Meet a Disney Teacher

South African Educators Overseas teacher Nic Iliffe began teaching for Disney English in 2007 as a Foreign Trainer and is now a Language Learning Director. Here is his story and recommendations for potential future Disney English teachers (called “trainers”).
What do you like most about working for Disney English?
You started as a Disney English Trainer… tell us how you went from trainer to Language Learning Director (LLD)?

Essentially the position entails managing all the academic staff at a particular Disney English center. At my center there are currently 10 foreign academic staff (FT) and 10 local academic staff (AT) so it is my responsibility to ensure that they have the available resources to best do their jobs, provide them with assistance in any way and ensure the overall academic integrity of Disney English is maintained by each trainer. I began my Disney English life as an FT and was promoted a few months later to Senior Foreign Trainer and then applied for a LLD position, it basically took me just over 18 months to get into management.

I have been very fortunate in that I have worked with and under some fantastic people since arriving and due to the nature of the job forging strong relationships with your fellow cast members is really important. The staff at the respective centers become your family away from home and some very strong friendships are made.

The learners are also truly great and so motivated to learn English at Disney English. It’s fantastic walking into the Clubhouse and 10 little faces just beam when they see you!

What do you like least?
Having been here for 2 years now, there is little that I do not like. When I started the company was still new and learning a lot about ESL education. Significant improvements have been made to the program and the curriculum is constantly being updated to best equip the learners with the best possible program. Having weekends on a Tuesday and Wednesday certainly took some getting used to and am still envious of those Saturday/Sunday people in the city.

How is the morale of Disney English teachers and managers?
This really depends on which center you are located at and I certainly cannot speak for everyone as the experience is a very individual one and many factors contribute to your happiness at Disney English and in China. As mentioned before, I have luckily always been surrounded by very positive people so my experience thus far has been a very good one. Morale amongst the trainers is certainly very important and my biggest focus is ensuring that the trainers at my center are given every opportunity to enjoy themselves and make the most out of this fantastic opportunity.

What advice would you give to incoming Disney English teachers?
Constantly remind yourself that you are going to a foreign country and things do not necessarily run how they do at home. Even though Disney English is an American company, we are still based and operate in China. The parents’ expectations are different to those back home and so cultural nuances need to be accommodated for.

Enjoy the adventure, it is what you make of it so do not pass up on this opportunity to experience and learn everything that you can.

Have you been able to save a lot of money?
Yes I certainly have, but again this depends on the individual. Living in Shanghai you have access to whole array of expat luxuries which cost a lot of money but then you are in China and you can live in China on a shoestring.

Have you been able to travel much around China or other regions nearby?
The two peak travel periods are during CNY and the National Day holidays when there are a lot of national holidays. I have travelled more outside of the country during these periods mainly because many Chinese people return home and hence travelling is overcrowded and slow. But yes, SE Asia is only a few hours away and is a prime destination for some sun and beach. China is also a beautiful country with an incredibly varying landscape, my favourite so far was my trip to Guilin and Yangshou. It’s a must!!!

What three things would you want to have known before you arrived?
It’s not that scary
Deodorant cost a fortune
Stay away from the Baijiu

Would you recommend Educators Overseas to other teachers, why or why not?
Educators Overseas offers a very professional service, and we are able to answer the myriad of questions that one has when contemplating making such a huge life decision as a move to teach overseas. They made the transition to China as seamless as possible and were constantly checking in to see how I was progressing. Even 2 years down the line an effort is made to re-connect. So yes, I would certainly recommend them to others!