Winners SFF Contest 2019

Announcing the winner of our TEFL SFF writing competition.

The jury, Antoinette and Marie-Thérèse, with the help of our ambassador Rich Ambler, has judged all applications for the Suzanne Furstner Scholarship 2019. We received many essays of high quality, so it was not an easy task. Initially the wonderful essay of Kaloti Nazare was selected as the winning entry. However, due to unforeseen circumstances Kaloti Nzare had to give up her first place won in the SFF writing competition. So the jury had to select another winner. A pity Kaloti, we wish you all the best for the future and express our hope that later you will be able to follow a TEFL course and become a perfect teacher.

We had no difficulties finding a new winner. She was the first to be considered, Petra Emmel, winner of the second prize, already selected as our first ‘runner-up’. Petra wrote an interesting and original essay, expressing her adventurous nature in a good journey through life: A fairy tale about a small caravan, a mean witch and a cute Chihuahua. She is already accepted by the school and ready for the journey to Spain to experience Malaga. Petra is strongly motivated to follow the TEFL-course.

Good luck Petra, have a wonderful summer in Malaga!


The foundation funds an annual scholarship enabling aspiring TEFL teachers from all the world to take a training course. The Suzanne Furstner Foundation supports language and educational training across the world. The Suzanne Furstner Scholarship was set up in 2006 in memory of Suzanne. To date, we have already sent winners to take CELTA and TESOL courses in centres all over the world: Seville, Playa del Carmen, Milan, San Francisco and Barcelona.

The Suzanne Furstner Foundation (SFF) funds this Scholarship in collaboration with the language school TEFL in Spain, granting the winner a free course at the Trinity training centre in Malaga. All scholarship applicants receive a free online TEFL course.

Previous Scholarships

Scholarship 2018Scholarship 2016Scholarship 2014Scholarship 2013Scholarship 2012Scholarship 2011
TEFL Scholarship Winner 2018

Hereby we proudly announce the winner of the Suzanne Furstner writing competition.
It is…. MELANIE DEERING from Canada, who won the Suzanne Furstner Scholarship. Congratulations Melanie and thank you for your beautiful essay!

You can read Melanie’s essay here.

You will hear more from Melanie, she will keep a blog during her stay at TEFL-IN-SPAIN.

But for now we wish Melanie an instructive and beautiful summer in Malaga!

And, of course… many thanks to the school!

Antoinette, Mark and Marie-Thérèse

You can read Melanie’s message to the SFF here.
Winner Suzanne Furstner essay 2018 Melanie Deering

TEFL Scholarship Winner 2016

Through the Suzanne Furstner Prize Cactus TEFL is giving away a TESOL course in London or a CELTA course in Bogota, Colombia and we have now chosen our TEFL scholarship winner and runner-up! Our entrants were asked to make a short video explaining why they want to become an English language teacher. We received a number of fantastic entries and everyone who entered demonstrated varied and genuine reasons for wanting to become an English teacher.

The Winner 2016

There can only be one winner and the video we chose was from Lauren, from the UK. You can watch Lauren’s video here. Lauren will take her competition prize of a free TEFL course in either London or Bogota, Colombia.

We have also chosen one runner-up and that is Kinga from Hungary. Kinga’s video can be watched here.

Kinga will receive a discount on any TEFL course offered by Cactus TEFL and the Cactus TEFL online course.

Congratulations to both our winner and runner-up and thank you to everyone who participated in our competition!

Read more here

TEFL Scholarship Winner 2014

Congratulations to Shervin Hejazi who has won this year’s Suzanne Furstner Scholarship. Shervin wins a 4-week CertTESOL course in Prague with Oxford House TEFL during 2015.

The Winner 2014

My Dream Teaching Job’ by Shervin Hejazi

“Time up!”

The class of students put their pens down, except the odd one or two who frantically try to finish their last sentence. It is my weekly intermediate English class to young Spanish students who wish to be fluent in the English language, and today’s exercise is to write about your ‘dream job’.

“Alex,” I call, “would you like to start?”

Alex beams as he elevates his notebook and begins to describe his dream job. “My dream job,” Alex begins proudly, “is to be the President of the United States!”

Suddenly the class erupts into laughter.

“Alex,” his colleague Cris whispers, “you know you’re not an American citizen, right? Kind of importante.”

“Oh,” Alex bemoans, his head sinking as the beam disappears from his face.

“Hey,” I interrupt the class’s unanimous laughter, “let’s not put Alex down. If he wants to be the President, he can be the President.” I look directly at Alex. “Alex, I challenge you to be the first Latino to be the President of America. That’s definitely a dream worth having.”

Alex’s beam returns.

“How about anyone else?” I ask, “who would like to share their dream job?”

One by one, my class of students share their hopes, dreams and passions. There were future lawyers, teachers, psychiatrists, athletes; as well as the less typical: circus clowns, comic book artists and ghost writers. It was a diverse class of optimists and enthusiasts, all determined to make their mark on the world, all possessing that young belief that the world is truly their oyster. Suddenly, I felt a pang of pride. Here I was, witnessing the development of a new generation of bright minds. I felt truly grateful that they accepted me as a tutor in aid of their journey.

The ‘dream job’ question then comes to Clara, one of my more cautious students. I noticed several scribbles on her notebook, and a conflicted look on her face. “Would you like to share your dream job with the class, Clara?”

“Well, Sir,” she begins, “I’m not really sure.”

“That’s OK,” I advise, “you don’t have to know what you want to be. My parents still don’t know, and they’re retired!”

The class laugh again.

“Well,” Clara continues, “I don’t know what job I want, but I know how I want to feel. I want to feel like I’m helping people, like I’m making a difference, that people can maybe depend on me, look up to me, and trust me to be there for them. If I have a job where every day would be like this… well, I think I would like that.”

And then there was no laughter. There was only silence. A universal silence, as each student knew that what Clara had said was something worth pondering. It was a noble endeavour, a reasonable dream, and my previous pang of pride could be felt once again, even stronger.

“And what about you, Sir?” Clara asks, returning the question. “What is your dream job?”

I look around the class of students, watching their faces as they eagerly anticipate an answer. A knowing smile forms across my face.

“Well, class. It seems I’m lucky.”

“Why’s that?” asks Alex.

I pause to smile again.

“Because I have already found it.”

Read more here

TEFL Scholarship Winner 2013

Congratulations to Rumina Iftikhar who has won this year’s Suzanne Furstner Scholarship. Rumina wins a 4-week CELTA course in Philadelphia during 2014.

The Winner 2013

Here is Rumina’s winning essay…

It’s seven fifteen in the morning and I’m on my way to work. I switch on the MP3 player and flip through the songs till I get to Rihanna’s “Diamond in the sky.” I sing along, loud and carefree. It may be Monday but that’s not going to get me down. I’ve got my planner for the week made, a pile of horribly written English language essays duly checked and I feel prepared to face anything. Even school! Nobody’s going to accuse me of shirking my responsibilities!

As an MBA who opted for teaching after my kids were born, because of the flexible hours and summer and winter breaks, I have often felt at a disadvantage because I have never received any formal training in teaching the English language. That’s the problem with Pakistan. A country that focuses more on long-standing feuds with neighbors than on education and training. Anyone who can speak the language fairly well becomes an English language teacher. Now, me! I’ve always loved this language! As a child I would devour story books. Enid Blyton was my favorite writer, followed by C.S Lewis and Louisa M. Alcott. I was happiest sitting alone in my room, nose stuffed into a book. So though I love the language and feel very passionately about helping my students, sometimes I feel, even after all these years, that I’m just groping in the dark. I’ve learnt on the job, I’ve had some fantastic people help me, but no formal training. And that is what I want more than anything else now. My MBA just won’t let me get very far in this field.

So, back to Rihanna. She helps me enjoy my long, long drive to school and it is with deep reluctance that I get out of my car when I finally arrive. Nevertheless, I stride purposefully into school and make my way to my class. The kids stand up as I enter and chant “Good morning ma’am,” with big grins on their faces. That is what I love about them, their unquenchable spirits. Even Monday can’t dampen those. They may not be the best at essay writing or figuring out the meaning of words from the context, but there is no lack of enthusiasm and good cheer here. They like their English teacher, though she can be a bit of a grouch at times, and they’re willing to try as hard as they can to please her. This week I want them to write a science fiction story. We’ve discussed different genres and the features of some of them. Science fiction appeals to me because there is so much scope for the imagination here. I’m sure they will enjoy it.

I’ve brought along an interesting sci-fi story that I downloaded from the net. We’re going to read that first and go over the features of a sci-fi story as we read. Next is the long brainstorming session. We think up several brilliant ideas and I show them how to turn these into a simple narrative essay. After 80 minutes of non-stop brainstorming, instructing, guiding, I feel they’re ready to fill in their sci-fi prewrite, duly photocopied and handed to everyone in the class. Then they should be able to write the story.

They work assiduously, silently. I walk around the room keeping an eye on them to point out any startling grammatical errors. I know they’re enjoying this, but I can only hope they churn out decent stories. The problem with these kids is that they come from families where English isn’t spoken very frequently and neither do they, as a general rule, enjoy reading. This makes my job even tougher. I don’t have a magic wand, and despite all my planning and researching, I still feel like there is so much more for me to learn. So much more that will equip me with real confidence in my own teaching abilities and will allow me to guide these children better. These children who look upon me hopefully, sure that I will put an end to all their language-related woes, something I would dearly love to do. I think longingly about the CELTA course being offered in Philadelphia. Six weeks of that grueling course would teach me so much, and I would come back so much more poised and in control, undaunted by the challenges of my exacting job, ready to face them head on. It seems like a dream right now, but it’s one I’m determined to achieve.

Read more here

TEFL Scholarship Winner 2012

Congratulations to Anna Jones who has won this year’s Suzanne Furstner Scholarship. This year, applicants were competing for the opportunity to take a CELTA and a language course close to Suzanne’s home, in the seaside town of Brighton. Anna wins a 4-week CELTA course in Brighton during 2013.

As ever, the standard of the applications that we received was exceptional, and it was a very hard choice. Anna’s entry was original, touching, passionate and relevant, and we would like to congratulate her on her success.

We all loved reading Anna’s piece and hope that you will too.

The Winner 2012

A girl named Su‚ by Anna Jones

We met at a pancake party. That’s what she called it. In fact, it was Pancake Day and us Brits had congregated with our new international friends to celebrate. At home it was an occasion that passed many of us by, however out here it seemed to be an integral part of our cultural heritage.

I’ve been friends with her since then. Her name is Su.

Su made the ideal companion for a culture shocked English teacher embarking on a South Korean sojourn. She was born and bred in the city of Busan. Su is a seaside girl. The lure of other coasts took her to Brighton to learn English, but now back in Busan and educated in the British lingo, Su was on hand to educate me. Whenever I muddled my way through a menu of unrecognisable letters, fearful of ordering live octopus or silkworm, Su was there to ensure the table was filled with soups, dumplings and Korea’s own spicy take on a pancake.

Six months on, the world around me had become more familiar. Coming up the steps of the underground I barely noticed the old lady behind me tugging on the hem of my skirt, fixing a loose thread. Or the tie-dyed puppy in front of me, with it’s teeth wrapped around the strap of my bag. These occurrences had become everyday. I had far more pressing matters. Typhoon Bolaven was forecast to strike in the coming hours and the black clouds were looming over Busan. I was more than a little nervous. However, Su had convinced me that my worries were unfounded. ‘They say it won’t be that bad,’ she had told me over the phone earlier. ‘Sort of like a British summer day.’

‘Anna.’ She waved. She whisked me away from the neon glow of the main streets to a road which was empty, except for one solitary wooden coffee hut. ‘This is my friend Hyong. Introduce yourself,’ she said with wicked encouragement. ‘Jonun Anna immnida! Bangapsamnida!’ Her friend’s eyes lit up at my attempt at basic conversation.’

‘You see, that’s why I learnt English,’ she sighed. ‘I just wanted to be able to talk to people.’ Su and I always ended up discussing our passion for language and affectionately mocking each other’s cultures. Our coffees arrived. ‘Do you have an extra sachet of sugar? Do you know if you are going to use it?’ I asked. ‘No, it’s all yours.’ She gave me the sachet and smirked.

‘That’s what confused me the most when I first arrived in Brighton. I thought I could speak English well. But this British way of speaking, I didn’t know if it was a question or a request or a statement.’ Having confused many non-native speakers with my own convoluted British indirectness, I am sympathetic. I recalled the array of cross-cultural mishaps I have been involved with, or the cause of. One particular with a melon, but that’s a story for another day. It reaffirms to me that the language classroom has to be brought to life. Real life.

She continued, ‘But you’ve just got to let yourself get it wrong. If you want to learn a language you have to open your mind first. ’ She doesn’t know how perfect a soundbite she has whipped out for me. But there is no PR spin behind her statement. It ’ s honest. She’s been through the exhilarating, exhausting, baffling and life changing process of learning another language.

They say that the course of true love never runs smoothly and my own route to becoming infatuated with English was a tumultuous one. In fact, I had to break contact with my native tongue altogether before I returned enamoured , with my tail between my legs. After University, I moved to Germany to become an intern at a cultural organisation. I barely spoke any German, but I threw myself into it.

It wasn’t the shuffling around of verbs that surprised me, or the cases. I knew what I was letting myself in for. However, what blew my mind was getting to understand the true meaning of words. The world became a different place when I spoke German. After that, all the idiosyncrasies of English came to light and I suddenly wanted to go around and tell everyone about grammar and semantics and tenses. I didn’t, instead I decided to become an English teacher.

I think about how learning a language has changed me and influenced the choices I have made in my life. I think about all the people I met because I was able to communicate with them. I look over at Su and think about who she is and who she’s met and the world she has got to know. She may have been born and bred in Busan, but when she speaks English, she is a Brightonian.

She is Su, the girl who used to go to the corner cafe every weekday, and chat to the owner whilst he made her a sarnie.

She is Su, who used to sit on the promenade with her friends, eating mushy peas and cheek biting vinegary chips.

She is Su, who drank a cuppa every morning with her single parent landlady nattering about the unpredictable British weather whilst the kids ran around looking for their thingamajig.

She is Su, whose weekends included pubs, tea rooms and pavilions. Piers, greasy spoons and boutiques. She met hippies, rockers and old ladies sat on benches and Spanish friends who told her to take a Friday afternoon siesta, in preparation for those weekends.

After a year of testing the TEFL waters, I am sure this holiday romance is going to get serious. A CELTA is what I need to make this my future. I imagine that future. I’m back in England, standing in front of classroom full of adults from all around the world. I’ll tell them that they aren’t too old to learn a language. I’ll tell them that they aren’t naturally bad at languages. I’ll tell them my story. And if they still don’t believe it. Well, I’ll tell them about Su.

Read more here

TEFL Scholarship Winner 2011

Congratulations to Sarah Chamberlain who has won this year’s Suzanne Furstner Scholarship. This year, applicants were vying for the opportunity to take a CELTA and Spanish course in the beautiful city of Barcelona. Sarah wins a 4-week CELTA course in Barcelona during 2012.

Although the standard of the applications that we received was exceptional, Sarah’s entry was engaging, inspiring, intelligent and relevant, and leaves us in no doubt that she is, and will continue to be, a fantastic English teacher.

We all loved reading Sarah’s piece and hope that you will too.

The Winner 2011

Six Weeks in Barcelona‚ by Sarah Chamberlain

I love my purple rusted bicycle, brakes screeching as I cut through the rain. It is my saviour which delivers me from the commuter-crammed tube, the words ‘Freedom Tiger’ branded in yellow on the scratched-up frame.

The posh bikers look me up and down. Theirs are of smooth gears, wicker baskets and upright posture.

Drum-and-bass thumping in my ears, my brain sifts through potential discussion and vocabulary topics as I swerve between red double-decker buses and shiny black cabs.

‘Don’t forget it’s Diego’s birthday. Don’t forget it’s Diego’s birthday’. I chant along to the beats which turn over in time with my pedals.

I feel a smile inside as I walk briskly into the building which houses my school, greeted by the chh-chhh-chhh of the photocopier and a smirk from a coffee-hungry colleague. It’s 7:45 and classes commence at 8am. My first class, Intermediate fluency, poses the challenge of extracting conversation from a group of students whom I predict will be half-asleep.

‘Good morning everyone! Your teacher is away so I’ll be taking your class this morning. My name is Sarah. Can anyone guess where I come from?’


‘Good try, but no, I’m sorry.’




There it is. My heart sinks with one word. Spain. It’s hard to bring myself back on track.

‘Ok guys, I will give you a clue. Think…kangaroos.’

‘Australia!’ There is a chorus of voices now, and it’s clear that more than one or two students are awake. The keen questioning begins.

Have you ever eaten kangaroo? Do you know Sydney? Is it always hot in Australia?

I allow five minutes of Australiana Q and A before we move into learning some new vocabulary and how to use it in conversation with others.

‘Today, we’re going to learn how to talk about films. Movies you’ve seen, famous actors, that sort of thing’.

We laugh together as we spit out words like BAFTA, director, producer and protagonist and elicit a variety of questions to do with films. We practise pronunciation, drilling words and sentences until the students are confident they can take their new vocabulary out into the world.

‘Have you seen the blockbuster film The Titanic?’

‘Yes,’ the students drone. The class discusses well-known English-language films and I discover that aside from the one with the famous iceberg, most students have seen very few films in English. I tell Diego that his regular teacher made me promise not to forget his birthday and an international rendition of Happy Birthday follows.

The bell goes and the students vacate the classroom. As soon as the last student has gone, the feeling returns – the pain – of Spain.

‘Imagine there’s no country…it isn’t hard to do…’ – John Lennon’s lyrics recite in my head as I imagine that my passport would allow me to live and work as an English Teacher in Spain. But it doesn’t.

My mind plays tricks on me and I begin to smell the salty air of Barcelona. It’s as though I’m there again, the wind blowing my long, thick curls as Alejandro and I, on our ‘freedom machines’, duck and weave our way through the crowds of tourists to find our afternoon spot on Barceloneta beach. Last night’s paella was amazing; homemade and matched perfectly with Catalan red wine. As we cycle along side by side, Alejandro puts his arm around my shoulders and asks me what I thought of the meal. ‘The p…….’ – I abruptly cut off my sentence in fear of mispronouncing his national food. ‘Delicious’, I add, acknowledging the meal as the cause of my long sleep-in, one which London life does not afford.

Later that night, it’s Gracia Festival and the people smile and dance to live music in the streets. I meet a man from Zaragoza, who is surprised I have been to his town, which he calls boring.

I am so in-tune with this city, this country, its people, the food and the smell of positivity in the air. Amid the local employment crisis and global recession, families still meet regularly for a home-cooked meal fit for a king, and people continue to smile at, encourage and kiss each other, not neglecting both cheeks.

Due to the effects of the recession, it’s too expensive for Language Schools in Spain to hire teachers from outside the European Union, and I ask myself, why do I have to come from so far away? Why does Australia have to be on the other side of the world? What good is this useless passport to me now?

Accepting my fate, I begin to scrawl through websites for a teacher training course which will allow me to both upgrade from my Aussie TEFL certificate to a CELTA and spend time in Barcelona.

In the classroom I return to thinking about immigration policies around the world, particularly the rules for residency and study which have become much stricter in recent times. I consider my students from Colombia, Libya, Peru, Mongolia, Mexico and even from Spain, some of whom have fled war, unemployment and financial strain to come to London in the hope of building a better life. I think of Andreas, whose parents have worked their whole lives to save enough money to send him to London where he can complete his English studies and graduate as a Medical Practitioner in England. Students, who with the weight of the world on their shoulders, represent their entire families and generations to come. They often work one or two jobs whilst studying in order to pay the hefty London rents. Young people expected to use their parents’ precious, hard-earned money wisely. Not to buy clothes, or McDonalds, or to travel to Paris or Copenhagen or Barcelona as I have. But to do one thing and one thing only – to learn English, and to learn it well.

All of a sudden the school bell rings again. Into my consciousness floods a new awareness of my own responsibility and a sense of urgency to complete my CELTA so I can better lead my students in the English language.

I arrive at pictures of the students in their own blockbuster films, budding protagonists, each reaching for a solid-gold Oscar. And then there’s me, the teacher, who is determined to help them get there.

Read more here

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