First Grade Teacher in Sunny Seville: Cat Gaa

Meet Cat Gaa

English teacher Cat in Granada

Cat enjoying gorgeous Granada

Cat Gaa is a first grade teacher in Seville, Spain. She previously worked for three years as a Language Assistant too!

How did you become an English teacher and why did you choose to teach English in Spain?

I chose to come to Spain after already having studied here. I spent a summer in Valladolid and decided I wanted to move abroad after graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Iowa. I chose to teach simply because it sounded enticing to work a flexible schedule and have time to pursue interests, really, and having already been in Spain, I figured the adjustment wouldn’t be as difficult.

I worked with the Ministry of Education’s Language Assistant program for three years at a high school outside of Seville from 2007 – 2010, and tearfully said goodbye to my students. Currently, I’m a first grade teacher at a bilingual school. This means that I give ANL (áreas no-lingüísticas) like science, art, PE and music in English, in addition to English language. It’s a far cry from my days of working as an auxiliar!

Teaching in a bilingual program sounds great! Where exactly are you teaching now, and how did you find the job?

Well, it was really an uphill battle. I was fighting against bureaucracy and the lack of a teaching degree, but here’s a secret: you can work with children up to five years without a teaching degree under the Junta de Andalucía! I started at my school with the infants after doing an extensive, four-part interview. I initially got the interview from a friend who turned down the job I eventually had, after sending out nearly 100 CVs to schools around Sevilla and Cádiz. My philosophy was this: one less day of sunshine to enjoy another year full of them. In the end, my persistence paid off: I was hired just a few days before the school year started!

How many hours a week do you work and what is your pay?

My workload is, honestly, a lot: I’m in class from 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday, and then have weekly department meetings and parent-teacher conferences. That, coupled with training sessions and school functions, eats up quite a bit of my time. The pay is pretty standard for private schools: I make just over 1600€ gross, but after taxes and social security, it’s closer to 1300€. Like teachers in America, we’re overworked and under paid!

Was being able to travel a main factor in deciding to teach English in Spain?

Initially, my attraction to living in Europe for a year was just that: having time to study Spanish, travel and live somewhere different. The running joke at my school my first year in Spain was, “Where are you headed this long weekend?” every time we had a few days’ time off. One of my life goals was to visit 25 countries before hitting 25, which I did with a few months to spare.

What cities and countries have you been able to travel to while teaching in Spain?

Considering I’ve been in Spain for five years, I’ve traveled to every region in Spain but La Rioja, and have been to about 15 foreign countries. My favorites have been Ireland, Hungary, Turkey and Romania. Being so close and having major airline hubs here in Spain is a huge benefit, not to mention all the holidays we get!

What countries are next on your list for travel while teaching?

When I came to live here, I made a list of five countries I absolutely had to travel to before returning to the US. As I cross one off, another gets added to the list. My biggest dream is to walk the Camino de Santiago, which is on the docket for Summer 2013. Apart from that, I’d like to visit Poland, the Nordic Countries and Malta. Then it may be time to head to South America!

Is teaching in order to travel worth it? Would you recommend it to others?

I think teaching English abroad is a great way to do a lot of things: see a country from the inside, gain insight about your own, travel when you can and step outside of your comfort zone. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Seville and teaching, but it’s a life I’m not willing to give up any time soon!

Bio & link to blog, twitter, or business website!

Cat Gaa left the skyscrapers of Chicago for the olive groves of Southern Spain five to teach English. Five years, four jobs and a marriage later, she blogs at Sunshine and Siestas about teaching, traveling and her uncanny ability to act like an Ugly American. You can catch up with her on Twitter and Instagram at @sunshinesiestas.


  1. Rachel Korb says:

    Great article! I am actually considering trying to find my way into a long-term job in Spain – specifically in education. If possible, I would love to learn more from Cat about her experiences. Thank you!

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