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.



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 (5 days, 1 hour ago)

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 (5 days, 13 hours ago)

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 (6 days, 21 hours ago)

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 (1 week ago)

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 (1 week, 1 day ago)

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 (1 week, 1 day ago)

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 (1 week, 1 day ago)

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 (1 week, 1 day ago)

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 (1 week, 1 day ago)

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 (1 week, 1 day ago)

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 (1 week, 1 day ago)

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