It was proving a real challenge to get the chance to meet John Kavanagh! He is by all means the man in demand with a full schedule. From my first contact to our meeting, nearly two weeks had gone by I was impressed with his schedule. Finally, even with his classes at Academic Bridge, his private students and managing his new page on Facebook, True Light Learning, which focuses on many issues, we got the chance to meet. I waited for him in the school lounge after class. We had a great conversation.

John is undoubtedly one of the most beloved teachers in Academic Bridge. His name has become synonymous with innovative, lively but relaxed, dynamic and effective classes displaying an impeccable methodology. John is always courteous, professional and very helpful. When we started our conversation, he was warm and enthusiastic and said how he excited and honoured he was, for being the first teacher to be profiled in this series of upcoming interviews.

Born in Northern Ireland, in the beautiful city of Derry, John saw in Dublin the opportunity to develop a career in the academic field. Living in the city for over 16 years, he has found a vocation in teaching. “I have been an English teacher for 12 years in Dublin, with one year in Germany. I have always loved to learn new languages. Since my time school through college I studied German and Irish”, he says, his smile is contagious. Clearly, you can see his communicative ability to teach and also learn new languages.


In addition, John emphasises that working as a teacher is not an easy task, even more, teaching a new language, often to students who know little or no English can be challenging. In this sense, it is very important that the teacher has a personal motivation, something that inspires him every day. “I like being creative and working with people. It is amazing to see my students progressing every day and developing new abilities, and gradually mastering English. I often stand back and admire a student’s progress, I can feel proud of my work. It is amazing to know that I am part of a student’s journey.”

As some students in the lounge chat away, doing their homework, we talk a little more about motivation and work. “I believe that all this time the world has come to me. Every student has a story to tell and I have met so many interesting people in my time as a teacher. What is interesting is that I keep meeting people from all over the globe and I don’t have to leave my home country for that. I am interested in meeting individuals and facilitating their needs. I feel I’ve learned a lot about the students’ home countries “

John reinforces the importance of a teacher to teach a language for people of different nationalities, “I travel without moving myself”, he concludes with a smile.

The fact of being in contact with different nationalities must also be taken seriously. John explains that we must be aware of different levels of learning in a class. He says that not all students learn in the same way and this has taught him to be an eternally vigilant, flexible and creative teacher. For a moment we talk about the principal points of the English language learning process and how important is the role of the teacher.

John understands that the exchange experience not only supports people to speak English but that the teacher can play an important role in the life of each student. “our students come to Academic Bridge to study and to live in Ireland, we as teachers, have, therefore a duty of care to our students, beyond the grammar! It is more than just teaching a new language. Our duty as teachers, forms part of the one of the most incredible and unforgettable life experiences for students. The teacher must be available to support, listen, advise, answer questions, give information, and ultimately care”.


This new stage is not only made up of “learning English”. There are many stages, episodes and chapters in the student experience, but they are all connected to the language. John describes that the English language teaching is connected with logical information, facts and students learning through a format. But nevertheless, to make the language useful and memorable, he explains that we need a language to work the emotional side too, always approaching subjects in which students are interested.” In my classes we have created a favourable environment for learning. I bring in elements of maybe art, music, science, business, maths, whatever. Furthermore, Academic Bridge has an incredible structure, which allows me to have this flexibility in adding a flavour to the class. I always try to bring new elements, information, media or newspapers. For me, it is amazing to work with these additional tools. If I’m teaching grammar and remember a song that can help fix that content, I put it on, and the students appreciate it.” he concludes.

When his mobile starts ringing, we realized that more than half an hour has passed. John insists on finishing the interview expounding his views on the main points of improvement for how students can help themselves. “What I hope from all my students is that they use the city of Dublin and make the learning real outside the classroom.” He reinforces that form his 12 years of experience the students who progress are those who try to speak English as much as possible when they are outside school. They are those who do their homework, watch movies or series without subtitles (or in English). “Students need to be more exposed, talk to people. I want you to hide your shyness. If you want to learn English, you have to venture outside your comfort zone”.

He ends with some valuable tips on how to enhance language learning. Starting with the basics:

  • Talk to everyone you can. “Practice will take you to perfection. You will not be fluent in English knowing only grammar and vocabulary. You need to practice, talking! At first, it may be difficult and complicated. But with time, its evolution will be clear”, he added.
  • Listening to the radio really helps “Try to listen to different stations. Take time out of your day to do so. There are great ones, which I can recommend, BBC regional radio try Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Auckland among others. Performing this activity, you will not only train your listening but will also be able to understand different accents, not just TV American accents.”
  • Follow John’s own Facebook page ‘True Light Learning’, he can teach private classes for business, exams, presentations face-to-face and on Skype.
  • John stresses the importance of reading in the learning process and emphasizes that students should read every day. There are several books for different levels of English and this practice will greatly contribute to the expansion of their vocabulary.
  • Also meet people participate in conversation meetings. Dublin is full of social and special interest groups, sports clubs etc Get out and join them! They help with the practice what you have learnet in the classroom.”
  • Finally, the John advises that the write everyday. Start a diary. Having a good level of written English is as important as talking or listening well. Seriously…the students who progress fastest write everyday…this is my own personal experience!

Through daily writing, combined with all the other tips mentioned, students will undoubtedly have a great evolution in their learning process. It is interesting that the student is creative and enjoys the opportunity to be here in Dublin. Putting these simple tips into practice, it will be build confidence in English. During all these years as a teacher, I have seen so many students perfecting their learning quickly, he concludes.

John shakes my hand and smiles thanking me for the opportunity to talk to me, this was a great conversation and I appreciate the invaluable tips, I will also put them into practice myself as well.


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