Q&A with Gareth Corona at Giraffe American English School, Xi'an

We dropped by to speak to Gareth Corona, who manages the foreign department and teaches English at the wonderful Giraffe American English School in Xi'an, China. 
Hi Gareth, can you say a little about yourself and where you are from? 
Sure, my name is Gareth Corona and I am from South Africa. I have been teaching English in Xi'an for almost two years. I really enjoy it, it is so different from the work I used to do in hotels.
What made you decide to become a TEFL teacher after working in hotels in South Africa?
I love working with children, and it was an opportunity to travel which I have always wanted to do. I want to open my own English school and so it is good experience for me to teach English in China.
Tell me more about how it all started. What was your TEFL training like? Where did you do it?
I did an online TEFL course through ITTT in the USA. I found it very informative and helpful as preparation for when I arrived, but nothing can prepare you fully for when you are really in front of those students actually teaching in China.
You wanted to travel and decided to become a TEFL teacher to help you achieve that. Why did you choose China as a destination?
I had a friend who was teaching here in Xi'an already, and so he had contacts in schools in Xi'an to get me a position near him. I felt this would make the transition from South Africa to TEFL teaching in China a lot easier.
Why is Xi’an a great choice for people to live and teach English in?
Xi'an is a well developed city, with enough foreigners so that they are not an oddity and it is easy to fit in to an expat community. The food is excellent and varied, there are plenty of sights to see as well as museums to visit.
What school are you teaching in now?
I am teaching in Giraffe American English training school, Xi'an.
Ah, I've heard of Giraffe English. What is the background of Giraffe American English School and how long have they been in China?
Giraffe English was formed in Taiwan 30 years ago, by an American missionary and a Taiwanese businessman. There are over 700 schools in Taiwan and around 13 schools now in Mainland China. Giraffe American English Schools are expanding in China and its an exciting time to be working for Giraffe English in China. It is a well established school with a strong identity.
What is it like working at your school? How is Giraffe English different / better to the schools you’ve taught at before?
I have only taught here, but it is like being in a big family, they look after their teachers well, and pay well. I am very happy that this was my first school.
What are the students like at Giraffe English in Xi'an and how are lessons? How long are the lessons at Giraffe English?
We have Students from 3 – 12 years old, they are lovely children, full of smiles and laughter. Lessons are well structured and the school has a standing syllabus. Lessons are either 90 minutes or 3 hours long. Giraffe English classrooms are beautifully themed to make learning fun for the students. There are classrooms themed like a supermarket, some like a plane cabin, and so on.
Do you have your own course materials there? What are they like?
Yes, they are colorful and well laid out, with a lot of supporting materials. Our classrooms have whiteboards, and CD players, most of the classes have E-boards as well.
Does Giraffe English have opportunities for TEFL teachers to grow?
We are currently looking to open our third school, I myself was promoted to head of foreign teachers, and I am sure that there will be more as we grow. We are also part of a large family of schools and so there are opportunities there.
What’s your best memory from teaching so far?
I have taught the same students for my time here and I love to see them grow in confidence. It amazes me how much of an influence we have as teachers on them. One of my Students wouldn’t stop crying when he started, and now he is loud and confident, and laughs all the time.
Any funny stories you’d like to share from teaching in China?
Not really, we laugh in pretty much every class, and I have just enjoyed listening to our kids talk and grow in English.
Finally, what have you got in your pockets right now??
Lol, my cellphone, USB with kids songs on, and my wallet.

Thanks a lot for your time Gareth, it's been great to talk with you!

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