Bangkok Phil

Farewell to a TEFL legend

A larger-than-life character who wore many hats


Thailand's English teaching industry is in mourning with the sad news that James Parmelee, the owner of Text and Talk Thailand, has passed away in Bangkok.

To say that James was something of a TEFL legend in Thailand doesn't really do him justice. He helped train literally thousands of teachers to teach at Thai schools the length and breadth of the country. Actually, James just loved helping people. He was that kind of guy.

A native of Missouri, USA, James served in the U.S Army for four years, including a stint in Vietnam.

Eventually, armed with a TEFL certificate and a passionate desire to teach, he made Thailand his home and spent an impressive 23 years in the classroom, improving the English of thousands of Thai students in the process.

In 1990, James decided to strike out on his own and opened the Text and Talk Academy in the Bangkok suburb of Lard Phrao.

James quickly found that running a language school was very different to being ' just a teacher' and one of the biggest problems he faced was finding teachers who were qualified enough to know what they were doing when let loose in a classroom.

At that time, in the early 90's, there was nothing like the range of TEFL course options that is available today. There was the prohibitively expensive CELTA training course and that was pretty much it.

James went about designing and offering a cheaper training course but refused to compromise on the quality. He knew that many of the teachers who couldn't afford to do the CELTA would still go ahead and teach anyway. James longed to train those teachers himself - but at a budget price.

Over the next decade or so, the Text and Talk Academy TEFL course went from strength to strength. James took care of the training side and his assistant, Leigh, advised new arrivals on visas, work permits, etc and helped teachers settle in to life in a new country. James and Leigh made quite a partnership.

James wasn't just a teacher trainer and school owner though. He was also a poet, author and deep thinking philosopher. He was a raconteur. He was one of those larger-than-life characters.

I only met James in person a handful of times. Once he invited me to his school for tea and biscuits and a cosy, fireside chat. On another occasion, fed up with the strict rules and regulations being imposed on new teachers, he gathered a group of TEFL people (myself included) to march en masse to Thailand's Ministry of Education and seek an appointment with the Education Minister himself.

James decided our group needed a name and he christened it 'Farang Rak Thai' (Foreigners who love Thailand) It's hard to think of James coming up with a more befitting title because at heart, James was a man who loved Thailand and loved the Thai people. That much was always evident.

James may now have gone to the great TEFL training room in the sky but his legacy will live on. The Text and Talk baton has been passed on to his loving wife, Sureeporn, and his two grown-up children, Jeynah and Ben. I have no doubt that in the coming years they will do James proud and keep his memory alive.

Rest in Peace.

 




Comments

This message is a few years late. But I MUST say it. I love James like a second FATHER. (Dang! My eyes are in tears!)

The year 1993 was one of my lowest times. I was then sort of not officially employed. Working as an IT guy with a friend to get some money while my wife was also pregnant.

Then, through an ad in T&T's own magazine, I applied as a photographer. Almost a month went by, taking pictures of school events, until the "test day" came.

That day, the usual translator did not come and we had a customer wanting an urgent piece of translation to be done. So, with the thought that after all we're in the same boat, I finished the work in an hour -- on a typewriter. (Usually it's a next-day delivery for that kind of work).

That evening James and Khun Sureeporn -- his very kind wife, called me to his office and discussed about what I'd done on the day. James upped my salary by another 50% and I became the resident translator.

James would edit every English translation work by himself. And he would summon me to be next to him and learn as he edited. My skill in translation and English language developed. These skills are being use in another skill that I use professionally today.

James did not treat me as an "employee", but rather as a family member, even after I've left T&T. There were misunderstandings, yes, but it was all gotten over with, and I still keep in touch with the Parmelee family.

All that skill and care James has instilled in me has made me what I am today -- a professional conference interpreter.

Thanks, James. Love you. Miss you.

By Anirut 'O', Bangkok (12th July 2020)

I recently began looking for James and was shocked and saddened to hear of his passing in 2017. I worked for Text and Talk some years back, and really enjoyed my time there. James and Leigh were an unforgettable pair.

James was always kind to me. A very giving soul. I appreciated the quirky way he addressed issues. Many a character passes through Bangkok. I had a trainee who believed another in class wanted to murder him. Really? I sent this paranoid nutbag to James who patiently listened to the trainee voice his fears and then James advised him to invite the intended murderer to go bowling. James wisely pointed out that if this man truly wished to murder it would not happen in a public place and if this fellow trainee did not attempt murder they would have a fabulous night of bowling together. So the two trainees went bowling. I had the same number of students at graduation. Good one James!

Paying bonuses which were not a part of my contract, providing pizza to staff and emailing me after I returned home due to my father becoming ill, James always kept an eye out for others. One of my favorite bosses during my time in the ESL world.

Thank you James!

By Susan Fearnley, Quincy, MA (22nd October 2019)

I want to say thank you to James for everything he did for me. He is a legend and I can't thank him enough.

Thank you James xx

By Rob Wilson, Preston (19th February 2018)

I did his course and found him as above, one of the nicest memorable people you would ever meet. He took the time to tell our class, I respect each of you for trying to do this, uncommon acknowledgement and a hands off non gotcha managment style, Being idealistic teachers, most had no finances, and he found work to do while studying, and we who had bad luck in the home country were given new life, and nurtured by the lively Thais. The course was six weeks, not four a usual, and hundreds of dollars less, so you could relax , not much stress, and it was often fun, with experienced teachers, That was 2002, and it got me my dream job as a professor at a Thai university, this getting me the professor job in S KOrea at the number twenty ranked university for five years, and retiring as a full professor in the PUblic Administration department at a national university. All far beyond the possibilities an MA in Asian history from CA State Univ gave in the US. And far beyond the nightmarish stint of being drafted into the US Army durng the Viet Nam war which had derailed my life for many years, SO eternally grateful to James for this, and the professors in Thailand and S Korea who gave support when none had ever come before, You can see my movies for TEFL research at STEM, or email me for the six years of presentations, one in the works

By Todd Saed, Selma (19th February 2018)

My condolences to Mr Parmalee's family on this sad news.
I trained with Text and Talk in Phuket, and met the man himself in Bangkok at his office a few yeas later. A charming, intelligent and helpful man, I am very touched by his passing.
Thanks for your help, sir, and rest in peace

By Mark Evison, Japan (15th February 2018)

James was a good friend from the VFW, and I'd also written a bit for his website. I was looking forward to see again him at the next meeting, but instead the sad news of his passing came just before that. I called another VFW friend to tell him, and he was so broken up that he had to hang up and call me back later. James was a special person, always friendly and very likeable. His is missed, and always will be. RIP, old buddy. (p.s. He'd been trained by the Army as a Cambodian translator, though they sent him to RVN. That's the way the Army works.)

By Charles Rice, Bangkok (8th November 2017)

I attended T&T Academy in 2013. I remained in Thailand for 3 years teaching at a public school. James was a kind fellow and encouraged everyone to stick with it and also enjoy the expat life. He will be missed. RIP

By M, USA (24th September 2017)

I underwent a TEFL course well-designed and managed by Mr. Parmelee who was the director of TEXT and TALK academy in Bangkok and that course helped me find a job in a university in Thailand. On the last day of our course, he came to our class and made an impressive speech on how we should continue our careers as EFL teachers. He really was a great pioneer in EFL industry in Thailand and his name will be remembered for ever. May he rest in peace.

By Dr. Sarath, Shinas, Oman (12th September 2017)

I never did actually work for text and talk but James and his kind family let me stay at their home for one night in Bangkok whilst I was attending interviews at various Bangkok schools through Text and Talk. An absolute gentlemen RIP Sir

By Richard Rimmer, UK (10th September 2017)

I met James in 1995 when I first arrived in Thailand to teach. He was so kind and helpful. I'm still here and I still admire this great man/teacher. Thanks and Rip

By Garry Holmes, Sanctuary Point (26th August 2017)

I met James when I took my TEFL in 2003, followed by being placed in a Thai School where I remained for the next 7 years. I loved it and give James credit for starting it all. A very nice man to chat with. He will be missed and my prayers are with him and the family

By Mike Reynolds , America (26th August 2017)

My deepest condolences during this time...

By Randall James Prokopowich, Keang Koi.. (20th August 2017)

I arrived in Thailand way back in 1994 and James gave me work immediately when I had no TEFL qualifications, teaching corporate gigs in and around Bangkok, and I ended up working for Text & Talk for over 6 years. James was a really friendly and down to earth guy and he treated me like part of his family, inviting me to his birthday parties etc. Thanks so much for all your help in the early years James, you will be sadly missed by so many Thailand TEFL teachers. R.I.P.

By Graham Balshaw, UK (14th August 2017)

Text-and-Talk opened my gate to teach in Thailand almost 10yrs ago and I am still here. Thanks to everyone at T & T. R IP James, so many owe you so much.

By Ian Hayter, Bangkok (14th August 2017)

I met him once about 15 years ago. I was doing research for an article on TEFL training in Thailand, and I visited his school and observed a training course. He was kind and helpful.

By Scott Z., Trenton (12th August 2017)

Sad news, I talked to him a fair few times back in the day. Was always really nice to me, I had some good laughs with him. Rest In Peace.

By BigbadB, Not Thailand (12th August 2017)

This is EXTREMELY sad news to me as James was so much more than "The Big Boss" of Text-and-Talk Academy--he was truly a gentleman who I considered a dear friend and as one published author to another, we hit it off wonderfully. It was because of his school accepting me at their outstanding branch in my Second Home of Chiang Mai that I DID get my TEFL certificate after completing the program and this led to my going on to China to teach there for the last six years. I have no doubt that the beautiful school that helps SO many people become teachers in the kingdom (or elsewhere like my employment in the Middle Kingdom) will continue on and help countless others in the future but now Text-and-Talk Academy, the world of English teaching in Thailand and the world in general has lost a truly wonderful man of class and honesty. I am deeply saddened and will pray to Lord Buddha on James' behalf...

By Sean Bunzick, Cape Cod (11th August 2017)

I've not seen you personally but I believed that you're a good man and father to Miss Jayna and a good well providing husband to Khun Su.
You'll be gone but will never be forgotten.
You've touched the lives of many and has inspired many teachers as well.
Eternal rest and journey with our Creator.
We will miss you!

By Albert Jorge Maglaque Comon , Bangkok, Thailand (11th August 2017)

Wow, that's sad news. I did my TEFL through Text and Talk in 2012... made a point of going to meet him, fresh off the plane, no appointment or anything; I just showed up, and he was there to greet, accommodating and helpful as can be! I still have the series of materials he prepared too. Top man!

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (11th August 2017)

RIP James
As a former trainer with Text and Talk I met and worked with James quite a lot. He was always willing to help in any way and up front and honest in his dealings with me.
A true gentleman in every way.

By David Solomon, Suphanburi (11th August 2017)

I coudn't agree more. He was larger than life. No ordinary man indeed. I remember telling myself at one point, "This guy is an English guru." However I found out in short order that he was a " Life guru.". I admired him so much. He is truly one of my heros in life. He will be sorely missed.

By David Badon, Vietnam (11th August 2017)

RIP Mr. Parmelee.

You were Mr. TEFL Thailand for many years and as Phil says, a larger-than-life character.

By John Q., Chiang Mai (11th August 2017)

I only met him once, but he was a geniunely nice person. Like you said, very helpful. He will be missed.

By Jason Alavi, Rangsit (11th August 2017)

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