The English Teacher Training College and its Bilingual Classroom Initiative began its mission of helping children through English education and cultural exchange in 2011. The vision of the organisation came from two educators who had fallen in love with Austria and wanted to find a way to add value to the school system as well as transform the way EFL teacher training was happening.
Ben Stone holds a Bachelors of Education and hails from Canberra, Australia. Ben is known as an exceptional outdoorsman and athlete excelling at rock climbing, horseback riding and his favourite pastime, rugby. He is also acknowledged equally as being an exceptional educator who is able to communicate and engage with children in a way that makes learning effortless… and fun!
Frank Carle is a former American football star at Rutgers University in New Jersey who later went on to earn his Masters in Philosophy at Oxford. Frank then became a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Austria, where he met his wife and fellow educator, Kay Carle, who was a teaching assistant with the British Council. He took his first teaching job at the age of 24 at the Pädagogische Hochschule in Salzburg (State Teacher Training College in Salzburg) as a way to put off law school for another year, but instead began a career of teacher training which spans two decades. Frank and Ben’s story of how they met and founded the English Teacher Training College and Bilingual Classroom initiative is an inspiring one – and best told from Mr Frank Carle himself:
“Those experiences [teaching Austrian school children] laid the groundwork for the idea , but the specific experience that triggered the idea for ABCi and the College was born as co-founder Ben Stone to this day the best teacher I’ve ever worked with) and I sat together talking after a long day of teacher training at a beer garden in Bavaria, Germany. We were responsible for conducting the teacher training for a commercial language school running summer camps in Germany. At the end of yet another 12-hour day, the group of 20+ new staff members that we were training hadn’t been paid, hadn’t been fed since breakfast and some of them didn’t know where they were sleeping. Everyone had just arrived in Germany a few days earlier and these horrific (and I would only come to realize later illegal) conditions had put everyone on the verge of a mutiny and simply leaving the programme en masse. As our boss had already signed up hundreds of children at summer camps for the next five weeks, this would have obviously been a disaster for the kids and their parents. After a promised 7pm dinner at the training site never arrived, I called the boss and explained the situation, suggesting giving everyone one entree and one drink at a beer garden down the street would help prevent a disaster. She reluctantly agreed and Mr. Stone and I preceded to take a couple hundred dollars of our own money out of an ATM (as young university graduates, essentially our life’s savings at that point) to pay for everyone to eat. About an hour later, the food had arrived, the first round of Bavarian beer had been drunk, everyone’s mood had improved dramatically and Ben Stone and I were confident we had just averted a disaster. Just at that moment, the boss called Ben on his mobile phone and started shouting incoherently at him in such a loud voice that everyone at the table became quiet. Ben passed the phone to me and she continued her tirade.
Ben and I sat at that table for the rest of the evening, drinking and thinking, talking and drinking some more. The gist of the conversation was simple: “We are two of the best teachers and teacher trainers that either of us had worked with, why were we working for a person who treated us terribly, paid us illegally low wages, and now, moments after we had used what little money we had to save her company, yelled at us in front of her new staff members (who she also treated terribly). What was the point? It wasn’t like we are really helping anyone (we only had 5 days to train the new teachers with the absolute minimum that they needed to do the job, and as soon as the summer was over, everyone was dumped at the airport without any support, CPD or job prospect, waiting to be exploited by the next TEFL employer) and the pay was below minimum wage (The boss had convinced Ben Stone that he was actually a “volunteer” that week and in earlier years, I had been paid 200 EURs in an envelope to work 120 hour weeks) ALL while we watched the boss’ house get bigger, luxury SVUs get more numerous, and pools get installed.” We realized that we were so focused on the end of trying to create a fun and effective learning environment for the children, that we had lost sight of the means that were going into producing this outcome. Those means were exploitative, manipulative and simply illegal. It didn’t take the two of us long to realize that it would be possible to do this better (to focus on both the training of new EFL teachers and provide a meaning project for pupils AND not on the profit margin) and the idea for the College and ABCi was born! Suffice it to say, this employer IS NOT one that the College’s Job Placement Program recommends our graduates apply to!”
Working for no salary?!
In the first years of organisation, the two founders worked tirelessly to set the groundwork for an organisation that has trained up hundreds of EFL teachers and taught fun, interactive, native-led English projects to more than 200,000 Austrian schoolchildren! The organisation celebrated its 5th anniversary in November 2016 and continues on its mission to deliver fun, interactive and FREE English projects to every school child in Austria by the year 2020. Working for no salary for the first three years, the directors have poured their souls into building an up a team that is now 40 members strong. Frank and Ben will continue their efforts to offer quality teacher training to Student Teachers aiding in the College’s Bilingual Classroom Initiative by furthering the reach of schools we work with and increasing the amount of scholarships offered to students to Student Teachers to participate on the TEFL Program.