After graduation, I searched for teaching jobs in the inner city
regions of Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. When the desired opportunities
did not develop, I began to search for a teaching job abroad. I spent
many hours in a systematic search online looking for challenging
opportunities. Having been part of Project Okello during my time at
Grove City, I was excited when my search uncovered a Christian
international school in Uganda. After the application and interviewing
process, I applied to a missions organization, packed my bags, and
headed off to Africa.
What attracted you to this
My previous experience raising awareness about
the conflicts in Uganda and my love for the people of the country
motivated me to pursue this position. However, my original desire was to
teach anywhere as long as it was abroad. I have found that I thrive in
situations that are slightly unusual and largely challenging. I can slip
into apathy if not in an environment that is stimulating, trying, and
exciting. Also, my desire to travel and find the beauty in other cultures
reinforced my desire to teach abroad.
What are the most gratifying
aspects of your job?
The school I teach in has approximately thirty
countries represented among the student body. Teaching to students from
such a diverse set of backgrounds is a joyful challenge. It is
fascinating to see how best practice remains absolute despite such vast
cultural differences. It is humorous to find oneself mid-lesson and
realize that using snowmen to
teach a lesson on circles is not going to work when there is no “snow
schema” for many of the students. Other than the daily appreciation of
cultural beauties, I have found that I also enjoy teaching divergent
thinking in a country where most instruction in convergent. As the
visual arts teacher, it’s a blessing to watch children rediscover and
strengthen their creative skills.
What has been your biggest
challenge as a first-year teacher?
While I had some small issues with classroom management, the
largest challenge was creating a curriculum that had the quality and depth
I desired. I wanted to implement a curriculum that would build upon both
the skills taught in class and appropriate developmental stages. It took
me a few months before I felt that my instruction was incorporating higher
level questions, teaching students divergent thinking and not just
drawing, and building upon.
What advice would you give to a
current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future
classroom? I would urge them to give greater thought to
their educational philosophy. Over the few years I’ve been teaching, the
greatest challenge has been to align my methods, curriculum, words, and
behaviors with my classroom objectives. I would challenge teachers to be
humble enough and creative enough to always be pushing for better quality
What job search tips would you
give to GCC students?
Be willing to put in the time. It takes hours upon hours to
complete the searching, researching, and application process.Also, bring yourself to each essay, application, and interview.
In the world of elementary education, it is a great thing to have
personality with specific passions that other teachers do not carry.
What are the challenges and
rewards of teaching in another culture?
Very often the challenges are actually the rewards. As a teacher
in a different culture, you can never assume that you and your students
are approaching a project from a similar mindset or worldview.This aspect is a blessed challenge because it forces thoughtful
preparation. What is a simple snowman project in the states is a full on
cultural learning experience in an equatorial country.
There are many ESL barriers. Sending bad markings home might
result in beatings which, though discouraged by the school, are
culturally accepted. In my particular country of residence, a high work
ethic is not often valued. This cultural element is frustrating to
combat, especially as a Fine Arts teacher, but can be trained away
through creating a subculture in the classroom that values high quality
The clear rewards are the bits of information and
humor that come from mixing children from 27 different countries into
one school community. Each child brings such a different sensibility to
their class and to their work. It’s an ever-surprising and fresh
What are the challenges and
rewards of living in another culture?
I’m not sure that I could answer this question in a page, much
less a paragraph. I’m sure that each person and each culture is
different so the challenges and rewards would be specific to each
individual as they face them. In my specific situation, I’ve found the
greatest challenges to be treatment of women, lack of punctuality, and
lack of quality work. The greatest rewards have been a culture steeped
in bright colors and rhythmic music, the weather, the straightforward
and genuine people, and my increased focus on and faith in God.