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#1 Parent Rachel - 2018-10-13
Re Dunham Institute, Mexico

OMG this was exactly my experience, or nearly so. I was there in the winter of 2013 and taught for her without taking the certificate course (I am already a certified teacher in the US). She proceeded to humiliate, castigate and compare me to the other students who had paid her course fees and then told me that if I wanted to continue my (trying) to teach there I would need to pay two weeks of course fees for this “TEFL” class. Then she let me go after 4 more weeks of torture. I so angry, but also decided right then that I was not letting her define Mexico for me. I packed my cases, cleared town and moved to Oaxaca to spend 13 more wonderful weeks just learning Spanish and falling in love with the Mexican people. I even had a job interview while in Oaxaca and mad a positive impression. But I was I so traumatized by the whole affair that I decided to leave teaching at that point. I blamed myself but it sounds like my experience was far from unique. I did write to Lonely Planet and urged them strongly not to include her school in their listings in the next edition of the guidebook and they DIDN’T:). I am also back to occasional teaching and earning good wages and really high marks.

#2 Parent Ren - 2018-03-29
Re Dunham Institute, Mexico

Hello.. I was just looking for reviews from this program and noticed that you were going to go in Feb 2017. I was wondering if you DID go and if you could provide me with some feedback on the issues mentioned in this post, the town, and the overall experience.

Anything you could share would be great!

Thank you

#3 Parent Frances - 2016-11-24
Re Dunham Institute, Mexico


Further to my previous post, I did make an application for the February 2017 intake as a volunteer English teacher. I asked Joanna to provide contact details for the current volunteers so I could contact them to discuss their experiences. I never ever heard back from her.

#4 Parent Frances - 2016-06-01
Re Dunham Institute, Mexico

Thanks to the members of the class of January 2016 for posting a detailed review of the collective experiences at the Dunham Institute.

I have recently become aware of the Dunham Institute via Dave's ESL Cafe as Joanna is advertising for the next batch of Volunteer English Teachers to commence in February 2017. I am interested in the Language Exchange Program that is offered and am currently in email discussions with Joanna regarding the program.

The content of your review has been most helpful in identifying which questions I really need to drill down on before making a final decision.

So sorry to hear that your TEFL program was not all that you had hoped it would be. I completed a TESOL program last year in Vietnam at the Australian Vietnam School of Languages. It was a robust program and I consider that it prepared me very well to teach ESL learners from the early years right through to Adults. The only downside was that some of the students had appalling classroom behaviour!

When I hear back from Joanna I post the updates on the forum.

#5 Parent Class2016 - 2016-02-18
Re Dunham Institute, Mexico

The Dunham institute is Tucked away on a side street in the small traditional town of Chiapa de Corzo right outside of Tuxtla and a half hour or so away from San Cristobal de las Casas. If you are interested in applying we suggest you consider the following collective experience reviewed and written by the class of January 2016 which is described as concisely as possible.

Tuition and enrollment-

The tuition varies from a variety of factors. It was difficult for us to really deduce why there are fluctuations in cost. To enroll you pay a tuition of either 1200 or 1600 dollars. Two variables are whether or not you have enrolled with a third party or through her directly. Another variable is if you want to do the 5 month language exchange program. Another factor may be related to just selling the program in order to get people enrolled. The director Joanna told a handful of us that there was only one space left for enrollment, which we would later find out was never the case and that there wasn't actually a cap for students. None the less, we found a lot of the reasons for these details to be somewhat ambiguous and it was unanimously felt that we were manipulated about enrollment and tuition in multiple ways. Some students were also lied to about the nature of tuition being more for some and less for others. One student inquired about the price difference of 1200 and 1600 dollars and was told by Joanna that the difference was non refundable because the student had paid through a third part which was not the case.

Arrival -

Upon arrival in Mexico multiple students were left without specific travel details or a location to meet. At one point (she has since changed it) the website said that rides were available from the airport in Tuxtla to Chiapa de Corzo at a rate about twice as expensive as a regular cab ride which is about 275 pesos. The ride was not made available to anyone. One student was told by Joanna that their host family would pick him up from the airport however the family was never contacted and had no idea who he was. When one student asked about it she promptly denied its existence and the website information was changed later that day.

It is also important to note that the address provided on the website is not the correct address of the school. Its not even the same street. Also if you call the number provided on the website it is linked to a voice message which does not tell you if you have reached the correct number or not.

One student arrived at night, having never been to Mexico and unable to speak Spanish, didn't know what to do. The student happened to walk into a convenience store who's owner knew Joanna and was able to connect them after about 45 minutes. Another student had to email Joanna multiple times and find the school on Facebook before Joanna responded with travel information several days before class began. She said she had sent a reply to the email but she had sent no such response.

Housing arrangements-

The housing arrangements are pretty good. The families were wonderful for everyone and no one had any difficulties. I think that everyone made close friends and bonded with their hosts. The people of Chiapa de Corzo are wonderful.

Specific housing details however were not made clear such as paying for water/gas. Some students had to pay others didn't. One student did not have internet and had to use the schools dodgy and inconsistent internet to do lesson planning, research, and to contact the outside world. Over all everyone worked it out and enjoyed their stay.

The are a handful of hostels to choose from at a cost of around 150 pesos a night.

The English School-

The school itself is a 7 or 8 room building with a garden and an open court yard. The students ages range from 6 to 12 years old. There are a couple of later classes with some teenagers and a few adults. Her curriculum does not include any kind of cultural components, and the english class workbooks she supplies the school with contain a lot of irrelevant material for Mexican students

The english school functions as an after school program and teaching school for prospective ESL instructors. The kids definitely enjoy themselves and learn english. Its a nice space despite some hygienic issues. There are a few semi feral cats who use the garden as a litter box and spray and poop in the classrooms. One student was scratched in the face during class. We having differing opinions on the severity of the cat issue but think that it should be taken into consideration. To some extent these kinds of things need to be let go of in Mexico. Things work differently here than in more european countries.

The english teachers are generally inexperienced. However all of them are intelligent and managed to be effective and resourceful. In many ways their quickly gained experience was a saving grace for us as it was our most helpful source of information on the practice of teaching english.

As a TEFL student you will be teaching english almost immediately with minimal preparation. It helps to have some teaching experience, especially experience with children. The TEFL students and language exchange volunteers are the teaching staff of the english school. Overall the language school is one of the best things about the experience at the institute. The kids are great, fun and smart and it was a pleasure to help them.

The TEFL program -

From 10 am to 12:30 Joanna trains the TEFL students five days a week. You will briefly discuss grammar points and distinctions with little detail. The majority of class time is spent brain storming ideas for "input sessions" (giving students new information) and "guided practices" (coming up with games for kids with an ESL theme).

Instructions from Joanna are often unclear and classroom content is not very dense. Joanna uses a very obtuse approach for providing information. A lot of time is spent with "tell me what you think this might mean" games and then her giving you the information after about 20 minutes of light debate. She teaches TEFL nearly the same way that she suggests teaching ESL to a 12 year old. Class mainly consists of students coming up with improvised lesson plans in a time of about 10 to 15 minutes. Students present their ideas in pseudo real time as though you are teaching ESL instructors. Joanna then critiques your ideas, often leaning more on the negative side than the helpful side."Who can tell me why I have a big problem with that?" Is often a interrupting phrase in Joanna's class. Good luck coming up with an effective lesson plan in 15 minutes with little to no experience or preparation.

After a lot of observation of equally inexperienced instructors, you begin teaching. After the first week you will teach one to two hours a day. This is your primary source of education regarding the practice of teaching english. Many of the TEFL students felt considerably lost and consistently unprepared to teach. Simply put, you sink or swim and it is often a combination of the two.

Your english grammar education will consist of searching for grammar distinctions on the internet and taking games and ideas from ESL websites and blogs. There is no class book to aid in consistency of information and interpretations of english grammar. There is no syllabus or schedule provided either. Joanna's curriculum does not discuss modern methodology, linguistics, or provide sources of additional research. Do not expect in depth information on these subjects. Instead you will be learning to use charades, telephone or jeopardy decorated with grammar distinctions and vocabulary. Students who showed difficulties with the information or structure of the class were often dealt with dismissively and sometimes rudely. She did however give extra hours to students who struggled with debatable effectiveness.

Nearly every student felt that Joanna's instruction was unclear. All but one of the students enrolled in the five month volunteer program left after the first month. The TEFL program does not effectively prepare you to be a professional instructor, you will learn nothing about applying for jobs, teaching adults, or private tutoring or preparing learners for academic exams.

If you must enroll, the way to get the most out of the Dunham institute is to get your TEFL/TESOL certification somewhere else and consider the five month language exchange. You get five months experience and free rent. Everyone who had done the five months agreed that were better instructors, but none of them recommend Joanna's TEFL program. However you will be able to work easily by only having TEFL or TESOL certification.

The TEFL certificates-

At the end of the program there was widespread confusion about the certificates. None of them were ready and it was unclear why. Two students were who had left Chiapa for work were told that they would be given their certificates by another student who was traveling to the same city. However, that particular student was never spoken to by Joanna nor did that student have plans to travel to the same city. The certificates come with a generically composed letter of recommendation which over uses the students cut and pasted name and rewards with non specific compliments. One female students letter of recommendation was received formatted for a male student.

Joanna Dunham-

There was not one student who completed the program happy with her. Every student found her to be rude, condescending and manipulative. She lied to students about a lot of different things ranging from tuition costs, accommodations, travel. She was frequently unhelpful in private conversation either accidentally or on purpose. One student who spoke english fluently as a second language was repeatedly told by Joanna that she would never get a job because of her accent. On one occasion while misunderstanding an assignment Joanna raised her voice and aggressively grabbed the students arm because she felt that the student wasn't listening. Another group of students were told by Joanna that she doesn't like to fail people, she instead tried to get them to drop out. Each student has at least one story about how they were treated rudely, lied to or misled by Joanna. We are of the opinion that Joanna may have over two decades of experience, but she leaves a lot to be desired as an instructor. At no point was anyone of the opinion that Joanna shown cared for our experience, the quality of her instruction, or the quality of teachers she produces.

This review was written with a great deal of consideration. We would very much like to write about more positive experiences with the school. Unfortunately, we have shared them to the best of our ability. We regretfully cannot recommend the Dunham Institute and suggest that new instructors spend their time elsewhere.

#6 Parent Jacklyn - 2015-02-04
Re: Dunham Institute, Mexico


Do you have an update on your experience? I'm looking into this program too and have limited information on it's actual structure. Is it worth the investment?

Thanks in advance for your input!


#7 Parent anonymous - 2014-12-07
Re: Dunham Institute, Mexico

It I get a TEFL certification from Dunham Institute, will I be able to get a job?
I didn't see the "no refund" before I enrolled. I'm not being instructed, Im having to lookup everything on the Internet. The teachers I'm observing are new out of the tefl course and one teacher has no training or experience (showed up, and was told to start teaching). I'm not sure what they're meaning of "trained by veterans" is, but I feel I've been ripped off.

#8 Parent MikeK - 2013-04-27
Re: Dunham Institute, Mexico

Did any of you find more information about the Dunham Institute? I just found their program online and am very excited about it. I just hope it's not too good to be true.

As a believer in Accredited courses I would suggest that you enroll on a CELTA or Trinity TESOL course? These really are internationally recognised.

If you're in UK then I would suggest PTLLS, CTLLS and DTLLS, these take time to complete but they are really worth the effort in the long run.

#9 Parent Sarah - 2013-04-26
Re: Dunham Institute, Mexico

Hi guys,
Did any of you find more information about the Dunham Institute? I jsut found their program online and am very excited about it. I just hope it's not too good to be true.

#10 Parent Katie - 2009-03-19
Re: Dunham Institute, Mexico

Hi Jenny,

The only information that I have found has been from the school itself. As far as I can tell, Dunham looks like a great place to teach. My correspondance with thier staff and coordinators have been very timely and friendly. I really wanted to try and connect with a former teacher or student to get their opinions regarding Dunham, but have been unable to do so. If you hear any specific information about teaching at the school or the TEFL certification program would you mind passing in along to me?

I'm sorry that I couldn't be of more help!
Have a great day,


#11 Parent Jenny - 2009-03-15
Re: Dunham Institute, Mexico

Hi Katie,

I'm thinking of teaching at Dunham, and I was wondering what information you've found about the school.



Katie - 2009-02-10
Dunham Institute, Mexico


Has anyone heard anything about Dunham Institute in Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico? I'm looking to get TEFL certified there and was just wondering what the program is like and if anyone had personally experienced it.

Any suggestions or information would be very appreciated!
Thank you so much for your time and any advice or help!

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