This week we are hearing from Cat who lives and teaches in Seville, Spain. Originally from Chicago, Cat has been teaching overseas in Seville for over 8 years. When she’s not in the classroom, Cat can be found blogging at Sunshine and Siestas.

To catch up with Parts 1 – 3 in the series, click here.

Cat got into teaching after graduating from college in May 2007 then joining a teaching program through the North American Language and Culutre Assistants program. This led to her teaching in a secondary school while tutoring part time for that all important extra cash! Following this, Cat started working as a preschool teacher in a prestigious bilingual school. Sadly, no amount of prestige makes up for Sunday night work sweats where you dread going to work the next day. When offered after school work at a language academy, Cat jumped at the chance to leave this job.

A mere 6 months later and she is the head of studies (proof that taking a leap of faith can not only make you happier but also pay off!)

Cat Gaa | teaching overseas

Cat Gaa

A week in the life as a Head of Studies

“As the academic director of a small language school in Spain, I work four days a week in the evenings. My main duties revolve around teaching, coordinating the entire academic development of our 200 students, choosing methodologies and preparing calendars, hiring and training teachers and acting as a liaison between our clients and the school.

Because I only work in the afternoons and evenings, I use my mornings for any prep work (I typically prep once at the school, and thanks to my experience, can do it quickly), freelance writing opportunities, taking care of the house and exercising. Around 1pm I’m usually preparing and eating lunch, and by 2:10 I’m out the door to stop for coffee and unlock the school around 2:45pm. I work 27 hours a week and am considered part-time in Spain.

Email communication is an essential part of my job, though I do not deal with any secretarial or money matters.


My job focuses solely on the academic and the coordination of schedules, classes, exams and the like. In a given day, I will give two-and-a-half hours of class to a maximum of eight students each. Then there are weekly meetings and training with teachers of about 30 minutes, an individual meeting with each of the five teachers we employ, and a few moments to touch base with my boss. The rest of my afternoon, until 9:30pm, is devoted to elaborating projects, parents meetings, exam coordination or evaluation.

Cat’s teaching journey

I happened to be in the right place at the right time to get my position: I’d already been teaching for five years in various academic settings, and came highly recommended into the teaching position within the school. It was meant to be a part-time job while I finished a master’s program, and I didn’t expect to stay a year.

Salutations and Siestas in Spain | teaching overseas

Sunshine and Siestas in Spain


Coming from a very negative teaching experience at a private school, one in which I was underpaid, undervalued and overworked at the expense of my personal and mental health, I was happy to teach teens again. I juggled a full load, on top of the masters and a budding freelance career, but I was happy. About four months into the term, the director of studies told me she’d soon be leaving to be a full-time mom to her two young children. I jumped at the chance to hone my leadership skills and am mid-way through my third term as DOS.

Cat in action in class | teaching overseas

Cat in action in class

What I enjoy about my job is that, despite the cycles (certain times of year mean recruitment or training, exams and evaluations or time to regroup and brainstorm to make things better, no two days are ever the same. And as we are a small school, I have the chance to make a larger impact, as well as get to know our clients and students well.”

Follow Cat

You can follow Cat and her Spanish adventures on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Has this inspired you to take the plunge and teach overseas? Maybe you’re doing it already…let us know about your experiences in the comments! Don’t forget to sign up to follow the series, making sure you hear from teachers about their experiences as well as their tips and advice.


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Princess In A Caravan

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