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.