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Home » Teaching English Abroad » Canada » Teaching English in Canada: Resume, Cover Letter, and Interview Tips to Help You Get Started as an ESL Teacher in Canada

Teaching English in Canada: Resume, Cover Letter, and Interview Tips to Help You Get Started as an ESL Teacher in Canada

As a Canadian, teaching English in my hometown Toronto has allowed me to develop my skills as a teacher, earn a good wage and meet students from all over the world while remaining in close proximity to my family and friends. Canada offers many opportunities for those who want to pursue a career in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), whether it be in private language schools, government-funded settlement programs, or at the College or University levels.

This OnTESOL graduate blog explains how to get started as an ESL teacher in Canada and offers tips on building your resume and cover letter and preparing for your job interview. OnTESOL offers accredited TESOL certification courses valid for teaching jobs in Canada.  Also valid for ESL teaching jobs abroad and online. TESL Canada-approved since 2003.

Starting Out as an ESL Teacher in Canada

Most entry-level ESL teachers in Canada begin their TESOL careers at privately-owned language schools, which are abundant in major Canadian cities. 

Typical hourly wages for entry-level ESL teachers range between $20-26, and schedules usually approximate a standard 8-4 or 9-5 workday. While many school staffs are not unionized, some are; if you plan on investing many years in the industry, it may be worthwhile seeking out a school that offers job security.

Finally, I advise that you consider the degree of collegiality amongst teachers and administration; it makes all the difference to work with teachers who care, and for a school that takes care of its teachers. You’ll learn more, become a better teacher, and enjoy your day-to-day significantly more in this kind of environment.

The Job Search 

When you know what city you want to teach in, take time to make a list of reputable language schools in the city you want to teach and visit them to set up appointments with their Director of Studies. Private language schools usually accept resumes throughout the year and call interesting candidates as they need them.

The vast majority of schools experience their highest volumes in the summer months, so if you`re looking to get a start in the industry, May and June tend to be good months for job-hunting. In my experience, the most effective method of getting the interview is to present your resume and cover letter in person. Nowadays, however, you can apply for ESL teaching jobs through sites such as Indeed or the OnTESOL Job Board.

Your Resume and Cover Letter

It can be difficult to break into a new area of work, but there are some things you can do to get the chance to prove that you can be an excellent ESL teacher.

On your resume, highlight any experience that is directly relevant to the job. Try to keep your resume to one page. If you have previous teaching experience, include only those jobs that are related to teaching English. If you haven’t taught before, place the Education section and TESOL certification on top, and list the key skills you learned during the courses you completed for your TESL Canada accreditation, such as lesson planning, TESOL methods, and the topics and level of students you covered in the practicum.

In your cover letter, be as specific as possible about your teaching skills and how they have helped students achieve success in the past, even if you are speaking of the students who participated in your practicum. Being able to reflect on your teaching experience will show that you have insight into your role and that you care about your work. If experience is not your resume`s strong suit, concentrate instead on selling your enthusiasm and professionalism. Emphasize your understanding of how to apply what you learned in your TESOL certification course to a real classroom and your willingness to learn from more experienced teachers. Articulate clearly and succinctly why you wanted to become an ESL teacher and what you bring to the job that makes you stand out.

Passing The Interview

A large part of a teacher’s role is to make their students feel comfortable, so be relaxed and confident. Preparing yourself to elaborate on your resume and cover letter, and brushing up on your grammar lingo will go a long way in helping you to relax and remain mentally present throughout the interview.

Doing research about the school will allow you to get a sense of its curriculum, pedagogical values, and work culture, and it will show your interviewer that you understand what is important to him or her in a teacher.

One of the easiest ways for schools to screen for unprepared teachers is to ask candidates to teach a grammar lesson. Grammar teaching skills continue to be seen as the most fundamental in a teacher’s toolkit, so be prepared to field some questions that will allow you to demonstrate your understanding of how to make grammar lessons comprehensible and interesting.

I’ve been asked to explain, for example, how I would introduce the present perfect in a one-hour grammar class and which communicative activities would help students practice the use of relative clauses. Keep the ‘presentation’ ‘practice’ and ‘production’ model in mind; it will help you to organize your thoughts and present a balanced plan. The PPP lesson planning framework is the most commonly used for teaching grammar lessons and most ESL textbooks used in Canadian language classrooms follow PPP. If you are pressed for time or feel stressed during the interview, this framework is the safest to use in interviews because you can never go wrong using PPP for a grammar lesson.

Over the course of the interview, it’s important that you show yourself to have, besides fundamental teaching skills, a dynamic range of abilities and interests. The school may often hire from their pool of ESL teachers to perform extracurricular activities such as MC their graduation ceremonies, coach a recreational team, supervise a fieldtrip, or instruct an after school drama elective, so making mention of your experience and interests is also helpful.

Last but not least, if you are interested in a specific aspect of teaching, such as integrating social media into language study, share your passion with the interviewer and provide examples of how it might benefit the school. One way to do this is to bring a portfolio of 4-5 lesson plans that supplement the textbook with authentic material. Experienced ESL teachers tend to collect these over the years, but creating a portoflio is also a great way for entry-level ESL teachers to polish on their lesson planning skills before the job interview.  

Follow-up

It may take some time for employers to get back to you because the hiring of new teachers all depends on enrollment numbers, which are always changing. If you don’t get a response within two weeks, it might be worthwhile to send a quick follow-up email reminding them of your interest. Your reminder might come at a time when the school may have a sudden need for new teachers; timing, you’ll find, is very important. There are many language schools in Canada and they get very busy in January, May, and June-.

Recommended for ESL Teaching Jobs in Canada

The online 120-hour Advanced TESOL Certificate course is recognized by TESL Canada for their Professional Standard 1 Certification.  OnTESOL offers self-paced and semi-asynchronous options. Add the 10-hour Live Lesson Planning Workshop for an interactive learning experience with other students. Those who attend the live workshop pass the online TESOL course faster and with higher marks! Get CELTA-equivalent training with OnTESOL to qualify for ESL teaching jobs in Canada and worldwide. 

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