sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

How I Reinvented Myself After I Was Downsized by Becoming an ESL Teacher

By Elizabeth Dunkel June 19, 2016 Mindset

This is a story with a happy ending. However, when I began the “journey” I had no idea I would be so happy.

The boring part is that I got downsized from my job at 61. Of course, my plan had been to work until 65 and then move on to the next adventure. I just had to work for a few more years. I applied for jobs in my field and quickly realized I wasn’t getting them because of my age.

Age discrimination is very subtle. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I don’t have sour grapes about this. That’s the way it is. You can read about my attitude here. Sorry but that’s life.

No Sour Grapes, Just Get On With It

So, I had to reinvent myself. I have to admit, I almost hate that word. It’s bandied about so easily. I got tough and clear with the question: “What is a job that I would like to do, where I will be in demand and where my age doesn’t matter and no one will care if I have my gorgeous head of grey hair?“

I wanted to be marketable. I wanted to reenter the work world quickly. This was a tall order to fill. I read newspapers and looked around me. I talked and listened to people and saw what was going on in my community.

The lightbulb moment: the world always needs ESL teachers — that’s English as a Second Language. In fact, the world is desperate for ESL teachers. The entire world is trying to speak English. English is the lingua franca. English is the passport to a better future for so many of the world’s striving people.

The most common phrase you hear around the world is, “Do you speak English?” — as a Frenchman tries to communicate with a Serbian on an Italian train. The internet is filled with jobs for ESL teachers.

Getting the Right Credentials

I did my research. The best credential is called CELTA — Certificate of English Language Teaching Speakers of Other Languages. CELTA is a certification offered by Cambridge University in England. The CELTA course is a month long, intensive course.

Everyone told me the CELTA course would be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. They said that it would be super intensive, stressful, exhausting — leaving me no time for anything, taking me to the breaking point. But at the end, I would have the most prestigious ESL credential and would be guaranteed jobs anywhere in the world.

Because I live in Mexico, I applied to the CELTA course that is taught at International House in Playa del Carmen. I can hear you laughing – a school on the Caribbean? Let me tell you my friends: I saw the beach only once and that was on the day I arrived.

I decided to really be a student again and reserved a room in the dorm of International House. Needless to say, I was the oldest person in the dorm. Did I care? Not one bit!

What a walk down memory lane! What a pleasure it was to be and feel like a student again, where the only thing I had to do was eat, sleep and study. It was fabulous!

Being Back In School

Intense doesn’t even begin to describe the course. I left the dorm at 7:30 every morning and returned at 7:30 every night. I rested for a half an hour and did my homework and preparation for the next day. I went to sleep around one a.m.

This was my routine for 30 days and 30 nights. No weekends off. It was MORE exhausting, stressful, difficult than everyone had promised. There were times I could barely stand, talk or even think.

I wondered if I was more tired than my younger classmates — in their 20’s and 30’s. No, we were all exhausted. I didn’t have their youthful stamina, but I quickly realized that I could work “smarter.” That’s what age and experience gave me.

I made a calendar and pasted it on my dorm room wall. I checked off each day. I kept my head down, my heart calm and plowed through. Then arrived the day when I received my covetous CELTA certificate. I walked out of the dorm, back to the bus station and went home.

I Surprised Myself

Teaching English as a Second Language was never anything I aspired to do. And guess what? I love it! I decided I didn’t want to be in a classroom and have all those commitments — 30 students per class, exams to write, meetings to attend, supervisors to deal with. So I started my own business: Super English Merida.

I made a website and I was in business. I tutor ESL from my home. I adore my students. Because I have a lot of experience with college students and universities, I added College Coach services to my offering, tutoring the SAT, Toefl, GRE, GMAT. I love helping young people reach their dreams.

I have no boss. I decide my own prices. I work as many or as few hours as I wish. I take vacations when I want. There is always work. Always. The teaching has its seasonality…and I go with the flow. I recently signed a contract to teach ESL online with a famous online school.

So what do I want to share with you? That I surprised myself. Teaching ESL was never anything I thought about, much less aspired to. I chose it because I knew it would be a fail safe way to earn money.

Turns out I was right. If I were more adventuresome I would take the jobs in Korea, China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil that are offered on the Internet. But for now, I’m enjoying things… just the way they are. Mission accomplished!

How did you reinvent yourself? What reinvention problems, pitfalls and successes can you share? What advice can you give someone who needs to find a second career? Please join the conversation.

Notify of

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

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

You Might Also Like