Teaching English in Mexico

Interview with an American Teacher in Mexico

We talk to Jan about life as a private school teacher in Mexico

Jan M Teaches English In Mexico
Jan M, Certified Teacher

Jan M, a long time resident of Mexico, tells us all about life as a foreign teacher in Mexico, a country she has absolutely fallen in love with. But her story isn’t one of simply moving to Mexico to teach the local students. With a higher purpose in mind, Jan and her family have found a way to give back to the community where she has made her home.

Hi Jan, it’s great to have you with us! Tell us a little about yourself:

What is your teaching background?

I have a degree in Secondary Education, specializing in 6-9 grade math and K-12 reading from Appalachian State University.

Also, I taught in North Carolina middle and high schools, 6-12 grades.

I developed the English program at a school in Nicaragua for preschool and elementary grades.

I’ve also homeschooled my two oldest sons for middle and high school.

Lastly, I have been teaching English in Mexico for eight years in a middle and high school, currently just high school. My school is called “Instituto Mexico Nuevo”

Why did you decide on Mexico to teach English in and where are you teaching in?

We came to Mexico for my husband’s job as a professor at a seminary.  Our church decided to start a high school because our town, El Carmen, didn’t have a school beyond middle school. I jumped in to help because the timing was right for me and I knew I could make a difference.

How do you like teaching in Mexico?

I enjoy it so much!

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Jan M and her students posing for one of many selfies
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Jan M having the time of her life with her students

A lot of people believe that Mexico is unsafe. Is it true?

Well, I honestly feel more in danger when I am in the USA. Here in Mexico, we don’t have random violence. The violence is almost always cartel-related. If you aren’t in the cartels, military, or law enforcement you are generally safe. That said, one should always be aware of their surroundings and be smart about where they are and who they are with.

What are some of the challenges of teaching in Mexico?

I’m not sure if this is an issue throughout the whole country, but at least in the little towns, I have seen that education isn’t a priority in the home.  Many parents may have only finished middle school, and they’re just fine working in factories, so they don’t push their kids to go farther.

Also, the Secretary of Education is always making changes that affect our curriculum and sometimes this can be frustrating.  (Right now, for example, we aren’t allowed to hold a student back, so they cannot fail. We teachers have to provide them with up to six exams to take in order for them to pass. It’s a lot of extra work for the teachers.)

Another challenge is the pay. Teachers do not make a lot of money in most schools except for public schools, and it is more difficult for a foreigner to get a public school job, I am told.

What about the benefits?

Mexico is an inexpensive place to live, and culturally it is a pleasant place. The people are hospitable, the food is fantastic, and the pace of life is so nice and chill.

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Jan M and the kids enjoying a celebration with cake


Can you tell us about the different options teachers have for work such as universities or language schools?

I couldn’t really tell you much about this. I know there are many schools throughout the country where native English teachers work. The one in Monterrey, where I live, that seems to be the most popular and also fancy is called the American School Foundation of Monterrey. The place is amazing. The campus is nicer than most college campuses I have seen in the US. The students are usually children of dignitaries and corporate executives.

There are also Oxford schools here.

What can the average teacher expect in terms of pay and benefits?

I can only speak for my school, which is a small private school. I earn $3 USD per hour and receive no benefits.  I know that the pay depends on the area and also what type of school you are looking at.

What type of visa are you on and what were the requirements for getting it? 

I am a permanent resident of Mexico, I can easily change my work status now after five years of temporary residency. I was unable to receive money officially during that time.

How easy was it? The process is relatively easy as far as visas go, it is just time-consuming having to go to immigration with forms and letters and bank statements. Also, the visa must be applied for from outside of Mexico. I applied in Laredo, Texas, and had thirty days to present myself to immigration in Mexico with all of my paperwork. They granted me one year at a time of temporary residency and then after that, we received our permanent residency, which never has to be renewed.

During temporary residency, it is difficult to open bank accounts, have phone contracts, etc. You can purchase property, however.

Do you have any final advice for people who are thinking about moving to Mexico to teach English?

I would suggest really determining what kind of work you would like to do. If it is about money, look into cities where the pay is higher and also the quality of education is usually higher.

If you are not looking at the money, consider the pueblos. The pay is less, but the cost of living is much less as well. I know in my particular case, I want to be able to provide a quality English education to my students who would otherwise not have an opportunity for this. I am the only native English speaker/teacher giving classes in our region amongst five pueblos.

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