Moacir Sena - EFL Teacher to School Owner to Freelancer

Moacir Sena (aka Mo the Americanoid) has extensive experience as an EFL teacher, translator, language school owner and has had a successful solo career in the US, Ireland and his home country, Brazil. Find out why Mo thinks that a solo career is a good choice

Can you start off by telling us where you teach?

I’ve been teaching English and Spanish at banks, law firms and other industries in Brazil. (99% of the time it’s been one-on-one basis) and the students usually came from managerial positions up to the CEO). I’d say 60-70% of the students have been upper-intermediate to advanced (B2-C1+).  I have some online students as well.

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching since 1986.  I started teaching at a small language school near where I lived and from then on I moved to other language schools until I started my solo career back in 1998.

Can you describe a typical teaching day?

In the past I’d have classes early in the morning -7:30-9 a.m. / break / 12-2 p.m./ break/ 6-8 p.m. (with the occasional class starting at 9-10:30 p.m.). During those windows I’d work on translations.

Considering that I am wholeheartedly a morning person, now I’ve managed to keep my mornings pretty busy – (7:30 to 11 a.m.) and (12 p.m.-3 p.m.). The odd student at 4 p.m. I try to close shop at 3 pm. NO evening classes in the last 5-6 years. Hooray. 80% of my students have in-company lessons. 20% come to my home office.

What do you do in your spare time to relax?  

I watch TV – often not paying much attention to what’s going on. But I love reading and taking long walks in the park in the late afternoon.

You took on the tremendous task of starting a solo career.  Tell us why you decided to take the freelance route.

I decided to fly solo after having been a partner at a language school here in São Paulo, having to deal with teacher training, teacher and student prospecting, keeping the financial balance of the firm, making money but never seeing it. To keep good teachers you many times had to sacrifice your own pay. To keep good corporate clients many times you had to cut them a discount. So we came to a crossroads – either we would move to larger facilities with more classrooms etc., or shut down. My partner at the time was not interested in expanding so we decided to follow our own path. Being my “own company” I know where to invest, how to manage and control client satisfaction and teaching quality.  And make more money than when I “owned a company”.

Unfortunately in our field, there has been discrimination against "non-native" speakers of English.  What advice would you give to non-native speakers of English who would like to use their skills to become teacherpreneurs?

Yes there's verbal and non-verbal prejudice in our area of work although though progress has been made. I mean, 25 years ago the principal of a school interviewing me for a position said she was going to choose me (although I had very little experience, but ...)  I was a man, so I wouldn't be away for 4 to 6 months on maternity leave. Clients and schools also show some prejudice regarding NNESTs and NESTs. I myself can be accused of that. Back in the 90s when I had my language school, 90% of our teachers were if not NESTs, at least foreign-born speakers of English who fit a linguistic and physical profile as requested by our clients. I know it's quite a taboo but it's true that a Black teacher even if NEST will also suffer prejudice. Oh the horrors of humanity! Oh the beauty of humanity! But if a teacher, no matter their skin color or nationality, shows professionalism, expertise, and passion, nothing will be able to stop them.

How do you get students and clients?

Word of mouth – 100% guaranteed.  Over the last 6 years or so I’ve dabbled in YouTube – posting video lessons using English and the Bible – ESL with Mo the Americanoid.

Here’s a sample: Episode 104: ESL with Mo the Americanoid: 6 Tips for Teachers One on One Classes

Here’s the link to the playlist:  (

Initially the videos were based on a book called ENGLISH LESSONS FROM THE BIBLE (BOOK OF MARK) by Glenda Reece. After a few episodes I felt more comfortable to develop my own material and content expanding to  interviewing some English learners and teachers and presenting some Teaching tips.

Do you market your services in other ways?

I am intensely involved with Twitter – its immediacy and reach are amazing, even though I’ve learned that Twitter is not as much used in Brazil as in Europe and North America. I always follow #ELT #TEFL #ESL #TESOL threads. But I’m not very keen on Tweet Chats – I find them hard to follow live and to try to read a later compilation of the tweets is quite boring and many times senseless. Depending on the editing you’ll read 20 “hello this is…” tweets before getting any real content.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

Also writing a blog – - An English Language Lover's Teaching Adventures and other ramblings.  A dream I have is to produce a language learning program for the radio or TV. But still don’t know how to get there. Still beginning the process.

What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a freelancer/teacherpreneur?

  1. Public speaking – if you can face an audience of rambunctious children or bored teenagers you can face the world.
  2. To adapt to different audiences and needs
  3. To be flexible and also know when to draw the line (sometimes ;-)

What advice would you give to teachers who are considering going solo or starting a language school?

To be self-employed can be a scary experience but also empowering. You feel the world on your shoulders knowing that you will have to provide for everything – from your health insurance to managing your pay so you can afford any sort of  vacations – (no paid vacations or holidays). But it’s liberating: you can set your workday schedule (within certain limits) and explore the world (either literally or in your own town or neighborhood).

To those dreaming of opening a language school or franchise – remember you will be less and less of a teacher and more and more of an entrepreneur. So think carefully before you jump into the abyss.

All in all, the important thing is to do it with passion and remember that the world is not found in your bellybutton.

Thanks so much Mo!


Interested in learning more about transitioning from a teacher to teacherpreneur but don’t know how to get started?  Here are some ways:

1. Read more teacherpreneur interviews at

2. Check out my Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit at 

3. Sign up for my 4 week online course with - Teacher to Teacherpreneur 

4. If you are a TESL Ontario member, watch a recording of my webinar Teacher to Teacherpreneur

5. Download 10 Tips to Transition from Teacher to Teacherpreneur

6. Join my LinkedIn group for teacherpreneurs. Connect with other teacherpreneurs

7. Set up a private coaching call with me

Connect with me on social media. Teacherpreneurs must be on social media!


Who am I?

My name is Patrice Palmer, M.Ed., M.A., TESL and I reside in Canada. I have 20 years’ experience as an ESL Teacher, TESL Trainer, and Writer including 7 amazing years in Hong Kong. I have taught students from 8 to 80 years in a variety of programs such as ESP, EAP, Business English, and language programs for new immigrants in Canada.  I'm now a teacherpreneur doing the things that I love such as writing courses, blogging, sharing teaching materials, instructional coaching for new teachers and coaching teacherpreneurs. Having a flexible schedule allows me to conduct short-term training around the world at any time of the year.  



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