Teaching Traveling: Welcome to world traveler, teacher, and author, Donna Morang, who is here to prove that you can (and should!) travel at any age!
Take it away, Donna.
Donna: My background is a little bizarre due to my age: sixty-eight. I have had several professions and business adventures. Born and raised on a ranch in Montana, I was sort of a Tom-boy so many of my occupations were a little weird for a woman, but I loved them all.
I began a career as a hair-stylist, became a farmer/rancher, house painter, boat painter, carpenter, sheet-rocker, potter, glass artist, and then the owner/artist of a couple of art galleries.
I also bought a one-hundred-year old house and restored it. Drawing on my past skills I was able to do the work myself.
When my old house was restored and my art gallery was finally making a profit, my daughter sent me a magazine aptly named Transition Abroad. I took one look at it and knew I had found my life calling. This magazine changed my life.
It was filled with advertisements for ESL schools, and articles of teaching abroad. I immediately applied to an ESL school in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and was accepted. I closed my art gallery, rented my house, and left for Mexico, all done in six weeks.
This was in 2000, and I celebrated my fifty-seventh birthday the first week of class. I was definitely older than all the other students; in fact, I was older than all the teachers. I’m quite sure those students questioned what I was doing there, and I had a few doubts myself.
The second week of class, we were to use our newly learned teaching skills on real-live Mexican students. This group of fifty students was to choose their teacher. I was sure no one would want the older-lady instead of all the cute young girls, but shocking to me, many of these students chose me.
Later, when I knew my students better they told me, “You were older, so we knew you would be the best.”
I have found that in many countries, they highly honor older people, so this was never a problem or a concern after that one insecure feeling.
TT: Wonderful! What did you do after you earned your certification in teaching ESL?
D: As soon as graduation was completed, I caught a bus to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, simply because it sounded like a very cool place. There were only two ESL schools there, and I was lucky enough to secure a four-hour-a-day teaching job with one of them.
At that time, I been teaching for a month when the owner of the school asked me to open another school. I’m not sure who was crazier, him or me, but I did it… and what a lesson it was! I’m sure I learned more than the students. This school was in a pueblo, where I was the only non-Mexican in town, and yet after only one week, the entire town felt like my enlarged family.
TT: You started a language school in Mexico?! Wow! What did you do next, and what’s your secret to getting ESL teaching jobs?
D: Since those first crazy months in Mexico, I have continued to jump from country to country, and have usually been lucky finding wonderful teaching experiences. I have spent time researching teaching jobs on the inter-net and applying, with very little success. I think this may have been due to my age.
However, I have had great success just showing-up in a country with my resume in hand, going to various schools that the local people recommended, making an appointment, and successfully landing a job.
This in-hand resume has been successful in several Mexico schools, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Colombia. I did interview in Seattle, Washington for a job in Vietnam, and spent several years there, and loved every moment of this amazing experience.
TT: That is excellent advice to apply for these jobs in person. I’ve seen it work over and over, though many people don’t think it will! Tell us more about your job in Vietnam.
D: My students from Vietnam were young men working for Vietnam Airlines. They all needed to pass the SLEP exam to enter an aviation program in Seattle. With great success, we sent over one-hundred students to Seattle.
I have to say this was one of the best highlights of my teaching career. To see these boys, many who had never meet an English speaking person, become confident and well spoken young men able to pass the SLEP, was to me like receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
These young men became my family away from home, and today many of them still keep in contact with me.
TT: Excellent advice. Many people don’t realize how many jobs there are teaching English to airline employees. So, how has teaching and traveling changed you?
D: I know that teaching and traveling in other countries has changed the way I perceive everything.
I have never traveled to a country I didn’t grow to love and respect. I believe that each of us can change the views of the world.
We can befriend a culture that has no reason to welcome us with open arms, and come away with mutual respect and love.
Teaching ESL, you can change the world, one word at a time.
I feel so strongly about the benefits of traveling and teaching that I wrote a book about my experiences. Big Backpack—Little World can be found on Amazon.
I think this book will give any teacher or a person looking for a new direction in life, a valid look at what can happen.
This and more is possible for you, and if a woman at my age can do it and have that much fun, what are YOU waiting for?
TT: Thanks so much for this inspirational interview, Donna! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for Donna?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Teaching Traveling in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational cartoons. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!