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If you’re around my age and spent a lot of time online when you were a kid, you probably had a Neopets account. In your early teens, you might have complained about school on LiveJournal, and kept in touch with your friends on MySpace.
In those days, if you wanted to customize your Neopets’ web pages, or the design of your LiveJournal or MySpace pages, you would have had to learn a bit of HTML and CSS. Whatever platform you were on, circa 2003, your page probably had a black background. The links might have done cool things like change colors or go strikethrough when you hovered over them. If you wanted to get really fancy, you might have turned the cursor into a shooting star or bunch of balloons.
And, if your story is like mine, as we all traded our MySpace pages for Facebook accounts, drag-and-drop tools made it easy to design a website without using HTML, and shooting star cursors stopped being cool, you might have stopped doing any sort of coding for a few years. It got so easy to do a lot of things on the Internet without knowing any code.
Let me introduce myself. My name’s Fiona Voss, I’ll be a student at LEARN starting this May, and that’s my early history with the Internet. Now I’m going to tell the story of how I came full circle and decided to not only take up coding again, but quit my job, enroll at LEARN’s bootcamp, and train for a new career as a web developer.
Despite my early interest in coding, I never thought to make a career out of it until about a year ago. In college, I majored in Art History and took mostly liberal arts classes. I didn’t give much thought to what kind of career I wanted to pursue until my last semester. I had always enjoyed studying foreign languages, though. I might enjoy teaching English as a foreign language, I thought.
To get my foot in the door as an English teacher I started by getting a CELTA, or Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. Getting a CELTA is actually pretty similar to going to a web development bootcamp, and my positive experience with it was one of the things that made me feel confident about enrolling at LEARN, so I’m going to spend some time going into detail about the CELTA.
The CELTA is an extremely practical introduction to teaching English. I got mine in an intensive program of just four weeks of full-time study: on site from 9 to 5, plus homework. On day one we observed our trainers teaching real students. On day two, we were thrown in the deep end and taught our first lessons. We learned how to communicate with learners, even beginners, using only English (plus lots of visual aids and gestures) and plan lessons that were both engaging and informative. By the end of the four-week program, I had personally spent a total of about four hours teaching, and several times that number observing my fellow trainees. Having my CELTA certification allowed me to get my first job as a teacher, at a language school in New York.
Of course, I wasn’t a fully formed teacher from the start after just four weeks of training. It took time for me to effectively apply the skills I had learned now that I was on my own. However, my teaching skills soon improved. My students enjoyed my lessons and made huge improvements in their grammar, vocabulary, and fluency. Throughout my teaching career, and especially in those first few months, I relied heavily on the practical foundation that had been built during my CELTA program. Looking back, I consider CELTA to be the most valuable educational experience of my life so far. I was acquiring practical skills in an extremely hands-on environment for a specific job that I really wanted to do. Because of that, I was incredibly motivated to learn—much more motivated than I ever had been in high school or college.
I taught English for almost 5 years in New York and San Diego. I met many interesting people from all over the world and developed a lot of confidence, as a person in general and particularly as a leader. All in all, my time teaching English is an experience that I’m grateful for. However, about a year ago I began to feel that it was time for me to move on. I knew I didn’t want to still be teaching English five or ten years from now, and the idea of moving up the ranks and becoming a school manager or academic director didn’t excite me, either. It was time to find a new field to go into—or maybe an old one.
Looking back on my CELTA experience, and remembering how well it had worked for me, I wanted to learn web development in a similar environment: in-person, full-time, and intensive. After I visited LEARN, talked with Chelsea and Lisa, and observed the students working, I knew that it was the best choice for me. The internship component of the program was a major attraction for me as well: a chance for more hands-on learning inside a local company.
You’ll have to check in with me at the end of the summer when I’m done with LEARN to see how this story continues, but I expect it will be similar to my CELTA story. When I start my first job in my new career as a web developer, I’ll still have a lot to learn. In fact, in this industry, I know I’ll never stop learning. But thanks to LEARN, I’ll have a foundation of practical skills to build on. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be using those new skills for. I might focus on design, or back-end development, or mobile apps, or something I can’t even imagine yet. But whatever I end up doing, I know it will be way cooler than those web pages I designed back in my middle school days!