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June 2024 - Year 26 - Issue 3

ISSN 1755-9715

My Experience at Pilgrims – How It All Began

Linda Yael has been a teacher trainer at Pilgrims Teacher Training since 2005, and has given teacher development courses and seminars both in the UK and in other countries. She has been a Cambridge English Examiner for many years, and an IELTS examiner. She was lecturer in English for nearly thirty years at the Balseiro Institute, National University of Cuyo, Argentina. She was for many years a trainer at Lenguas Vivas Bariloche Teacher Training College (1997-2010), and previously worked for the British Council, Madrid, as a teacher and examiner. 


Over twenty years ago, I was working at a university far, far away, on the other side of the world. I’d been teaching there for a very long time and was totally isolated from exciting events such as international conferences, although I’d always dreamt of presenting at IATEFL. I therefore decided to send in a proposal. If it was accepted, I could ask the authorities for funding, my reasoning went. It was accepted. I got some funding. I was able to present at IATEFL.

Fast-forward to nearly two years later. I received an email from the great Mario Rinvolucri, who had read my article which was published in the conference book. I was looking for a different job for the (European) summer, not in EAP as I usually had. Mario wasn’t in the hiring business, but put me in touch with the Director of Studies at the time, who interviewed me on the telephone from my hotel room in Athens. The interview lasted over an hour, but I got the job. 

My memories of that first summer at Pilgrims are fond, intense, surreal, all combined into a rainbow of feelings. I was a little overwhelmed at times; I was an experienced trainer, but unprepared for the demands of such intensive courses. I’ll always be grateful for the colleagues who helped me navigate those first few weeks, the ideas, the after-dinner discussions over plentiful glasses of wine, and the friendliness, both of my colleagues and of our course participants.  

The summer ended. From my home in still-freezing Patagonia I missed the long summer days in Canterbury, as well as my new friends and colleagues. The next year I was delighted to be invited back to Pilgrims. This time I needed help of another type, mainly in not getting lost in the endless, windowless corridors of Rutherford College. I spent hours preparing sessions in the stuffy Resources Room. However, those of us teaching at Rutherford were rewarded with the best selection of coffee-break biscuits.

Each summer brought some changes – new colleagues, better classrooms in the Cornwallis, buildings sprouting around campus, a Bishops’ conference (including one bishop taking his trousers off in the launderette and proceeding to put them in the washer). We taught different courses, to participants from different countries. We guested on colleagues’ courses, a great way to introduce variety, diverse viewpoints and teaching styles. We went to each others’ evening sessions, with varying degrees of success: Phil Dexter’s Scottish evening probably comes top of the list.

In my first summer, I learnt that the most important thing at Pilgrims was the people. It still is. Knowing our subject is fundamental; it’s a given. But people come first, or there would be no sense in our existence. That’s why, despite the ups and downs of the last few years, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pilgrims, and the beginning of the next fifty years.

  • The Pilgrims Trainer: Charismatic Non-conformism!
    Till Gins, Lead Officer, Pilgrims

  • A Pilgrim’s Odyssey
    Robert Gillan, UK

  • The Humanistic Experience
    Sharka Dohnalova, Czechia

  • My Pilgrims Dream
    Marta Bujakowska, Poland

  • Another Reason Why Pilgrims is the “World”
    Stefania Ballotto, Italy and RSA

  • My Experience at Pilgrims – How It All Began
    Linda Yael, Argentina