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On Training up to Become a Cambridge CELTA tutor

Teacher training and Development

On Training up to Become a Cambridge CELTA tutor

Many of my Delta Diploma graduates and even CELTA graduates, often ask me if we would train them up so they can become CELTA tutors. This is a post to help them understand the process and why it is so difficult to get accepted on such an induction course.  

Why are some teachers so keen on becoming CELTA tutors? 

This should not come as a surprise. Many experienced teachers, especially after completing a demanding course such as an M.A., Cambridge Delta or similar level course…
  • …may feel that their training and newly acquired qualifications are not appreciated enough by their institutions.
  • …may feel that the commitment – financial and personal – to upgrade their training are not compensated well enough
  • …find themselves unsatisfied with having to comply with teaching methods and materials which they know to be ineffective
  • ….realise that teacher training is one of the next steps up the ladder of their professional and career development
  • … believe that teaching and training are one and the same thing and that if you are a good teacher, this automatically means you could be a good teacher trainer

Personal ambition – more kudos – better professional profile – desire to pass on their knowledge to others – all these are good and valid reasons for teachers to start exploring this career path.

Becoming a teacher trainer 

In recent years, more and more I have seen teachers attach the title of teacher trainer to their name even when they have only perhaps presented once or twice at a conference – local or abroad. This is of course not how one defines a teacher trainer, or, as some would say, a teacher educator, but who can blame a teacher for wanting to upgrade their position and status in the world? There is more prestige to being a teacher trainer and it is a valuable addition to a teachers CV to claim to be one.
Adopting a title for oneself is easy but becoming an employable teacher trainer, one that a school might hire to develop their staff or that a centre such as ours would offer a job to, however, is a long process.
In the past, Cambridge would approve someone as a CELTA tutor after they had followed an induction course by a centre. Most of the older tutors who were approved up to about 10 years ago were trained that way and were then launched into the freelance CELTA job market or were given permanent jobs by an institution.
But no more. In recent years, many trainees have complained about the quality of instruction, the limited scope of good classroom practices introduced by many freelancers who deliver the same sessions course after course after course without any thought of the needs of specific trainees or the local needs in certain teaching contexts.
Nowadays, to be even considered as a Tutor in Training, one must be attached to a centre for more than 3 or 4 courses; Cambridge authorises the training of trainers only if they can remain in employment after their induction programme so that they can be supported, supervised and helped to developed under the mentorship of one of the senior staff trainers.  Cambridge does not approve nominations of people who want to freelance – this is because freelancers have been generally seen to fossilise into one mode of course delivery and, in general, but not of course always, deliver low quality CELTA courses.

Some facts to remember if you are thinking of applying for such a programme

  1. You must have completed your Delta, especially Module 2 which will have given you the opportunity to observe and be observed.
  2. If you also have a Masters in a related field, this is highly desirable (for the depth of understanding it affords a teacher or trainer) but not a prerequisite.
  3. You must have already accumulated some teacher training experience. An occasional paper or workshop at a conference is not training experience; working with teachers on a course or a continuous professional development programme is.
  4. This teacher training experience must be verifiable, for example by an employer, and you must be able to produce materials you have designed and used in such work.
  5. Being accepted to follow a CELTA trainer induction is a big commitment by the course provider, it is not a one-off thing, i.e. follow a course, be authorised, off you go and free lance. No. It means working with the centre for at least 3-4 courses and the person(s) responsible for your training must continue to support, evaluate and help you develop as a teacher trainer.
  6. Following on from the previous point, it should be understood why selection is strict – accepting someone with no training experience means endangering the education of  the centre’s CELTA trainees, their learning, their development and, ultimately, their results!
  7. It follows then, that for a centre to accept to train up someone, they must also consider whether they want to keep that someone as a trainer for so many courses; not always an easy decision to make.

Thoughts from a past blog post

In a guest post published in 2011 on Karen Sylvester’s blog, Kalinago English, I posted the following thoughts related to what I look for in teacher trainers/educators. Click here to read the full post which was nominated as one of the most influential posts of that year by edublogs. You may also be interested in the distinction drawn in that post to highlight the differences between the term teacher trainer vs teacher educator.

What does it take to be a teacher trainer/educator

The Council of Europe stipulates that those involved in the training of professionals should have received a minimum of 400 hours of training themselves, which is a good point to think about, not just regarding teacher educators.
Apart from evidence of extensive training (ideally including a DELTA and an M.A. in TEFL or Applied Linguistics), here are some of the qualities I look for in anyone who wants to work as a teacher trainer/educator at my training institution. I look for educators who…

  • have extensive and varied classroom teaching experience
  • are experienced and highly skilled in lesson & materials design
  • are familiar with a wide range of materials available, published in print form and online
  • have extensive experience of training and supporting adult learners
  • have experience of having been observed by others themselves
  • are able to deliver lessons using a wide range of presentation/teaching modes
  • are highly polished classroom practitioners/master teachers themselves
  • are confident and supportive individuals
  • have an interest in their own ongoing professional development/ new technologies do not frighten them and they are keen to develop and learn
  • have thorough understanding of the theoretical assumptions underpinning classroom techniques/ lessons/ materials/lesson shapes, etc.
  • are highly proficient in the language of instruction (English) with outstanding language awareness
  • have observed other teachers extensively and seen different ways of giving feedback to trainee teachers
  • are mature, balanced, objective and have a reflective approach to teaching and teacher education
  • are in full control of their teaching style and classroom persona
  • are keen learners and sharers and are generous about sharing what they know with other colleagues
I could add many more qualities I look for, such as a bright and sunny disposition, a good sense of humour, tolerance and patience, sensitivity, efficiency, passion for teaching – a great ingredient!!! – professionalism, promptness, punctuality, flexibility, empathy….the list could go on and on.

But what I want to stress is that my ideal candidate will have both the high polish of a good teacher trainer as well as the depth of understanding of a good teacher educator.

If all this sounds forbidding, then my post has been successful. Not all good teachers make good teacher trainers – and not all Delta holders will necessarily make good trainers.

But some will and they will make a huge difference in a teacher’s life and career development . 

Which is why, if you are interested, you are advised to follow a course such as Train the Trainer  to will help you understand the demands of the profession and and motivate you to start accumulating some training experience before you apply to become a CELTA trainer. 


My comments on freelancers are made from the point of view of experience as a course provider and employer.  I am extremely fortunate to have selected and employed some wonderful tutors on a freelance basis – most of them, however, developed as trainers by working full time and developing their training skills with one centre before deciding to go freelance.

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