Andrew Woodbury divides his time between the ESL classroom and managing an educational start-up called Learn YOUR English with the goal to create a community of like-minded teachers where everyone can learn and improve together. He believes that he has excelled as a teacherpreneur because he has been inspired by his students who took a leap of faith coming to a new country.
1. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview. Can you start off by telling us where you teach and how long have you been teaching?
Thank you for having me! I currently teach in Toronto, Canada as part of Ryerson University’s ESL Foundation Program. This is in addition to being one of the managing directors of the educational startup two colleagues and I have started called Learn YOUR English. 2019 marks one decade for me as a teacher.
2. Can you describe a typical day?
It really depends on the day. When the university year is running, I have classes from about 9 until 3 p.m. with a few breaks mixed in. That doesn’t count the grading, of course. Before and after those classes I work on the business. When the academic year is finished, I have more hours in the day to solely focus on Learn YOUR English.
3. Teacher self-care is so important. How do you relax?
This is such an important question. My colleague and I from Learn YOUR English recently attended the International House Conference in Barcelona, and this was a big focus. As we know, teacher burnout is all too real. To be honest, I struggle with it. I try to cultivate positive habits away from work (designated reading time, exercise, social events), but we all know it’s easier said than done. I think it’s a matter of prioritizing what is important in your life without sacrificing the quality of responsibilities elsewhere. I’m getting better at it, but still evolving. A cold beer every now and then certainly helps.
4. You took on the tremendous task of starting a company. Can you talk a bit about it?
For sure. With colleagues Michael Landry and Leo Gomez, we started Learn YOUR English last year. It started from our own frustration with the lack of quality and readily available education and learning opportunities for in-service ESL instructors in North America. We love learning and want to create a community both here and abroad of passionate teachers and learners who always want to not only improve but learn new things. The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive.
5. How did you come up with the idea for your service?
As I mentioned, it was really from our own experience. Working together, we would always come up with new ideas and approaches to teaching certain elements and language points. We don’t like to be complacent in our teaching, and so we’d take risks and sometimes the lessons wouldn’t pan out. In essence, we kind of created our own little, quasi-professional development. Quite a few institutes - especially private language schools - don’t provide regular teacher education opportunities, and so we just wanted to create a community of like-minded teachers where we can all learn and improve together.
6. You managed to balance teaching and working on your service. What is your best productivity tip?
Don’t compromise, even with yourself. Make certain things in your day or week non-negotiable. Don’t let your mind control your body. As people, we are very good at talking ourselves out of doing something. There’s always a “reason” not to do it, right? At IH Barcelona, George Pickering spoke about making S.M.A.R.T. goals and I think this is a fantastic idea. If you want to lose 10 pounds, that’s the goal, but what steps or process are you putting into place to achieve that? As he joked, stepping onto the scale every day doesn’t burn many calories.
7. Where can teachers and students purchase your services?
For teachers and institutions, we are developing different platforms, but have online courses for teachers on Thinkific. All introductory modules to the courses are free, and then a subscription applies thereafter, whether it be for the individual teacher or a school purchases it for staff use.
We also do online and in-person workshops and run regular webinars. We’re based in Toronto, Canada, and our in-person workshops happen there. We do open events for teaching professionals every 6 weeks at a designated location in the city. We also do institute-specific workshops on location by request.
All online workshops are ongoing and obviously are not restricted by location. If interested, our email is [email protected]. Teachers or Directors of Studies may register that way. Following us on Social Media is always a great way to stay up to date.
For students and corporate clients, we provide online classes and proofreading services as well. Inquiries can be sent to [email protected]
8. Where can we find you on social media?
Everywhere, just like everyone else! Facebook,
We Chat, YouTube (learnyourenglish) and LinkedIn
We also have a podcast called “Teacher Talking Time.” You can subscribe in iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts. We have episodes aimed at teachers and students. Again, the aim is to get the conversation started and develop a community of continual learners.
9. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
We are constantly working on new developments. We plan to launch a new online course on Thinkific by the end of March. We hope to have 3 or 4 by the end of the year. We are running bi-monthly teacher workshops in Toronto and speaking at local conferences as well. We will also be presenting at a Tutela Webinar coming up as part of TESL Ontario. By the end of 2019, we plan on opening an office in western Canada as well.
10. How do you promote or market your services?
Up to now, it’s been mostly on social media and word of mouth. We’re working with institutes, colleges, and universities as well to promote.
11. Do you do everything yourself or do you hire people with specific skills to help you?
It’s just the three of us! We love the work, so there’s never a boring day.
12. What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?
I’ve also been very inspired by my students. They did what a lot of people are afraid to do: take a leap of faith. Them coming to another country, a lot of times on their own, is very courageous and inspiring.
Developing empathy, understanding, inter-cultural awareness and connectedness are all essential human skills, but also in the classroom and in business. Understanding we’re all human and all come from the same place does wonders.
13. What have you had to do outside of your comfort zone as a teacherpreneur?
Giving speeches, talks, and presentations has never been my forte. But, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I’ve podcasted for quite a while, so that was no issue - people can’t see me! But putting myself out there (literally) has challenged me but in very positive ways.
14. I talk to many teachers about their fear or doubt in trying something new or "putting themselves out there". What advice would you give to these teachers?
That “someday” is not a day of the week. What are you waiting for? Our fear of failure as humans is sometimes so debilitating that we would prefer to be unhappy in the status quo than pursue a potentially incredible opportunity. What’s the worst that could happen?
I got my teaching start by moving abroad:
And guess what? It was the best thing I’ve ever done. Was it terrifying? Of course. Would I have regretted not going? Forever.
Thank so much for your inspirational interview Andrew. I am sure our paths will cross in the near future.
Interested in transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but not sure how to get started? Have a look:
1. Read more than 80 inspiring teacherpreneur interviews at www.teacherpreneur.ca/blog
2. Sign up for my free 5-day email course How to Start your Side Hustle https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pl/60868
3. Download The Essential Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit - 50 pages packed with information to get you started as a teacherpreneur at http://www.teacherpreneur.ca
4. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/p/10-tips-to-transition-from-teacher-to-teachepreneur
5. Download The Social Media Make-over Checklist for Teacherpreneurs at www.teacherpreneur.ca
6. Connect with other teacherpreneurs by joining my LinkedIn group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7060976
7. Set up a private coaching call with me https://www.teacherpreneur.ca/pages/book-a-coaching-session-with-me
8. Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media.
My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., CPP. I have more than 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer. I spent seven amazing years teaching in Hong Kong and have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs. I now work as a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing books, courses and teaching materials; coaching teacherpreneurs, travelling at any time of the year and applying the science of positive psychology to all my work (www.patricepalmer.ca). Contact me at [email protected]
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