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Featuring Michelle Nietfeld '10
Michelle Nietfeld
Position: English Teacher
School: International School of Prague
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
(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?
Recruiters from Black Forest Academy came to visit Grove City my senior year. I pursued various opportunities (RA positions, teaching positions) at BFA, but found that they did not have a need for my gifts at that time. When applying to work at BFA I also had to apply for a mission’s agency. TeachBeyond, my selected mission’s agency, connected me with various schools across the world that could use the gifts I had to offer. One of these recommended schools was the Christian International School of Prague (CISP).

What attracted you to this position?
The BFA recruiters sparked my interest by talking to me about third culture kids and the opportunities I would have to invest in their lives. A third culture kid (TCK) is a child who accompanies their parents into a new culture. They grow up under their parent’s cultural expectations at home, while still living in an entirely different culture. As a young girl my family moved several times. Although we were moving within the United States, each region that I lived in had different cultural expectations. Every move left me a little more confused about who I was and where my home was. Yet, as I grew older I came to understand that these moves also allowed me new opportunities to grow and learn. I feel as though moving several times has allowed me to understand a little more about the struggles of a TCK.

What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
I absolutely love working with third culture kids. Their appreciation for other cultures and the differences in people are incredible to me. They understand so much more about how big the world is than I did at their age.

Working at an international school has also allowed me to remind these kids that though their world is constantly changing, they can put their trust in a consistent heavenly home by faith in Christ. Even when everything else is transient, He remains the same.

What has been/was your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
I was not nervous about classroom management when I first walked into my middle school classrooms. I should have been. Once I realized how large of a problem classroom management was (even in a small classroom), I knew I needed to consider action plans. As I thoughtfully considered the issues, I realized that problems developed when I wasn’t organized enough. I needed to take organization to a whole new level to regain the respect of my classroom. Thorough organization has made a huge difference.

How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
You can tell a soldier all about war, but he won’t really understand the importance of all of his lessons until he’s in a battle. In the same way, the importance of all of the little lessons connect when you’re in the classroom. Learning about classroom management or learning disabilities doesn’t resonate with you until you’re managing your own classroom. GCC professors do a great job of equipping students with the tools to be strong teachers. They aren’t making teachers: they’re resourcing teachers. I believe that the professors at GCC did an excellent job of encouraging me to think through my teaching goals, expectations, and strategies. They taught me to reflect on my teaching—they reminded me that there is always room for improvement.

What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
Get to know your students on a personal level. You aren’t their friend, but you can be a respected mentor. Just today a student told me that she pays best attention when she knows her teachers care about who she is. When you let your students know you care, they know their thoughts are valued, no matter what is being studied. (Note: Showing your students that you care about them takes time. It means getting involved in their activities, asking them questions and listening for answers, or writing meaningful notes, and so much more.)

What job search tips would you give to GCC students?
Don’t stress out. Relax, apply for the positions that interest you, and allow doors to open and close. Not everyone gets their dream teaching position their first year out of school (or even knows what their dream teaching position would look like) and that is okay. Our God is faithful, and he will put you where you can best serve Him for this season.

What are the challenges and rewards of teaching in another culture?
There are many days when I feel as though my students are wiser than I am. Most of my students speak at least 2 languages fluently, and some speak 3-4 languages. They are talented musicians, artists, and creative thinkers, and their biblical insight always astonishes me. I love working with such hardworking and passionate students! Many of my students have lived in several different countries, and have attended many different schools. The variety of schooling backgrounds makes for a wide range of levels and background information amongst my classes. This can make lesson planning extremely difficult. Yet, the rewards always surpass the challenges!

What are the challenges and rewards of living in another culture?
Attempting to learn the Czech language while teaching has been extremely difficult. Yet, most people in Prague speak some English, making this a little less urgent. Every night I look out my bedroom window and see Prague Castle (Prasky Hrad) in the distance. I am reminded of the physical beauty and the rich history of this city. I’ve learned so much about European history and world cultures in the past year. I’m so thankful for these growth opportunities! Another struggle has been connecting and building relationships with Czechs. I have to remind myself that within my lifetime the Czech Republic was a communist country. The Czech people have been through so much that I cannot begin to understand. My hope is that I will continue to grow in love for these people and to put that love into action.
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