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Featuring Courtney Weber '10

Courtney Weber '10

Position: 4th & 5th Grade Math, Bible, and Science Teacher

School: Asunción Christian Academy

Location: Paraguay

(Profiled: November 2011)


♦  How did you connect with this job opportunity?
♦  What attracted you to this position?
♦  What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
♦  What has been/was your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?

  Was the transition to Paraguay difficult?  How prepared did you feel leaving GCC?
♦  What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
♦  What job search tips would you give to GCC students?
♦  What are the challenges and rewards of teaching in another culture?


How did you connect with this job opportunity?

I had done many medical mission trips with my Dad and knew that I always wanted to teach.  I thought with teaching in the States that I could continue to do short-term mission trips in the summer, but never thought of doing long-term missions.  However, right before my senior year in college someone mentioned teaching abroad to me.  I did some searching and submitted my resume to several of my top schools.  My top school (Asunción Christian Academy) responded to me the next day, asking me to fill out and submit an application.  Next thing I knew it was October, 2 months later, and I had a signed contract in my hands.


What attracted you to this position?

Asunción Christian Academy was originally my top school choice.  I knew with my background in Spanish that I wanted a country in Latin America, and I was attracted to their mission statement and philosophy of education which lined up with my values and view of education.  I was able to contact several teachers at the school, and I greatly appreciated their honesty about the school.  I also was attracted to this school because of the ability to live on campus, allowing me to have a little more peace of mind about my safety in this third world country.  Most importantly, I was impressed by the strong emphasis on Christian community here.


I have also been blessed to be able to continue to work towards getting my Master's degree through the University of Alabama.  They come down to Paraguay 2 times a semester and offer 2-week classes in the evening at a significantly reduced rate for English speaking teachers.


What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?

Truly, whenever I teach, no matter what it is.  I love my students; they are so incredible and unique.  I have small class sizes—12 students in 4th grade and 9 students in 5th grade.  I know them each so well, and it's a blessing to see my 5th graders grow from when I had them last year in 4th grade.  I love seeing the triumphs and successes in their eyes, and to see them learn more about the Lord.


What was your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?

Learning to balance everything in a new environment is certainly a challenge.  I pushed myself a lot at Grove City to keep up with the challenging academics, getting involved in numerous activities, teaching, etc.  I felt good coming into this because of my time at GCC, but trying to find a balance between experiencing the environment, improving culturally and linguistically, building relationships, and preparing for school work, and taking Master's class is hard.  At a small international school, there is also the challenge of the people you work with are the people you live with, socialize with, go to church with, etc.  Spending so much time with the same people can be tense at times.  Also at a small international school you are often asked to do several things that do not fall into your normal job description.  These can also be taxing at times and certainly take more work, but can also be a blessing (i.e., I am the elementary overnight camp director, leader of our re-accreditation committee, art club instructor, in charge of drills and emergency procedures, etc.)  I also have to walk or take the public buses everywhere which makes things take a lot longer than they would in the States.  It often takes over an hour to go to the grocery store and carry all of your groceries back home.


Was the transition to Paraguay difficult?  How prepared did you feel leaving GCC?

I had little to no culture shock because of my previous experience in Latin America.  I was really blessed by the mission trips with my Dad.  Other new teachers struggled with the food, climate, language, culture, etc., but I was really blessed by a pretty smooth transition.  I had a greater knowledge of Spanish than many of the other teachers which helped as well.


Coming to Paraguay, I knew that this is where the Lord was calling me so I was confident that this was where I was supposed to be.  Some of my friends here realized that teaching or that living abroad wasn't for them, but I knew that I was following the Lord's calling to teach in Paraguay.


What advice would you give to current pre-service teachers in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?

Come in with realistic expectations for yourself.  We work so hard in college, and many enjoy student teaching.  We get so excited about wanting to be the best teacher that we can, which is fantastic!  However, recognize that you are going to make mistakes your first year out, and come in with realistic expectations.  Put your trust in the Lord and you can achieve great things with His Power.  Having parent-teacher conferences translated through 3 languages, forces you to trust in Him.  I have to trust that the translators in the room are telling the parents what I want to get across.  Trust that He is in charge and will guide you through these unknowns.


What job search tips would you give to GCC students?

Start looking early—look out there and get familiar with schools.  Take the time to read about the schools you are interested in, especially look at the philosophy of education and talk with teachers who are there.  When I came last year, I was the only new teacher who had talked to past teachers.  It gave me so many insights and heads-up on a lot of things about the school.  I was greatly blessed by that.  Take your time, look out there, see what you agree with, and really talk to the teachers.  You are interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing you.  Ask yourself if this is a school you want to work in.


What are the challenges and rewards of teaching in another culture?

Challenge—The people of Paraguay are beautiful and have so much to offer as they take time to care.  When I'm on campus, I'll forget and rush up to a secretary and quickly hand them something or ask a quick question. However, if you don't actually stop and ask them how they're doing, it's considered really rude.  We Americans tend to "just get to the point" and here, you really have to stop and take the time and really care.  Also, as mentioned, the different cultures can be challenging at times.  If I were to send a similar note home to the three of my students (from three different cultures) about misbehaving in class, the parents would each respond differently.  Some may say something to their child, some may never read it and just sign it, and some may forcibly beat their child severely.  Really getting to know and understand the different cultures is vital to help guide your choices and decisions.


Rewards—I've also gotten really involved in my church doing a women's ministry.  We've been doing jewelry making, ladies' teas, girls' nights, and cooking (we baked Christmas sugar cookies).  This has been a wonderful blessing—to be able to invest in the students at my school and the people outside of it.  As Paraguay is a third world country there is a large population of people severely below the poverty line.  Being able to help with meals, love the people, helping young girls realize their value (when they are being told by their parents to support the family through prostitution, etc.), and helping to share the gospel have been huge rewards.  I love working in His mercies here, and watching Him use it for His glory.

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