Where in the World are VIPKid Teachers: Rio de Janeiro


We’re back with the Where in the World are VIPKid Teachers? series, in which we highlight members of our amazing teacher community around the world. From an RV in San Antonio to the beaches of the Dominican Republic, VIPKid teachers are living and working all over the globe, and so can you!

This week, we’re sharing the story of Teacher Justin, who lives and teaches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Tell us a little about your neighborhood in Rio! 

I’ve lived in Rio de Janeiro for four years with my wife, Marina. My dog, Annie, came to join us last year. You may have heard Rio’s not the safest place on earth. Luckily, we live on a great street in the “South Zone” which is a safer, touristy district that includes several beaches including the famous Copacabana. There’s a lake (venue of Olympic rowing), a marina, the famous Christ Redeemer statue gazing down from a mountain, and an old downtown as well. Rio’s a dream for people who like a marriage of nature and city. You can hang-glide off Gavea rock, land at the beach, go kite surfing to a stand-up lesson in Ipanema, longboard the bike path to Sugar Loaf mountain, take a trail, rock climb, sail across the bay to Aterro—the largest urban park in South America—enjoy a fresh coconut in a hammock under a palm tree, and still have a night out full of samba, bossa nova music, dancing and food in dozens of bohemian style clubs and bars.

What motivated you to start teaching with VIPKid?

I’ve taught adult online ESL since 2011, and my love of kids goes back to being a second father to my little nieces growing up. I’ve performed in dozens of musicals with casts of all ages and have lead YMCA summer programs. I thought my music and drama background would never see the light of my resumé… until VIPKID, which combined my two passions: inspiring our youth and mastering the puzzle of teaching English as a foreign language. By the way… I can also visit my family whenever I want, given I’m not tied down by an office job.

Share one of your best teaching tips with the VIPKid community. 

It’s all about the “MVP” of engagement: movement-voices-props. Your focus should be to always have them working on every activity. I invest in movement mostly because it brings back the physicality we lose online and creates a dynamic and interactive class. The secret is to nag the student to move with you, maximizing both engagement AND retention. During rewards, do a celebration like a hi-5 or dance. During vocab, encourage them to pantomime with you. During corrections, make a dance routine, repeating a word several times. Getting your student moving is the most synergistic technique out there!

What’s one thing the whole world should know about living in Rio?

Rio is a gem because of the nature-urban mixture of a city-scape sprawling over green rocky mountains that dive into the sea. Rio has deep culture: history, dance, music, art or food… the city is alive. Most of all, you will be impressed by the warmth and positive attitude of the people who live here. In fact, Brazilians will tell you that people from Rio, “Cariocas,” are ALWAYS on vacation. It’s that mentality that you can sense in the air, almost like the magic you feel at Disney. No matter what’s happening in life, people here know how to be happy.

Do you have any advice for others who want to teach from abroad?

Don’t try to do everything alone. If you’re just getting to a place, don’t schedule classes those first few days. Concentrate on finding people (e.g. Airbnb hosts) who are willing to help you out. Reach out to people quickly for help finding solid internet and quiet space (a noise cancelling headset will help if ‘quiet’ isn’t an option.) You’ll need to be more creative and flexible than ever, but you’ll find when you travel, most people are very happy to help, and they will make your life abroad so much easier.

Ready to teach globally & work locally from anywhere in the world? Sign up to teach with VIPKid! 


  1. I’m intrested in teaching in South Amercia. I would be a female traveling and living abroad alone. I have lived in other countries so I’m ok with that. I was just wondering if there was a location in that area that would best fit a single woman traveler. I am a fellow VIPKID teacher and would be teaching with them while living there.

    • I’m currently living in Cuenca, Ecuador. It seems to be a very popular destination for North Americans! Let me know if you want any info.

  2. I really enjoyed your workshop earlier this week, Justin! I’m a huge Family Feud fan. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and experience.

  3. Awesome post, Teacher Justin! Thank you! I have my degree in opera, and I too am THRILLED with how my experiences as a performer, artist, and musician have helped me be really great at this! Not to mention those diction classes and drills! WooHoo! I’ve been a traveler all of my life, and this is the first time I feel really solid that the next time I pick up and move I won’t be looking for a new “day” job. My husband and I intend to build a tiny house on wheels to pull behind our truck so we can be true nomads! This career at VIPKid has changed our world! ????

  4. Thank you for your story, Justin. It (along with others) has definitely inspired me to take life on the road, if only part-time at first. Thanks for your inspiration both here and in the workshops you lead. Full time on-the-road would make it difficult to continue to follow my other love, like you, on performing in live theater.

  5. I’ve gone to many of your workshops and I think of teaching abroad all the time. You make Rio sound great, and I so want to go there!

  6. I took this job almost a year ago to help us transition from the US to South Korea to be closer to family. We will be moving in a year and having this as an income will help while we are looking for work. VIPkid was a big leap of faith for me but it has been amazing for our family. We make less money but the opportunities it opens up and allowing me to be home with the little one has been tremendous. Your story is inspiring!

  7. Hi Justin . You wrote just enough about RIO to encourage me to plan a trip there. WOW… feeling like you’re on vacation all the time and enjoying the beauty of RIO all around you everyday. I loved hearing about your draw to VIPKID – to incorporate theatre and music. EXACTLY. Continue to be the BEST YOU these kids can enjoy learning from. RIO-onward ! Teacher Susan

  8. Wow! Sounds like a wonderful place to live. My husband and I eventually want to do the same. That is why we both got started teaching children online.

  9. Great insight Justin! I gave up my love of theatre a couples decades ago because it wasn’t paying the bills. What a GREAT idea to incorporate theatrics into our teaching! I love it! Best of luck to you and your family always.

  10. I love the way you incorporate movement into the learning process. I am doing this somewhat, but not as intentional as you describe. I can’t wait to try this with my students. Thanks for sharing about your adventures with VIPkid and Brazilian life.

  11. Rio looks fabulous! It’s on my bucket list! I’ve taken your classes Justin, and you really do a great job offering ideas and getting people inspired to teach for VIPKID.

  12. Whoa, Teacher Justin! I was in you Trial Class 3.0 workshop just a few minutes ago. I had no idea you were in Rio! I have lived in Mississippi the last 24 years and been in the U.S. since 1985, but I grew up in São Paulo, Brazil. Nice to meet a neighbor. ????

  13. This is great information, as my husband & I plan to move out of the US when he graduates with his PhD in 2 1/2 years. We are considering several places and I’m glad to hear there are “safer” places there! We both would like to teach in another country & I can be a a VIPKID teacher from just about anywhere! (What a great gig!) Thank you for sharing your pictures and your experience!

  14. My husband and I want to RV to California to visit our son who lives there. We want to “sight see” along the way. Vipkid will be a part of this. Your journey is encouraging!


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