Why and How to Get ESL Teaching Jobs Abroad as an Older Woman

Donna making friends with kids during teaching and travel in Nicaragua.
Donna making friends with kids during teaching and travel in Nicaragua.

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.

Donna, happily fishing in Thailand.
Donna, happily fishing in Thailand.

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.

With ladies at the bustling market of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
With ladies at the bustling market of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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.

Triumphantly holding a lobster in Thailand.
Triumphantly holding a massive lobster in Thailand.

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?

Donna saw this giant Buddha in Thailand. Where will YOU go?
Donna saw this giant Buddha in Thailand. Where will YOU go?

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?

100 thoughts on “Why and How to Get ESL Teaching Jobs Abroad as an Older Woman”

  1. Hello all! I feel I am esteemed company here. I am humbly asking for any advice you can offer to me. I am an experienced teacher (music education) since 1990, through my own private music studio and then beginning in 2007 in private and public schools as a certified teacher. After surviving brain cancer in 2017, I embarked on a new journey to teach English to refugees in a Resettlement Program- as a volunteer. This led me to ask around to local public school districts and I was able to substitute for them in their ESL programs for adults. I have since completed the Trinity certTTESOL and it was a life changing experience. I was hooked. More recently I have been sending out resumes to Asian and Latin American countries. I am getting very few bites, to the point that I’m wondering if it may not be possible for me. I’m so disheartened and discouraged. I bring so much creativity, passion, devotion to students which I’ve proven time and again in my experience teaching students of all ages. I am not in a position to fly all over the world to each country and figure out where to go with my boots on the ground. Please offer me insight. What am I doing wrong? I am 52 years old but young looking, lots of energy and an attractive face. I’d like to think it’s not all about that. Seems that maybe experience is working against me. Thanks so much for any advice you can share with me. Namaste, Jane

  2. Hi Donna! Your book arrived today. It’s burning a hole in the bedside table. I’m 55, laid off from book publishing career recently, kids grown, parent care organized, and ready for a new path, new place. Finally. I’ve an honors degree, post-graduate certificate in publishing, and years of management experience, including teaching copy editing and project management in various locations in India. I’d love to go back to Thailand (spent 3 months there in my twenties) but am put off by ageist comments on blogs. Vietnam sounds wonderful. Would you recommend a place I should go to get TEFL certification? Your experience in Mexico sounded attractive (if a little scary!). I was raised and educated in Dublin, Ireland, so have dual citizenship, if that helps.

    • Hi Maura, It sounds like you have had a great life and should fit in nicely teaching ESL. I have been gone from Vietnam for quite awhile so I’m not sure I can be of much help, but when I was in HCMC there was a very good TEFL program and also in Hanoi. I think anywhere you receive a certificate you will be good to go. I do not recommend an online course as it may not be accepted by every school. I wish you good luck and a great experience. Oh, about age, it does present a problem for some but I always did a personal interview instead of sending applications that way they knew what they would be getting. You will read about what one of my students thought one the first day–and then later. Age, just think young.

  3. It is good to read all of the positive comments. After planning a trip of a lifetime (for me) to China in 2014. I decided I needed a change and I decided to teach Chinese abroad to spend more time in China learning about the culture, people, and language. So, at the age of 56, I quit my job as an Educational Technologist with a Master’s in Education. Signed up for 120 hour TESL class and away I went.

    I did encounter ageism in China because there is lots of pressure on Chinese schools to maintain “Face” so they prefer white, younger teachers. But, I persisted and ended up teaching for several private schools and training centers in Zhuhai, China.

    I found the kids to be lovely. The younger ones were so enthusiastic, middle school great, teenagers challenging haha. I was flexible, hard working, never miss any classes due to illness *so important*.

    Unfortunately, I believe things are changing recently. More restrictions, changing cultural norms, etc. and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. For example, shifting demands, indicate that younger, american certified teacher receive the best opportunities.

    Also, I was unlucky as several schools I chose were dishonest and this presented some problems as they attempted to exploit me.

    Discouraged. I decided to return home for 6 months to re-group. While I love China and the people I met. I find it difficult to return because I will be 60 soon. The corruption crackdown, the new visa process (points system), makes working past the mandatory China retirement age of 60 less of a possibility. Schools hiring people 60 and over are technically breaking the rules.

    Now, I feel that my enthusiasm is returning. I am inspired to write more about my experiences there and share with others what I’ve learned. Also, I think I’d like to explore other cultures and countries. I am hopeful after learning about others success in Vietnam or possibly Latin America.

    Finally, I may reach out to the school where I earned my TESL certificate and ask for recommendations.

    I think many of us are kindred spirits here, open to life, adventure, growth, etc.. I am not ready for retirement. I feel like I have a second career of 30 years ahead of me and I want to make it matter!!

  4. Age discrimination is a huge issue. I was forced into early retirement from my career. I am now loving travelling and teaching English. But age is still a huge issue. The first question you get asked is your age and they want a copy of your passport so they can also age discriminate. So whilst I am not ageist and not interested in such conversations as I believe I should be judged on my ability age is constantly thrown in my face. Asia is hugely ageist. The misconception being they value age. Not true 1. they look at your face not your CV and skills I’m frequently told I’m beautiful. Kind of insulting considering the swathe of degrees I hold 2. they age discriminate and over 40 its difficult to get a fair go. Truth. Have been living and working in China 3 years and know most of South East Asia. Korea and Japan even more ageist.

  5. Hi Donna

    I started teaching English in Turkey at the age of 52 years old. I stayed there for 6 years and am now in Spain. In Turkey age is respected and even now I can easily get a job there but the current political climate makes it not a choice place to be.
    Here in Spain I have realised that they do prefer the young teachers and it is getting harder to find work.
    I’m almost 60 now and know that my chances here in Spain are getting slimmer. But reading your story I might look at Central and South America. At least I have a bit of Spanish now.
    Great interview Donna and I wish you all the best.

    • Matilda, are you British? Just curious as to how you got into Spain…

      They’ve always preferred young teachers, but these days they might also be making an extra effort on their behalf. Unemployment is hitting the young there, it seems, more than older folks.

      Wishing you well either there or in Latin America. :-)

      • Hi Ana
        I have duel nationalities British and Australian. There is a big demand for English here in Spain but most academies cater to young children. And so younger teachers are preferred.
        Also there is the Auxilliare Program for young graduates from USA which places them in schools as teachers assistants. There are still jobs for us more mature teachers, just harder to find.
        Yes I might seek out an adventure in Sth America next. Thank you

  6. Hi all! Just checking to see what Donna’s up to. I hope she continues to share her world with us. Btw, I apologize for my looong responses before… uncalled for. Just trying to help, but we can do that with far fewer words on someone else’s site. I hope we hear from Donna soon!

    • Hi, Ana and all you wonderful followers of Teaching and Traveling. After teaching around the world. or at least quite a few countries. I have found a home in Mexico and my life as a teacher has ended other than helping friends learn a bit of English. I have more or less become a beach bum and author.Life is good, and yet there are times I miss the experience of life in a new country. I wish all you lovely people a grand adventure, and now is the time for you to inspire others, and keep us informed as to your exciting life.
      Travel well!

        • Oh Lillie, that is so lovely, but you should know you are my hero. Your site has encouraged so many people to experience the amazing life of teaching abroad. We all thank you.

      • Donna, this is awesome news! Looks like you’re enjoying that “very happily retired” feeling I get from a friend who lives now in Sevilla, Spain. I can’t wait to join him (Spain’s my lifetime dream). Meanwhile… I am so happy you chose a home in Mexico! Can you tell us about it? House or apartment? Locale (or at least type of locale if you don’t want to be specific)? You can tell you’ve got quite a few fans. Enjoy!

        • Ana, you make me feel like a celebrity. My life isn’t near as interesting as it used to be while teaching and traveling, but it is filled with fun and good friends. I truly have become a beach bum, and I’m joined daily by like minded people. The sweetest part of my day is being awaked by my little neighbor girl yelling, “Abuela” meaning grandmother. Next, my older neighbor calls me beautiful, and you do know I’m a sucker for his lies. I live in the central part of Zihuatanejo so there is never a dull moment between the bars closing very late at night and the stores opening very early morning, my street has some action at all times, it may be dogs barking, or roosters crowing but it is the real life of Mexico. I have found a small beach within five minutes walk from my apartment and I am usually the only white person there but by now we all think it’s just normal for a gringa to be there.
          Life in Zihua is not like the media portrays Mexico, it is a small and quiet village filled with loving happy neighbors. Life is still good, just a bit slower than in the past. I thank you, Ana for caring, and I hope your life is wonderful and filled with adventure.

      • Hi Donna, if you’re still checking this once in awhile, I wonder if you’d be willing to share some details about your teaching job/s in Vietnam. This is a country I’d love to spend some time in though, after a few months in Morocco, I realize that not speaking the local language poses all kinds of challenges, especially when other English speakers who can help are exceedingly rare! What was your experience? Where in Vietnam did you live and teach?

        I am, by the way, almost 60. Got my MATESOL from SIT 3 years ago and currently teach in an adult ed program while also managing a small ESL school for adults. As much as I love my jobs here, it’s difficult to make ends meet as an ESL teacher in the U.S. where full-time jobs with benefits are almost unheard of. Especially if you want to work with the adult refugee and immigrant populations. It sounds like you had an amazing time working overseas; reading your posts here has given me more optimism about my options as an older teacher. Thanks for sharing.


        • Hi Diane,
          I taught in Saigon and loved every moment of it. There are many ESL schools there and in Hanoi, filled with young and older teachers. I can’t think of one problem I encountered with the language, as it seemed that on every corner someone spoke a bit of English and would be willing to help if needed. I mainly taught teens and adults, but there was a huge demand for teachers willing to teach young students (6-12 years)
          If I can be of help to you in any way, it would be my pleasure.
          Sixty is still young and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a great job. Plus. the Vietnamese honor older teachers which make teaching a real joy.
          Best of luck to you!

  7. I needed to see this…it’s an old post, but I am 58 and thinking about getting certified to teach ESL abroad. I am sure I will be the oldest in my class, but so desire to do this! are you still doing it? if you want to private message me: gjcck4@gmail.com. any advice, tips, etc., welcome! thank you!

    • Just received my 150+ TESOL certificate in December. I’m 53 and am heading to the Marshall Islands in July, to teach for a year with World Teach. They accept candidates up to 74 yrs old. You can get your TEAOL through them too. I found several other programs that accept older teachers too. On The Mark offers positions in several countries up to age 60 and you can even get your TESOL through them.
      Hope this helps!

      • Hi Sue, congrats and hope your year is everything you dream of. Btw, what are these other programs you found for older teachers. The one you mentioned stops at age 60. You can message me privately if we can find a way to do that.

      • Hello Sue, I am 47 years old and I really want to teach English abroad. I am originally from Venezuela but, I become USA citizen 3 years a go. I really need some guidance on this matter. Can you write me back please?

        • So I finished 1/2 yr in the Marshall Islands. I had to come home early due to a family emergency. The school system is in disarray to say the least. They do not have enough textbooks for every student. In my school, there were 9 English textbooks for a class of 30, and no reading books in English. They need teachers there and there are three ways you can get a job. The first is going through WorldTeach.org. They do an excellent job of preparing you for your job with a 3 week orientation. It is a volunteer position, however they pay for your airfare and give you a monthly stipend. I chose to live with a host family and received $150.00/month. It goes a long way as I only spent $40/month on average. You can also apply for a paid position directly with the Ministry of Education for a teaching job.http://pss.edu.mh/en/
          There is also a private school, The Coop School, that teaches solely in English on the Majuro Atoll that hires regularly. https://majurocoopschool.wordpress.com/

          The nice thing about WorldTeach is they also accept volunteers whose first language is not English. This year, there was a gentleman from France teaching there.

          I will tell you that living in the Marshall Islands is not easy. Internet is sporadic and it’s really hot. Most schools do not have air conditioning either, BUT I would go back in a heartbeat! The people and children are beautiful and kind and welcoming.

  8. Hi Donna! You inspired me. Thank you for sharing your story. I am 58 and done my TEFL to teach English aboard. You gave me hope to find a job at my age….. hope you are well.

    • Hi Marietjie,
      So very nice of you to post. I wish you great luck and a wonderful new adventure wherever you may go. Life is so rewarding when you visit and live in a different culture. Travel well my friend.

  9. Very inspiring, Donna! I would love to meet you. If you swing by Texas, you’ve got a place to stay (if I’m still here! ha! One more thing…which company would you suggest to get certified to teach ESL in other countries? CELTA? Oxford Seminars? DELTA?

  10. Boy did I love reading this. I am now hitting 59 and want to continue travelling as I have been for the last 30 years. Looking for my next ESL gig and hesitating as I thought I would not be able to get a position.But now I have a few destinations to check out! Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. After reading Donna’s awesome post and your responses a few times now, I feel I must add a few things that I hope help and inspire the rest of you. Obviously this couldn’t be as much inspiration as Donna’s post — she’s become one of my expat heroines — but maybe a few tidbits…

    First, let me shout it out to the winds! The levels of professional experiences here alone absolutely put to shame those countries and schools that continue to insist on hiring just pretty young Barbies and Kens. Believe me, as someone who’s spent a big chunk of TEFL time in a country that mostly does just that… I’m astounded at the ignorance. I still love Japan, I always will. And let me assure you, even there you’ll find places that will place the bamboo welcome mat firmly under your feet.

    A good majority of TEFL teachers in Japan are indeed in their 20s and 30s. But you will find increasing numbers reaching their 40s and I’m hearing about more now in their 50s. Japan itself does not have a visa restriction based on age that I now of — I’m still researching that — and obviously hiring is tighter there now than it used to be. But if you absolutely want to go, I can assure you that it’s a lovely country with the loveliest people who will clamor to get to know you.

    The second thing I wanted to emphasize in this rather longish response is that I found all 3 of my major teaching gigs in Japan online. I did not go to Japan first; I found my jobs first. I had no choice. I was only in my 50s and my previous stateside career paid modestly, so I had little savings. I’m not yet retired and my freelance business isn’t yet fully established. The sites I used, for the most part, were eslcafe.com (first 2 jobs) and tefl.com (last job). All were well-established schools. The third one did eventually close after merging with a competing school in the same town, but it had been in business over 25 years.

    Both those sites I mentioned are long-standing and their reputations are excellent. Yes, even in the best-known sites you will find jobs that are actually bogus. Donna’s right, you do have to be careful. Your best bet is, if you find an ad for a position that interests you, follow their directions for the application process(sometimes the site has directions of its own). If you hear from them afterwards, make sure your first communication is by phone. In all of my cases, I was called directly by either the school itself or, in my first job, by a local recruiter. My first school was in Fukuoka, a major city in Japan (and absolutely one of the best locales there for teaching, imho), and I was living in L.A. at the time. For some reason, they really wanted a teacher from Calif. and had a local recruiter there. My first face-to-face interview was with him. Later I had a couple of phone interviews with the school owner. Would you believe it? He and the school actually chose me over a 25-year-old guy!

    Anyway, that’s what I wanted to emphasize: Yes, do your due diligence when applying online, but it is a viable resource and, yes, although you will find some bogus ads, the truth is that the majority of job ads on established TEFL sites are real. Many teachers are still contracting before going as lots of us are not in a position to just go and apply in-country.

    I wish you all the best of luck. Go for it! TEFL is not just for the young. We’re living proof! :-)

    • I am 55 and desiring to teach english in Russia. You are an inspiration. Any advice? Is it better to get the TEFL or the CELTA?

      • Hi Book Lover,
        I always hate to say, ” I don’t know,” but I haven’t had any experience with Russia, nor have any of my teaching friends. It sounds like a great experience. Good luck and keep us posted.
        The TEFL or the CELTA are both highly respected so I don’t think you can go wrong with either.
        Enjoy your new adventure no matter where you go.

      • I’d go for the CELTA if you have a choice (the CELTA can be expensive). For years it’s been considered the standard in Europe and around the world. Europe’s hard to get into if you’re not EU, but when you’re choosing where to train, I’d go for the most recognized cert because you can’t lose with it wherever you go.

        Also, if you can I’d get the cert in the first location you want to teach in. That way you can interview on site from the outset. The CELTA is offered all over the world.

  12. I was wondering what your opinion is of the Cambridge Blended DELTA course that is being offered in the US through Teaching House New York. Would employers abroad look at this blended delta as not acceptable as it is both online and face-to-face?

  13. Donna, are you connected with any of the affiliate programs that drive people to TEFL courses for a percentage of profit? I’ve recently found out that there are many bloggers out there promoting different programs to increase their income stream. For me, I found that investing in a TEFL course as a person 60+is not only challenging, it’s basically useless in the vast majority of international venues. The whole TEFL experience is designed primarily for white, college graduate who wants to see the world for a few years before settling down. It is hardly a viable option for those of retirement age. Had I been made aware of these pitfalls, I would not have spent $1500. Caveat emptor.

    • Hi Robert,
      I’m so sorry to hear your negative experience! I’m not sure what Donna’s answer will be, but I can answer as the creator of this site that all bloggers are supposed to disclose any affiliate relationships or sponsorships so the reader can make fully informed choices. I truly hope that you WILL be able to put your TEFL certification to good use, and I’m so sorry that it’s been a bad experience!

    • Hi Robert,

      No, I am not being paid by anyone. I’m sorry that you had a negative experience, but I’m curious as to what countries or types of schools you were searching for. Most countries where I have taught required a TEFL on site certificate (not an on-line certificate) and a BA degree.
      I did write a book, which I make a little money on, and several people on this site found me through my book. Most of them have been of retirement age looking for a new life, and felt my journey was what they were looking for. I’m happy to have helped a few of them in searching for an alternative to retirement.
      Good luck to you, and I hope you find a place in life that makes you fulfilled.

  14. Hi again Donna and group,

    I wrote in July about my experiences teaching in Japan and thought all along that it was simply too late now at 61 to go back to it. Now I’m open to other countries as I know Japan has rather strict age biases. I was very lucky to get in when I did. But I have another hurdle: I can’t afford to just go, not right now. Has anyone here managed to secure a job before leaving? That’s how I got all 3 of my Japan gigs.

    I want so very badly to go back on the road, before it really is too late. I’m doing freelance work online in addition to my survival job back “home.” I hope it’s… not too late after all. :-)

    You go girls! (… and guys too of course!)

    • Hi Ana,
      I wish I had more positive thoughts on obtaining a teaching position on line, but my experience was not positive, nor were close friends. I think we all need to be a little cautious about on line jobs. Remember they have nothing to loose offering you a position, and may not be honest about the position or location. I’m sorry to say, but beware is my best advice.
      Good luck

  15. Hello,

    I am 48 and I’m considering getting Celta certificate. My biggest concern is what does one do when they are not teaching abroad / when you return to the U.S. from a teaching position abroad?

    Thanks, Michele

    • Hi Michele,
      I think the best I can answer is to teach at an ESL school in the US. I know most large cities have positions for teaching foreign students. I know Seattle has several and assume most larger cities do the same.
      Good luck and have a great adventure.

  16. Donna, what an inspiring story! I can definitely relate as I have 3 teaching gigs in Japan behind me now, all of them in my maturity, from 46-54. I know from all my research on Japan that I was extraordinarily lucky to have found all those jobs at my age, considering the age biases in that country. I grew to love it and I hope to return.

    As I’m 61, I don’t yet have Social Security so my income is insufficient to just travel to a place and job hunt in country. I’ve also been researching other countries. My true dream is Spain but that’s an impossibility not because of my age but because I’m not EU. So I’m open minded about where I go – as long as I can spend time in Spain and other parts of Europe.

    I’ve been considering some parts of Central and Eastern Europe. I wish I had the freedom to go get a CELTA but the money’s not there for that. Still, I loved your story and I hope to read more about you.

  17. Hi Donna

    I really enjoyed reading about your experiences you’re an inspiration. I’m 56 and just about to start a TEFL course in Nicaragua and hope to get a teaching job there when I finish. Have you any advice about Nicaragua that I might find useful, I’m grateful for any tips?

    Best Wishes


  18. Hi Donna- Your story inspired me when I first read it but I felt that I was under qualified to get work at the age of 60. Now I want to give it one last shot.
    I worked as a healthcare assistant for many years before being bit by the teaching bug. I didn’t finish college but did an online TEFL course and 2 months of an internship in Vietnam. I made the mistake of not staying through to the end when we were told that we were no longer going to have our own classes and would just be there to help with pronunciation. Obviously, I should have seen it through in spite of this.
    When I couldn’t get work in the next year, I pretty much gave up. Now the prospect of doing the boring, menial work that I currently have is making me want to try again. Do I have a chance of getting teaching somewhere? If so, how would I go about it? Thanks


    • Hi Naomi,
      I’m sorry to say, I don’t know what I would do in your situation. The best I can think of is for you to pick a country that you would prefer, and take an ESL class there. Many countries don’t accept an on-line ESL, also it would give you a start in the location of your choice, as most schools also help with placement. I know it seems like a lot of money, with only a shot at a job, but I think it will be needed.
      Perhaps someone has a better idea, as this is a great site with great advice.
      Good luck to you in whatever you pursue.

      • Donna what an inspiration! I love that your daughter knew you so well to send that mag to you…and then…Bang off you went! I so don’t want to regret anything in my life but I do wish I had taken that leap years ago!!! At this stage of my life (older woman of 58) I am rethinking a career as an ESL teacher that I shelved and never went for years ago. I wanted to get TEFL certified in Spain, but life and family crises happened. I watched several videos and read several forums, got inspired through the years that stated the online classes were acceptable. But now In recent years, I hear many countries do not accept online.
        I would still LOVE to study in Spain but if age is such a detriment, why go through such a horrific expense If it doesn’t look like I have much of a chance? My heart tells me take the chance, but that’s not the feedback I get!

        I have a question Donna. Do you think it is possible to study online and then work locally to get experience and then try to get a job abroad later on (not Much later of course due to the age)! I live in a melting pot community, where many grade children receive ESL and many foreign college students study here, I am guessing some of these college students might need ESL as well. If I gain experience teaching ESL, is the importance of where I was certified as important once I have gotten some jobs/clients etc?

        If I was trying to go abroad on an online certification I understand no one wants inexperienced certified teachers that studied online as they gained no teaching experience. But, if I got some experience in a local class or even one on one tutoring style, do you think the online certification would be less important than the fact that I have work experience? Thank you

        • Hi Lillie, I was so hoping to get some of Donna’s experienced professional opinion…and a reply to my last post. Since I am older time is of the essence!!!

          Does she still come back here to your blog and respond to the comments section?
          Thank you

  19. Hi Donna
    I’m a 55 year old PhD professor (teaching graduate students)with tons of international experience. I’ve lived and worked overseas and worked with refugees for years getting them the assistance they need including ESL. I never actually taught English. I’m going to take my TEFL and leave for Asia next year 2016. I’m trying to decide what type of TEFL/CERTA to take(online, number of hours, in class etc). I don’t want to be limited by the certification while I also don’t want to use time and money that may not be needed sure to my experience. Also I keep hearing from the TEFL courses that I can’t get a job in Asia and especially China and Korea because I will be 56. Yet on the forum sites people say thats not at all true especially with my credentials. I sure could use some advice specific to older teachers in the market or a forum.I’m also unclear with certification will position me for the best jobs at universities or with other adult learners.
    Can you offer some advice?

    • Hi Debra,
      Wow, I would say that Vietnam would love to have you at any of their universities. In my opinion Vietnam is by far the best for decent pay, but with your qualifications China, Japan, the World is also a good spot at a university. I keep saying university because I think anywhere would grab you up and pay you better than other options.
      It appears that the most useful certification is a TEFL,TESOL or CELTA certification, many places don’t recognize an on-line TEFL, as their are to many fake ones offered.
      I’m a bullish sort of person,and if I were you I’d decide where I want to go, and write a few universities and see what sort of response you receive, If it is not what you are looking for, just go to the country of your choice and you will find an opening once there, I know it sounds crazy, but it has worked for me for fifteen years. Knock on all the doors and one will open.
      I wish you much luck and an amazing adventure.
      If I can be of any other help feel free to mail me at donnamorang@yahoo.com and please let me know how your life went.
      If you want a funny look at my life teaching and traveling check out my book on Amazon “Big Backpack Little World” That might scare you away from my advice.

  20. Hi Donna
    I would love to be able to speak with you to get some advice. I am a 55 year old University professor. I want to leave and go over seas for some years and teach English.
    I have a lot of teaching experience and working with Non-native speakers but never the two combined. I am trying to decided what TEFL certification to take (do I need an in person one since I have so much experience) .
    I’m also trying to understand how much age will work against me.
    If you find this comment and can reply it would be most appreciated.

  21. It’s really awesome that you managed to travel the world through ESL at that age. Although I don’t particularly regard age as an important factor in life, a lot of countries do. For example, in South Korea it is impossible to get a job if you’re over 35, just because of the culture. Here elders are treated with the most respect, so if they employed an older worker, the boss would have to be respectful to them, allowing the employee to do whatever they wanted. Good on you though! I’m looking to head to Vietnam next!

  22. Hello Donna,

    Your story is an inspiration. I am 64 and retired with 30 years teaching special education and elementary guidance. I am thinking of taking the TEFL course and getting a job in Asia or Nicaragua. I actually got interested in this because I wanted to do volunteer work in Asia, but not the kind that cost a lot to participate. Do you have any advice on getting into the service world of work while teaching ESL? THANKS!

    • Hi Yvonne,
      Good luck to you in all you do.
      Teaching ESL is a wonderful life, and can lead you in the direction of other opportunities you are searching for. While in many countries there was numerous opportunities for helping in orphanages, teaching street kids, and once in a country you will find what you are looking for.
      Best Wishes

      I hope you enjoy my book! Perhaps you would like to leave a review on Amazon when completed. Gracias amigo!

  23. Hi Donna
    I am currently seeking work in Korea as an English teacher. I am 61 years of age and have a masters degree in Secondary teaching. My KLAs are history and ESL. Do you think that I am having a dream? Is there very real possibilities of me finding that job

    • Hi Wayne,
      It is not just a dream, but an amazing life waiting for you in Korea, or somewhere. You have everything a school is looking for. I say, “Grab on and enjoy the journey.”
      Best of luck to you in all you do.

  24. Hello Donna: Thanks so much for an inspiring story! I thought I might be too late to try this at 47 (also an artist like you!) but it’s great to hear you started at 57. Thanks.

    • Susan I am 47 too and feeling it is too late for me to find the life I have always dreamed of. After reading Donna’s story and then these posts I have renewed determination and hope. I am goings to do a 120 hour TEFL and try to find work in Vietnam as Donna did because I back packed there when younger and loved it. My dream is to teach street kids and orphans and if even one child has a chance of a better life because I helped them learn English then I will feel I have succeeded. Good luck, here is hoping 47 is the lucky number!

  25. Hi Donna,
    I’m presently researching my life long dream, teaching english abroad and discovered your excellent article. I’m a life long traveler for business and pleasure with 39 counties under my belt, having also lived in Morocco for 9 months. I have a BS degree in Organizational Management and have 100′s of hours as a classroom corporate trainer. I was also a private school administrator for 6 years. Now being 62 years old, in great health, and retired, I would love to teach english abroad. I now know there is hope for me! Thanks for your great advise!

    Warm regards

    • Thanks Mark, so glad you found it helpful. You will love your new life as an ESL teacher, and you certainly have the credentials to success.
      Good luck!

    • Sorry to say, but many countries have changed their policies in the last couple of years. However, don’t be discouraged there are many jobs still available to us older people. I say, “Go to the country of your choice, and you will find what you are looking for.” I also offer this advice==Some opening that are listed on the internet are NOT valid, so be wary of listings.
      Great success to you!

    • Hi Rebecca,
      I am living in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and at present I’m busy writing another book, but also teaching a few classes. I’m still in love with my life, and if I can help you in any way I’d be happy to.
      You can E me at donnamorang@yahoo.com or check me out on Facebook.
      I wish you luck in what ever you do, but I sure support anyone who wants to do ESL.

      • I love that you say that you’re “in love with your life”. I can only hope to be that happy when I’m older.

  26. Hi Donna…what a zest for life and what an inspiration to women like me…With 2 degrees, 2 teaching qualifications (one TEFL) i have done the international circuit. My resume looks exciting like a check board. I would be interested to lecture or do some TEFL training other than in schools,but still need a well paid salary as I am a single mom. Question to you then,is TEFL teaching financially lucrative ?

  27. Thank you so much for such an inspiring story. I have just started applying for ESL jobs at the age of 54 and noticed so many places are asking for younger teachers. Your advise re just showing up has inspired me to do that. I was thinking this might help but was unsure. I’ll just do it. Can’t wait to get my first job somewhere in the world. Thank you so much. I look forward to more stories about your experiences.

  28. Donna – you are an inspiration! I just turned 65 and was beginning to feel like it’s time to put away my marker and whiteboard….but can’t afford to! Now I realize I have never been more prepared than I am now!

  29. Big mama i miss you.hihi. It has been a long time since the last time i met you in sscc library. I love the way you teach us, your smile, your stories and…oh your holy bracelet.hihi. When you come back to ha noi send me a massge big mama.

  30. You always think it’s young people who are doing the ESL thing overseas, as a way to make travel affordable. It’s great to hear that’s not always the case. Donna should be an inspiration to more people!

  31. What is needed to be an ESL teaching jobs as an older woman? I haveca master’s degree in Education, with seven years taching expeience in the Elementary level in the Philippines. I have worked in a Finance company for twenty years , unemployed and retired now. Llooking forward to hear from you soon.

    • Luvina, I think to be an older ESL teacher it takes a good sense of humor and an adventuresome spirit. I am ESL certified which many schools require, but there are also many countries that would grab you up with your master’s degree and teaching experience. Every country I have taught in has been crying for elementary ESL teachers. Good luck to you.

      • What do you mean by TESL Certified? There are so many courses, many of them are online. I don’t trust the online courses, as a woman in her mid 50’s, to find me a job. I don’t have access to any live courses like CELTA. I have a degree in Education and teacher’s cert. I taught ESL for 23 years, then changed career for another 8. I learned on the job-no ESL cert. Now I know I need something if I am to get back into it. Anyone got any suggestions or recommendations?

  32. Donna, what a great interview and terrific photos! I’m proud of you and sorry I missed you in Mexico this year. Hopefully I can finally see you and Zihuataneo when I return.

    • Donna and Elena, You are both such an inspiration.

      I recently retired with a state agency working with the mentally ill. While I loved the work, I was able to leave at age 50 (so I did) and I have not looked back. I would LOVE to dabble in travel writing and hope to do that soon.
      After just returning from PV Mexico that place really inspired me and my body if it could talk would say
      THANK YOU, thank you. It is a beautiful place.
      Keep on leepin on ladies, you a paving the way for others like myself and the younger gals that will be looking for mentors,
      Barbara in MN (soon to be Mexico?)

  33. Donna is such an inspiration to older teachers, such as myself. I am beginning my worldwide teaching experience at the same age that she did. I hope that I can continue with as much dignity and positive attitude for the next 10 years! Wishing Donna the best in her future endeavors and thanks for the helpful information.


Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.