• Rob Sheppard: Accessible English Language Learning

  • Rob Sheppard
    “Being at The New School exposed me to people teaching in a different setting from my own."

    Rob Sheppard, MA TESOL ’14, began his teaching career at a for-profit English language school in New York. His class sizes were always small, there were always open seats. Over time, he began to realize this was because many people couldn’t afford the school.

    Sheppard recognized the need for more accessible English language learning, and, today, is working to fill that need. As the creator of Ginseng, an online English Language school that charges market-rate tuition to students who can afford it and subsidizes class slots for others who can’t, Sheppard is offering classes to students around the world.

    Sheppard is a social entrepreneur, and he doesn’t just help people afford classes, he makes sure they have the support they need to succeed as well. He notes that many students on scholarships face “challenges to persistence” — family and work issues that can keep them from making it to class. To confront this problem, Sheppard partners with community organizations that are “embedded in underserved communities as they are deeply familiar with the needs of their respective communities and can best offer support.”

    Sheppard believes it only makes sense that “an industry like English language teaching, which is filled with so many people who care about helping others, would take the lead on social justice issues.”

    “If there’s a need and you can so easily meet it,” he continues, “then why not do it?”

    In creating Ginseng, Sheppard was inspired, in part, by his experience at The New School. His peers in the nonprofit industry made him reconsider the for-profit model of English language education.

    “Being at The New School exposed me to people teaching in a different setting from my own,” Sheppard says. “I loved my job at the for-profit, but at some point, I realized that whenever education is turned into a commodity, there’s potential to be pulled in different directions. The most profitable thing isn’t always the best pedagogical thing.”

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