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Featuring Kayleigh Knauer '11

Position: Kindergarten & 1st Grade Teacher
School: Mercy Ships Academy
Location: Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa
(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?
♦  How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
♦  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?
♦  What are the challenges and rewards of living in another culture?

How did you connect with this job opportunity?
Mrs. Snyder sent out an email about unique international job opportunities in January and Mercy Ships caught my eye. I asked her for more information regarding this organization and she supplied me with a dvd and literature about what Mercy Ships does. I was also doing an independent study on Third Culture Kids with Dr. Nichols, so during this time I spoke with the head of the Academy, learned about the school, and expressed my interest.

What attracted you to this position?
It was/is a unique opportunity and I had felt God's call to "go". Being able to work with students that are from many different countries seemed like a good challenge and I wanted to faithfully answer God's call! Being able to have such an adventure while also living out my calling serving missionary kids is perfect for me.

What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
I love it when I can see the light bulb click on for my students! Only having two students allows me much more one-on-one time than I would have in a mainstream school and that is also really rewarding because I feel like I actually know who my students are as people rather than just knowing them academically!

What has been/was your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
Packing up and moving to a different country so far away from home, of course, has its own challenges. As for school, it is interesting to have your students around you pretty much all the time: during school, in the dinner line, at the pool, literally everywhere! Also, getting the hang of a slightly different grading system than we have in the U.S. is a little challenging as well.

How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
I feel that GCC prepared me for my job so well because my strategy/idea "toolbelt" was supplied and constructed during my ed. classes and student teaching experience. Primary/Emergent Literacy is especially helpful to me now because I am teaching kindergarten and first grade and teaching those concepts does not come naturally to me so I was glad to have that training so I wasn't completely overwhelmed!

What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
Keep all the teaching materials you make for class and student teaching! Also, I found it helpful to look back at pictures I had taken of cooperating teachers' classrooms to construct what my classroom would look like, so take pictures of not only you working with the different students you encounter but also of the classroom itself!

What job search tips would you give to GCC students?
You can NEVER start job searching too early! Also, explore the unknown—get outside of your comfort zone! I never thought I would end up in Africa, but I let myself be open to new experiences and it has been such a great choice!!

What are the challenges and rewards of teaching in another culture?
Well, my class dynamics are interesting since I'm teaching MK's. One student is from Pennsylvania and the other is from Sweden! So sometimes it's hard to get an idea across to my Swedish student because of the language barrier but we make it work! It's really neat to have him in our room because my Pennsylvanian student and I are from the same place. Having another culture in the classroom adds a new angle to what we are learning and he ALWAYS brings his language into whatever we are learning so I have integrated so many new Swedish words into my vocabulary!!

What are the challenges and rewards of living in another culture?
It's intriguing to live in a place where there are so many different cultures all together. The week I arrived here there were 41 nationalities represented aboard! Some words mean different things in different cultures so sometimes the language barrier on the ship can be a little interesting, but for the most part it's really cool to live with so many people from so many places and learn about how different cultures do things.
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2010 Education Career Services
Maintained By: Deb Snyder | Last Updated: January 2014