liz smiles in a green dress in front of a white background

CELTA English Teaching Program Opens International Doors For Freelancer Elizabeth Montoya

  • Jun 29, 2021
  • Jenan Taha

Freelance writer and cross-cultural community manager Elizabeth Montoya has always loved working with international populations and living abroad. After achieving her Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) remotely from the English Language Center this year, she now has the flexibility to work anywhere in the world and continue serving and engaging with a global community.

Montoya’s international background extends far beyond her latest achievement. After gaining her bachelor’s from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal from 2006 to 2008, and later achieved her master’s in adult and higher education from her alma mater while working in the international student office. She also served as the assistant director for Texas Global’s Sponsored Student Services before moving to Colombia where she lived for over five years. She currently works for non-profit Treetops Collective in Grand Rapids, Michigan, supporting refugee women and families.

To expand her career options and continue her passion of engaging with international people, Montoya applied for the CELTA program at UT, a four-week intensive English teaching program that offers virtual and in-person classroom instruction experience and is the most widely recognized teaching certificate in the world. Montoya completed the program in February and has already started using her new skills to help Colombian engineers working for her husband’s company improve their English skills. She also hopes to use her skills with the women at Treetops Collective.

She says CELTA has given her the freedom and accessibility to continue working with people from all over the world. One of the most memorable parts of her experience was the people she got to learn from and collaborate with—from her instructors to her diverse cohort—who she keeps in touch with today.                                                                                                      

Read about Montoya’s experiences in her own words.

Why did you apply to the CELTA program?

liz smiles in a green dress in front of a white backgroundI had always thought about it, and UT stood out to me for the faculty dedication and the pursuit of excellence. So, I definitely knew I wanted to study with UT. And then there just happened to be this option of remote learning. I thought this might be my only chance, because I didn't know if I would be able to travel to Austin for a while and take the course full-time. So the hybrid option just made it available to me and I was so excited.

For me, it was really about the freedom to work abroad anywhere. The CELTA offered me a way to work with other people, students, faculty and collaborate in that way.

It opens doors to me so that I can work anywhere in the world. If I can work and connect with people and still freelance on top of that, or whatever else comes my way in the future, I think that's just such a gift.

How was your experience in the program?

It was amazing. It was really demanding, but in the most exciting, engaging way. The teaching, the dedication, the compassion was just phenomenal. I was really impressed. And I learned so much about teaching methodology and language learning, and ultimately, I learned so much about people. I really can't say enough good things about it.

The cohort was very diverse. Every person had such an interesting story and I really enjoyed collaborating with and learning from my cohort. We stay in touch and some have already moved abroad and others are making plans. So that's been really cool. I give so much props and credit to the faculty, I really cannot speak highly enough of them. They were mentors, they’re experts in the field and I can't imagine learning from anyone better.

What was it like to do the course virtually?

It was so much better than I thought it would be. I had already acclimated to the online virtual world, so the classroom really wasn't that different in the sense that my classmates were accessible. We collaborated on projects and assignments and connected outside of class virtually. I have to say, the teaching component of the class was really challenging; I taught virtually for the first time. I'm so grateful that I learned online because I feel a lot more comfortable in person and I think it gives me that versatility to either teach in person or remotely.

Why do you want to teach English abroad?

I love working with international students and international populations. Ultimately, my passion is working with people from other places, whether that's UX writing, my work at Treetops, copyediting or teaching. I get inspired and energized by diversity and diverse perspectives.

I have to be passionate about what I'm doing, or there's just not a lot of inspiration to get up in the morning and to do it. The reason I've always been passionate about international people and populations is because I love to travel, but I also love to learn. I think it's very humbling when you're living abroad or when you're in the states learning from people from other places. I think if you're willing to listen and open yourself, it's transformative and so powerful.  

How do you plan to leverage the CELTA program in the future?

My husband owns a software development company and he employs Colombian engineers for U.S. and European companies. I'm already teaching those engineers. He has been able to open his talent pool for his clients by saying, ‘I'll hire really talented engineers, but they may have a lower English level.’ And then I tutor them and teach English. So, I'm already using it. And it's fun and engaging. It connects me with international people, so I'm already loving it. I was recently hired at Treetops Collective and can use it in my current role as well.

The CELTA really gives me that open door that I was looking for. I see myself living in other countries someday. We really want to offer that experience to our children. So, I definitely see myself living abroad again someday, hopefully continuing to freelance because it offers me flexibility. Hopefully the world will start opening up soon and we can all engage in that way again.

What has the pandemic illuminated for you about the importance of international experiences?

It has illustrated how connected we really are, challenging all of our countries and communities in profound ways. I think it demonstrates that the connectivity is already there. So, whether you want to seek and be curious, that's kind of your choice, but I would much rather navigate the world in a way that is humble than to isolate myself. I think for me, it just gives my life so much meaning. I never expected to marry someone from another country. I never expected to have bilingual and bicultural children. But I can’t imagine my life any other way. And it's just been such a gift.