Meet The Team
Open Minds is headed by a team of outstanding teachers who between them have a wealth of experience in language schools and other teaching environments, along with a passion for delivering innovative and exciting learning experiences for young people. It is a unique strength of Open Minds that this team of teachers also provides the pastoral care in the boarding houses – we believe strongly in the idea of a holistic education in which teachers and students work together inside the classroom and live together outside it in a dynamic, exciting environment designed to maximise the learning experience and help the students to reach their potential.
Sam Ponsford, Course Director
Sam has taught English as a foreign language for many years both in the UK and in his current home of Galicia, North West Spain. Having grown up in Marlborough and attended the College there, he went on to work with young people in a diverse range of educational contexts. These have included residential schools, care homes and in the outdoors, where his love for adventurous activities has allowed him to help students to grow in confidence. He takes great pleasure in bringing together his many passions and interests to create memorable and enriching educational experiences that are of use far beyond the classroom. He brings this approach to his role as Course Director of Open Minds to create a course that is dynamic, engaging and inspiring for the students and that they will remember long after the course has finished.
Tom Burgess, Head of Activities
Tom has a wide range of experience working with young people in different learning environments; from teaching English as a foreign language in Thailand, to working as a Housemaster in a boarding school. Tom’s expertise is using the outdoors to engage people in meaningful and memorable experiences. A background in play and youth work means Tom has an arsenal of fun activities that can be employed to inspire personal development and promote positive relationships. Tom brings together all of his huge range of talents, interests and inspiration to design and deliver an extra-curricular programme of activities and excursions that ensures all students have a truly memorable experience during their time at Open Minds. If you wish to develop your creativity, adventurous spirit and sense of fun, Tom and his programme will make sure you're not disappointed.
Nicola Mitchell - Head of Pastoral
Nicola has worked as an English teacher and manager for over 12 years in the UK and Spain and is enthusiastic about educating and caring for young people. Having studied her degree in modern languages, Nicola has a profound understanding of language acquisition and grammar and applies this knowledge to her pedagogic approach.
Nicola has trained and professionally developed teachers for over a decade and has given workshops and presentations on a wide range of topics related to English language teaching. She is also unceasingly curious and as a result, is always interested in experimenting with innovative methodologies and cutting-edge, educational technology. This, however, is achieved whilst always sticking to her core educational principles of the development of a love of learning, a focus on authentic communication and the creation of a safe space where the students feel comfortable expressing themselves freely.
As a mother of two young girls, Nicola understands the importance of a nurturing environment and strives to create a homely atmosphere for the students at camp. She is creative and has a passion for the arts, which she believes is a great medium for developing self-confidence and harvesting imaginative and independent ideas.
Nicola is excited to be able to combine her maternal instinct with her passion for education and language in her role at Open Minds.
Susie began her teaching career in Colombia, teaching English as a foreign language to children with Fundacion Mariposas Amarillas. This instilled in her a passion for language and the experience of other cultures. She has continued to pursue these interests in her current role as an English teacher in Galicia, Northern Spain, where she teaches a range of ages and abilities. In recent years she has worked as a manager of an academy, in which she has enjoyed creating new syllabuses for students and leading professional development seminars for her colleagues. Susie has a keen interest in literature and creative writing which she believes can be a valuable addition to the EFL classroom and has used to great effect in previous summer schools at the Liverpool School of English and Liverpool International Language Academy.
Ed is an English teacher currently working with professionals in Madrid. He creates fun classroom environments in order to provide the best platform for improving fluency and understanding in the language. He believes the best way to learn a language is through engaging with the student's passions and interests, while relating the learning experience to understanding a deeper meaning in the world around us. Ed is also passionate about sports and plays rugby and football in his spare time. He has coached youth football and led physical education classes for children with special needs in Dallas, Texas. He finds that sports can be a great tool for learning. Ed is a history graduate and still maintains a strong passion for the subject, he is particularly interested in how our history's social purpose relates to our current lives and the decisions we make. He's excited to be returning to the team this year, and looks forward to contributing to all aspects of the course both in and outside the classroom.
Thom is originally from Leeds, Yorkshire but has been teaching English in Barcelona for the last seven years. Thom enjoys working with students of all abilities, finding ways to unlock their English potential through communicative, diverse and entertaining classes that make full use of his unique brand of humour. In his spare time he enjoys watching- rather than participating in- sport, though he is partial to a game of football. He also enjoys cooking to the best of his abilities and eating out when those abilities fail him. When not in the classroom, he takes the opportunity to travel as much as possible to experience new cultures and meet new people.
Maya began TESOL in southern Spain in 2010 and continued to teach English in Galicia for 5 years. She moved home to the UK in 2015 when she was diagnosed with cancer, where she maintained her mindful attitude and positive spirit. She is delighted to say that she is now cancer free and currently teaching Spanish near Birmingham in the UK. Maya does lots of charity work both in and out of school and is very proud to have raised over £2,500 for Cancer Research since her diagnosis.
Maya believes the best way to teach young people is through creating strong, positive relationships with her students from the very beginning of their learning journey. She has always felt passionate about creating a dynamic classroom environment and her students feel safe and supported to take risks with new language. They also feel nurtured through the difficulties of learning languages and Maya enjoys challenging her students to ensure they reach their full potential.
Maya loves to spot those easy-to-miss, beautiful moments, capturing them through her experimental photography. She has a love of modern poetry, soul music, and expressing her creativity through cooking and crafts. Maya always strives to find inspiration in all the positive elements of life, both for herself and others around her.
Maya is very excited to be joining the team this year and looking forward to learning with and from everyone involved in these courses.