Interview with ELTABBer of the month: Justin Ehresman

Name: Justin Ehresman

Job title: Managing Director of All on Board

What made you decide to set up your own language school?

I actually never wanted to set up my own school. I was in a relationship with a banker and he was impressed by the fact that I was so booked (teaching 50 units a week) that he was sure we could build on that and open a school together. Only after taking part in a business plan competition, did I begin to think it could actually work. I was passionate about teaching and absolutely loved working with adults in Berlin. My experience working as a freelancer had already left me with a list of “If I had my own school, I would…” and I was inspired to do things a little differently. My partner became my business partner (he was German) and took over the financial and administrative side of the business.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to set up their own school?

I could write a book on the topic! First of all, I think there are a lot of other options other than setting up one’s own school. Working freelance is the once most Berlin-based trainers already know, but you can also become self-employed and establish a sole proprietorship with just one employee (you) without the overhead of a full-blown school. For those who do want to set up a school, research is key, knowing your exact target audience and lining up business before you invest in commitments that will tie you up financially. You can always grow, so start small: office sharing instead of getting your own space (if working with private customers vs. business customers), make use of free or cheap marketing opportunities instead of more expensive options… I could go on and on.

Justin, I’ve read that you speak 7 languages. In your experience, does learning a new language get easier, the more languages you know?

I can only speak for myself, but the answer is a definitive NO. In fact, I have learned 27 languages in a variety of formats and only 7 have stuck. I do understand how I personally learn a language better, but that’s not enough to be successful. In my case, it takes hard work and time and most importantly—a personal connection to the language.

What big changes would you like to see in ELT in the next 10 years?

I would love to see ELT become even more professional that it is now. There are still many people who think they can teach with no qualifications or experience—our profession is often underestimated by outsiders.

What big changes would you like to see in DaF (Deutsch als Fremdsprache) in the next 10 years?

Better materials! There are very few business German materials out there. The DaF and DaZ materials are actually not bad, but the business German materials are just not cutting it.

If you could have dinner with one ELT luminary who would it be and why?

Jill Hadfield. I LOVE her books: Elementary Vocabulary Games and the series of Communication Games. I love the games themselves and have been using them and variations of them for more than 20 years. She has influenced and inspired me immensely.

You have been a teacher for many years. What is your favourite aspect of teaching?

I love working with business professionals. I love learning about very different types of companies and the roles my clients have to play. I learn a lot from them as well, some of which I am able to use in my own business, in fact. And of course, I love when my clients come back and thank me for helping them achieve a certain business goal or doing a task better than they did in the past—that’s how I know the training has been a success. And as a language school owner I love hearing the same thing about the trainers we hand pick to train the clients.

What advice would you give teachers moving to Berlin?

First and foremost: Join ELTABB and get your CELTA (if you don’t have it). Everything else will fall into place.

Why did you join ELTABB?

I wanted to network with other trainers, take part in workshops and find out about more professional development.

Who would you nominate to be ELTABBer of the month next?

I would like to nominate Tihana Romanic. I think she represents a very special kind of English trainer, she is passionate and serious about her job and it really shows. I think a lot of ELTABBers can look to her as a role model.

Thanks to Chris for his nomination and also to Justin for the interview. Don’t miss next month’s interview with Tihana! Remember, you can send your questions for Tihana to by January 15 th !

Questions and editing by Mandy Welfare.