interview

Richard Davie - Founder & Director of Studies

Richard Davie is the founder of TEFL Iberia, one of the leading TEFL certification providers in the world, based in Barcelona, Spain. Currently the Director of Studies at TEFL Iberia, Richard founded the company after spending multiple years working as an English teacher in Barcelona.

You earned your degree in Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. What attracted you to the TEFL industry?

Between my third and fourth year in uni I spent the summer abroad, working in a hostel in Italy. I loved it and wanted to repeat the experience when I graduated, so I came to Barcelona. I spent six months working in a bar and fell in love with the city. I knew I wanted to stay long term, but I didn’t want to work in a bar, so becoming an English teacher seemed like a good career option to be able to live and work in Barcelona.

What inspired you to establish TEFL Iberia?

Richard Davie, TEFL Iberia Founder & Director of Studies

Typing away at my computer

Well I had been working for a variety of language schools as an English teacher for four years, some better than others. I had been working long term for a language school who launched their own TEFL course, but I didn’t like the way they did it. It was badly organised, unprofessional, and the whole time I was thinking, I could do a much better job of this - so I did! I spent my time working on the website, putting together a course, researching the premises, and then I had my first sign up and it all came together.

Why is Barcelona a great place for TEFL training?

Barcelona is like a mecca for TEFL training! It’s just such an amazing place to live. You have the beach, the mountains, the climate is beautiful, and the city is in a great location. Apart from those factors, Barcelona is very cosmopolitan and outward-looking. It’s a very international city and the level of English in general is quite low, so there’s a really high demand for English classes.

Richard Davie having a meeting with an employee

Meetings, meetings, meetings

How does your experience teaching in Barcelona help you support TEFL Iberia participants?

I was a TEFL teacher myself for four years. I had a lot of varied teaching experiences - teaching general English, business English, exam prep, teaching adults, teaching kids, doing summer camps, and in-company classes - and now I’m able to take it to the next level and pass that knowledge on.

What makes TEFL Iberia’s courses one of a kind?

We have a young, enthusiastic, professional team. We’re all very friendly and very dedicated. It’s not like a big company where it’s a bit faceless and people don’t feel valued - we’re a tight knit team. The people who work here have been involved for a long time and really care it, and I think that shows in the great experiences that TEFL trainees have at our school. Our school is also in a beautiful building. It’s very modern, with interactive classrooms and a Mac suite, lots of light - it’s a lovely place to study.

How do you support TEFL students as they transition to become TEFL teachers?

Richard Davie having a talk with a team member

Just an average day of work, meeting with team members

We have a career service which is very thorough. On the course there are two sessions. The first one gives you all the information you need to find work in Barcelona, along with some info international options too. We help students get set up with things like bank accounts, paperwork - all the things you need to start teaching in a new city. The second session is a one-to-one CV session, helping you to tailor your CV to TEFL teaching. Lots of people don’t think they have any experience, but you’d be amazed - there are so many things that can be adapted for a teaching CV, so we help you do that. Even after people have graduated, our door is always open, and we get graduates popping in to ask our advice job contracts, visa information, or going freelance.

Our students aren’t just doing the course - they’re becoming part of our community.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring ESL teachers?

Do the TEFL course in the city where you want to work. Doing a practical course in your chosen destination is the quickest and easiest way to start working as a teacher - you’re benefiting from immediate with the local market.

Richard Davie, TEFL Iberia Founder & Director of Studies

Enjoying the great outdoors at work

Where do you see the TEFL industry in 10 years?

That’s an interesting question. Lots of TEFL courses seem to be happening online, but I’m really not convinced by online TEFL courses. For me it would be like learning to drive without ever getting into a vehicle. You really need that practical experience, and if you shy away behind a screen you’re not going to do well in front of a classroom. That being said, it would be nice to go paperless - that’s definitely one of our goals over the next few years, and one of our next challenges will be designing resources and materials to fit that format.

How has TEFL Iberia evolved over the past four years? What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Well, it’s evolved from being a very small company - a one man show in fact. I was doing everything - I was the tutor, the receptionist, the cleaner, the course coordinator. And now it’s grown into a team, and I’m incredibly proud of the amazing team I’m working with now. I’m also really proud of our recent Trinity accreditation; it’s nice to have built up a course that is so good it has been externally validated by such a reputable organisation.

What is the most rewarding part your current role?

It’s really satisfying to see the change in our students, from their first day to their last day at TEFL Iberia. For example, learning a language is a very long process, but on our training course it feels like a big evolution in a short space of time. They have no idea on the first day, and one month later they’re proficient teachers.

Moving abroad is a big deal - I have such fond memories of my first years in Barcelona, and it’s very rewarding to be part of that important step in someone’s life.