Teaching in Salta, Argentina

Before arriving in Salta, we had been teaching in Zamora, Ecuador. There, we weren’t working many hours and we had lots of free time. We had the easiest life imaginable, surrounded by rainforests and living amongst bright and beautiful birds and other spectacular wildlife. Life was sweet. And super tranquilo. We will definitely consider Zamora for our future retirement.

However, at the moment, we are still in our twenties and we were in need of a more sociable and lively atmosphere, somewhere we could meet people our own age and speak more Spanish. We were after more of a challenge and a chance to have a more real day to day life, rather than feeling like we were tourists. With that in mind, we headed to the city of Salta in the north of Argentina.

Beautiful landscapes and vineyards in Salta region
Beautiful landscapes and vineyards in Salta region

Applying for the teaching job and arriving in Salta, Argentina

As we had travelled around Latin America back in 2012, we had an idea of where we wanted to go. As we had done the first time round, we emailed our CV out to many, many, English institutes in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay (click here to see a list of contacts for English schools in South America). We received perhaps just a handful of replies, with only three offers of jobs. We skype-interviewed with an institute in Iquique in Northern Chile and another in Montevideo, Uruguay. Both jobs and the schools themselves sounded great and were offering a pretty good salary. For us, though, the location just wasn’t what we were after. What we had loved most about South America was the Andean culture that was so prominent in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and parts of Argentina.

Good News English Institute in Salta was our third offer of work. After a simple exchange of some emails, I was offered a job of 20 hours a week teaching English to kids and adults.We were also put in contact with an American girl who had taught at the school previously, so we could find out a bit more about working for Good News and living in Salta. We felt she gave us a very honest account of her experience, which was overall very positive.

We had loved Salta when we visited the first time and we had fond memories of its beautiful region of mountains and vineyards. Located in the Northwest of Argentina, Salta still had the Andean feel we wanted, but within a lively city with lots to offer. We knew our weekends would no longer be spent solely birdwatching.

A few doubts

We accepted the job, despite still having a couple of doubts. One concern of ours was the visa situation. Whoever we spoke to and whatever information we read, we were told that there was a mile of red tape to get through if we wanted to apply for a work visa and it was near on impossible to get it all processed in the ten months we would be there. The alternative was to have our passport stamped every three months and stay out there on a tourist visa. We were told that we could have our passport stamped twice at the immigration office in Salta, which meant that we would only need to border-hop once.

The second doubt we had was whether we’d regret leaving Zamora in Ecuador. We loved the different way of life of Ecuador. It was so different to our lives in England and we were worried that Argentina would not be different enough. We knew we had it good in Zamora, but we also knew that we wouldn’t truly appreciate what we had until we left it behind. On the other hand, we also knew that we had left England to improve our Spanish, make friends and learn new things. We were doing very little of any of these things in Zamora.

 

So we left Zamora, made a little trip to the Galapagos, and then headed south. We travelled from Ecuador to Argentina via a combination of various bus journeys and two internal flights within Peru. Flying directly was super expensive, so we had to travel over three days, crossing three borders to arrive here.

We finally arrived in Salta on 26th February 2015.

What we were leaving behind: Zamora, Ecuador
What we were leaving behind: Zamora, Ecuador

Teaching at Good News English Institute in Salta, Argentina

We started teaching at Good News at the end of February 2015 and worked the complete school year until the beginning of December. Although not always easy, overall it was a great year working in a lovely school with lovely people.

The school

Good News is a private English Institute that offers classes to children of all ages and adults. They also provide one-to-one private lessons, exam preparation and offer classes to companies at their place of work. There are about 20 teachers and about 400 students. It seems that most years they have at least one native English teacher working for them. It’s quite a big institute with 12 classrooms, an open plan seating area, a patio and a staff room where Graciela, the cleaning lady, makes sure there is always fresh coffee available. Classrooms all have a whiteboard and some kind of CD player. Technology is used very little in the lessons so one laptop, one projector and one portable interactive whiteboard device is enough for all staff.

Good News English Institute, Salta, Argentina
Good News English Institute, Salta, Argentina

The school day

At Good News, classes go on throughout the day from Monday-Friday. In the morning there are some classes for the tiny kids. Early afternoons and late evenings, there are adults classes. Late afternoons from 4-9pm are when the majority of the kids come after they finish at their normal school.

A lot of the kids have been going to the institute throughout their school life. They might begin at the age of 8 or earlier and continue until they finish school at 16 or 17. These students have about 6 hours of English classes a week. As you can imagine, after 8 or so years of English classes, some of these students are of a pretty high standard!

On top of normal classes, they had several social events throughout the year, which created a lively atmosphere in the school. The biggest event was Ollygames, which was a day of team competitions and games. There were loads of prizes for the kids and they seemed to really enjoy it!

Our job

I was given a teaching job of 20 hours a week. This included an adults group, 3 upper-intermediate groups of 15-17 year olds, 1 intermediate teenage group of 15-16 year olds and 1 group of 12-14 year olds. On top of that, I offered exam preparation classes for the Cambridge First Plus certificate. My boyfriend, Rory, did more adults one-to-one classes and gave classes to the local mining company. He also did a science club for the little ones, which they loved!

The adults class

My adults group started with about 6 students, went up to about 8, and then by the end of the year, there were just 5 attending. Yes, attendance could be really irregular, with most going on holiday for weeks at a time. 4 of the 5 remaining students at the end of the year were the ones who had been coming to the institute for over 5 years and so were very used to how things worked. I definitely felt the pressure of trying to fill their previous teacher’s shoes. They had to get used to my style of teaching and the way I spoke. Some really struggled to understand me, but over the year, I think (I hope!) they got used to me.

We worked from an intermediate text book, which I and the students soon found was a bit ambitious for their actual level. Particularly as my group saw their lessons as a social event, a place to have a chat and maybe learn a new word or two in English. Every lesson, they were served coffee and they always brought a cake or some biscuits too, which was great! They had busy lives and often went on holiday for weeks at a time. They didn’t take their learning too seriously and as a result, did not advance at a fantastic rate. This was fine, but it took me a while to realise this and adapt the lessons accordingly.

Adults at Good News English Institute, Salta, Argentina
Adults at Good News English Institute, Salta, Argentina
The teenagers classes

Most of my teenagers were in their last year at the institute and most were preparing for their international exams. They were a clever bunch and I remember being super impressed with their level of English when I arrived. A couple of students in particular really stood out and were so articulate with their English, often using such sophisticated expressions – it was a pleasure to teach them! The kids were generally well behaved, although me being a new teacher and not fluent in Argentinian slang, some naturally took advantage! They are teenagers after all, so it was to be expected. However, I did find a small handful of them perhaps a little rude and arrogant at times. I have little experience working in a private school, so maybe this is normal for private school kids, but it was something I hadn’t come across before. For the most part though, the lessons were fun and interactive with lots of discussion.

Pay

I’ve heard of other English teachers in South America having problems with payment or getting paid on time. This was definitely not the case at Good News. The institute was very well-run and organised, which meant that we were always paid on the first working day of the month. We were paid cash in hand and would have to sign to receive it. For more information about our work situation and visas, click here.

At the beginning of the year, I was receiving about AR$7500 (approx. £520) a month based on a 20 hour week. It gradually increased to AR$8000 (approx. £550) in the middle of the year. In the last month I received AR$8655 (approx. £600). We also were given a Christmas bonus before we left. As you can see, throughout the year our pay increased in small amounts to try to ease the high inflation. As with the rest of the country, our pay did not actually increase at the same rate, but it did help a little. As we were a couple both earning money and living together, we found it easy to live comfortably on our salary. For more information about cost of living in Argentina, click here.

The staff

There were about 20 teachers working there, all of whom were women, except my boyfriend! They were lovely ladies, always available to help us and support us. The staff room was always a great atmosphere with the ladies chatting away. For us as foreigners though, it did feel a little overwhelming at times trying to keep up with their conversations and gossip! But they were all great, and made us feel very welcome.

Throughout the year there were various socials, which meant we had lots of opportunities to get to know each other more outside of class. The head of the school is very generous too and was always organising raffles and prizes, and ordering in food for the staff meetings and people’s birthdays. We received lots of presents over the year, as well as something a bit more special for our goodbye gift! In our last week, she even took us all out for pizza!

A few challenges

My adults group was not always fun for me. They saw it as their lesson, their classroom, and they had their own idea of how they should be taught. Actually, sometimes I felt like I got in the way or that I was being ignored. I would be explaining something and a couple of the ladies would start having their own conversation. And in group discussions, they didn’t always listen to each other. It was a very strange class to teach as I had never experienced mature adults who did not always ‘behave’! By the end of the year, however, I think we understood each other a bit more and the lessons went a bit more smoothly.

Another thing I didn’t appreciate at the beginning of the year was how everything slowed down after the half-way winter holidays. Later, I found out that teachers in Argentina actually plan their year with all the important main topics at the beginning, leaving the easier things or revision until the second-half of the year. The two-week winter holidays falls in July, and then after that there are so many disruptions to classes. The teens in their final year of school all go on 2 week holidays with their classmates half way through the term. There are also lots of social events at the institute. On top of this, Argentina has about 15 bank holidays throughout the year! I loved all the long weekends we had, but it was disruptive to the classes. So, with all this going on, the students were too tired or just didn’t have the motivation to study. And I didn’t blame them.

Also, I found that at certain times of the year there was a lack of support or acknowledgement from above. Our boss rarely walked around the school or came into our lessons, so she had very little presence in the school. She came into the staffroom every day to say hello and have a chat to the teachers. However, during exams or busy periods, she was often head-down in her office and so it felt difficult to approach her sometimes. If we had difficulties with our students, for example, in terms of behaviour, it seemed it was up to us to deal with it. There was no protocol or behaviour policy, which I was used to working with in schools. Equally, we didn’t know when we were doing a good job or not. Sometimes this was frustrating and we felt like we were blagging our way through the year or that our work wasn’t appreciated.  We were only told when there was a problem. By the end, however, we learnt to accept that if our boss didn’t say anything, she was happy with us! For the most part, though, she was very kind and fair to us.

Overall

Working at Good News was a fantastic experience and overall it was a fun and positive year. Although it wasn’t easy at times, it was nowhere as difficult as it was working in my secondary school back in England. It was a lot less stressful – less paperwork and more teaching!

Students at Good News English Institute, Salta, Argentina
Students at Good News English Institute, Salta, Argentina

If you liked what you read, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Thank you! :) 

13 thoughts on “Teaching in Salta, Argentina

  1. Hi!! I am currently living on the coast of Argentina, but I had looked at teaching at Good News before and your post was very helpful to me!

    Where are you teaching now? I know teaching ESL isn’t always the best way to save money, but I also teach online which helps supplement my salary and allows me to save and travel! If you are interested, I could pass along the information for the company I work at!

    https://t.vipkid.com.cn/?refereeId=1149740

    Here’s a referral link just in case 🙂

  2. Hi there,

    Thanks so much for your article! I was wondering how/if you obtained health insurance in Argentina without a work visa or contract from your employer. Do you know anything about purchasing prescription drugs without insurance and what the cost is?

    Nicole

    1. I did not get health insurance while i was in Argentina, i just had my travel insurance. I imagine it would be impossible without a residence or work permit. Luckily I didn’t need any medical assistance while I was away, but if i had needed it, i would have gone to one of our friends’ doctors. Make friends in Argentina and you’ll always be well looked after! Whenever i got slightly ill, i had everyone worrying about me & offering to contact their doctor for me.
      Through official routes, i have no idea how you would get your prescriptions, you would need to contact your doctor at home for advice.
      Sorry to not be more helpful! Good luck!

  3. Great post, thank you.
    I am considering living in Argentina. Have spent 2 months before and loved it.
    I am not a teacher and my degree is not on English. However, I am almost native level in the use of language.
    I will get an online TEFL certification course (100+ hours) and plan to do some voluntary teaching afterwards. Then I can move to Argentina and apply for jobs in person.
    What do you think are my chances as a non-native speaker?

    1. Hi there,
      Apologies for the delayed response… I seem to have overlooked a few messages in the past couple of months!
      Argentina is such a great country and we had a fantastic time teaching there!
      To be honest, I think you will find it a lot more difficult getting a teaching job if you are not native. In our experience, schools in Argentina employed native speakers as a selling point to attract more students. If not, they would tend to employ local people – we worked with plenty of fantastic near-native-English Argentinian teachers.
      If you do still decide to go, be aware that Argentina is not the cheapest place to live and if you do not have a full time teaching job, you’re likely to struggle. If you are going without a job beforehand, make sure you have enough money to keep you going for a while whilst you are searching.
      You may have more luck in other South American countries, such as Ecuador, or in smaller towns where English teachers are more scarce. I would suggest you contact a few schools in advance and ask them if they would be interested. Good luck!

  4. Hi The Mini Explorer!
    I’ve just moved to Salta with my husband (he’s from here), and I’m applying to different institutes to teach English. Your blog has been very helpful! I’ve applied to all the institutes you listed and your experience with Good News sounds great, I hope I can get in contact with them. Thanks!

    Alexandra

    1. Thanks so much for visiting my site – glad it’s been so helpful! You’ll have a great time there!
      I am just about to add another teaching opportunity to the list. It’s an NGO called Puentes de America that we volunteered for in Salta and they also hire teachers (paid) to give English classes. The lady, Joanna, in charge is so lovely and great to work with – I’d definitely recommend getting in contact with her: puentesdeamerica@gmail.com
      Good luck in Salta – I hope all goes well! I’m sure you’ll love it as much as we did!

      1. Hi Ellena! Just wanted to update you–I’m now working at Good News (the school year starts next week!) and I’ve also been in contact with Joanna at Puentes de America. Thanks for your suggestions! I would love to have your email to stay in touch, if that’s ok. And I have a few questions for you!

        1. Hi Alexandra. Glad my suggestions were helpful! Joanna is brilliant and you’ll have a great time working with her.
          I will email you so you can ask any other questions you might have. Hope you’re enjoying Salta and say hi to everyone at Good News and Puentes de America – I miss them a lot! 🙂

  5. Hi,

    This is a great website and really interesting to have ‘real life ‘ stories and information!
    I live in New Zealand (originally from the UK) and I’m heading over to Buenos Aires in December, I’m currently completing a TEFL course hoping to get some teaching work so I can pay my way. I would be really grateful if you could explain how you obtained a work visa or permission to work while on a tourist visa, I’m just in the process of trying to find out the best option.

    Any info would be greatly appreciated 🙂
    Many thanks
    Mark

    1. Hi Mark,
      Thank you for getting in touch. I’m so glad that this website is useful – it’s the kind of information that we could’ve done with before we set off!
      That’s great that you’re coming over to Buenos Aires, it’s such a fantastic city!

      Here, administration and paperwork takes forever and we’ve been advised that getting a work visa would take months (longer than we had planned on being here). We had a lot of reservations as to whether to come here because of that – we had never done the whole border hopping thing to renew our passports. I looked into getting the necessary documents, trolling through the internet for days, but with no luck. To obtain a work visa you need a sponsor, which would be from your employer. If you keep reading, you will understand why this would very unlikely to happen. If you are staying for less than 1-2 years, it’s just not worth getting a work visa – for you or your employer.

      So, basically, we simply renew our passports every 3 months. We were able to do it once at the immigration office by paying AR$600, but the other times, we have had to cross the border and re-enter. There seems to be absolutely no problem doing this and you will find hundreds of others doing the same. We’ve even had the border guards explaining to us that when we pop back over the border, they’ll give us another 3 months – so it’s no secret. In fact, we have just come back from a weekend in Buenos Aires, where we did a day trip to Colonia in Uruguay to get our next 3 months tourist stamp on our passport.
      Argentina is having its presidential elections this month, so it’s possible (but unlikely!) that things like immigration rules might change. It’s just something to be aware of, although I highly doubt you should worry.

      Another thing that you should know about Argentina is that most people are working on the black market. That’s to say, they are not registered and do not have contracts and consequently, do not pay tax.. In Salta, it was reported that 60% of people are working ‘en el negro’. Even those working in the public sector or for the government are doing this. It is a real achievement if you are able to get a real contract. For me, this sounds absolutely mad, but it’s just the way it is here. As you know, Argentina has real problems with its economy. So, I would suggest that you don’t worry about it and just do as the Argentinians do. You will find that many, if not most, of the people working in schools or institutes are paid cash and are not registered as ’employed’. That’s why I said that most employers will not go to the trouble of sponsoring you for a visa – it means they would have to register you as a formal employer.

      One last thing, I’m sure you are aware that Buenos Aires is an expensive city to live in. When we were considering it, we read about many teachers who struggled to get by there. You might find that you’ll have to work for several institutes to make up your pay.

      If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask! I hope this has all been helpful! Good luck with your planning and your TEFL course!
      Thanks,
      The Mini Explorer 🙂

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