Meet the Kaplan staff: Jon Barrett, Director of Kaplan Westwood, LA
He loves cats, cycling and taking good care of his students. Meet Jon Barrett, the Director of Studies at Kaplan Los Angeles Westwood school, who happily agreed to share his story of becoming part of the Kaplan family and give advice to students wishing to learn foreign language abroad.
As a Director of Studies, Jon’s main responsibility is to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible for Kaplan students from all over the world who come to LA to improve their language skills. When asked to name things that help him to do well in his job, Jon doesn’t hesitate: an ability to listen, openness and friendliness are the three main qualities needed to ensure students feel as happy and comfortable as possible and enjoy their experience to the fullest.
Originally from the UK, Jon now lives in Los Angeles, only ten minutes away from the Kaplan Westwood school. Every weekday he crawls out of bed at 6:30 am, puts on his favourite British soap opera and drinks a big cup of black coffee to ease himself into the day ahead. His morning continues in the gym, as Jon tries to stay healthy, but no later than 09.00 he can be seen entering the school reception, where he is greeted warmly by the student service staff.
Jon has been in the language-teaching business for almost two decades. Better than anyone, Jon knows how tricky mastering a foreign language can be, having been thrown into life in another country himself. “I had been studying Russian at university in the UK for 2 years and I thought I knew it quite well. Then I went to Moscow to continue my studies and somebody said “Privet!” (an informal way to say "Hello!") to me and I didn’t know what that meant! We had been learning very formal Russian and I only knew stuff like: “Zdravstvuyte. Kak vy pozhivaete?” (a very formal way to greet somebody)
This little incident made Jon realise the importance of practising language skills outside of the classroom: “You need to know how to speak to people in real everyday language. The best way to do this is to spend time in a country where it is being spoken every day. This is why it’s so important that Kaplan student have the opportunity to get out and talk to native English speakers and get a real feel for the language people use all the time.”
Following this philosophy, Jon threw himself into another culture and spent a great part of his professional journey working on various positions in Russia and Poland, until he joined Kaplan Toronto in February 2011.
Jon says his current role brings him joy and a sense of pride nearly every day; however, one of the best things for him is to see students’ progress: “I like it when a new student, who had started with very little English, comes to see me at the end of the course and already speaks good English and can use their skills in their job, daily life, or to advance their education.”
What advice can Jon give to future Kaplan students? “Always be thankful and treasure the experience that you will get learning English in a different country. It will no doubt be one of the best events of your life and can open up so many new opportunities. Make sure you come with an open mind to experience all the wonderful new and different things around you. Also make sure that you make friends with people from other countries so you can practice your English more!”