Interview with English teacher and Software Developer Jeremy Garner, Founder of Vocab Kitchen

The spirit has finally moved me to get back to vocabkitchen and move it forward a bit. Here are some answers if they’re still of any use to you:

1. Could you tell us about yourself and your background

I was an ESL teacher in the UAE for 5 years and an IELTS examiner for a while. I’m a self-taught developer and about two years ago I left teaching and now work full-time as a software developer.

2. How did you come to be an ESL teacher?

I started right after I finished university. Back in the early days of finding jobs on the internet (2002?) I found a job teaching English in southern Brazil — mainly because I wanted to live in Brazil!

3. What tips do you have for anyone looking to be an ESL teacher in future?

My advice would be look for an good MA TESOL program at a reasonably priced university. That will open doors in the Middle East and Asia. I know mine paid dividends in the Middle East.

4. Where did you get the idea to make the CEFR profiler tool on vocabkitchen.com?

I was inspired by lextutor.ca which has a lot of very innovative ideas on it. I worked with some very good second language acquisition type folks who had found the CEFR lists to be much more useful than the general service list. I also thought I could improve on the user experience and design with a new site. I couldn’t talk anyone into building it for me for free so over the course of 2 or 3 years I taught myself enough to build it.

5. What ways have you heard of people using Vocab Kitchen for teaching?

In 2015 I presented it at half a dozen different conferences around the UAE. That was also the year I moved back to the U.S. and then subsequently left teaching, so I unfortunately have very little contact anymore with people using it in the classroom. I’m always happy when I get an email from someone about the site so I know people are still using it!

(Editor’s note: That includes me, as you can see from my previous post on Tech Tips for CELTA Assignments)

6. Do you have any further ideas for teaching tools in the future?

Yes, I was about a month away from completing a mobile app for the site but some technical challenges caused me to abandon the project. Fortunately, mobile development has become much easier over the past 3 years and I’m planning on revisiting the project over the next 6 months.

My goal is to extend the “social reader” side of the app to have vocabulary study activities based on individualized study lists. The activities will identify unfamiliar words and walk users towards mastery of both a word’s meaning and its spelling.


Thank you to Jeremy Garner for his time and good luck with the mobile app!

Editor’s Note

So, from an ESL teacher to a software developer – it just goes to show that you can do many things after taking a CELTA or similar qualification.

Hopefully that has inspired some of you to get out there and make something for your class or students!

If you know of any great websites or apps you would like me to write about, leave your suggestions in the comments below and I will have a look!

Again this is Steve, until next time.

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