A recruiter with
NICS visited campus in the spring of my senior year. I attended a
seminar that she presented for professional development credit with
Kappa Delta Pi. Tucking away the idea of international education, I kept
the resources she provided. A couple months later, I began researching
the organization more thoroughly. In October 2012, I applied with NICS
as an overseas missionary teacher. Less than a month later, a job
opportunity opened up for a fifth grade teaching position in La Paz,
Bolivia. I accepted the position, packed my bags, and began teaching a
few weeks later. With the foreknowledge that several elementary
positions would become available the following academic year, I chose to
switch to third grade for the 2013-2014 school year.
What attracted you to this
intervention and a genuine transformation of my heart. I didn’t choose
to pursue international education; He did. It took a lot of tears and
heartache until I finally submitted to the Lord’s will and listened to
where He was calling me. Once that happened, my eyes were opened to a
wider picture of His global teaching ministry. It’s impossible for me to
list all of the benefits of teaching with NICS, but here are just a few:
1. Gaining a Christ-like, global
vision for education; 2. Being connected to Christian teachers all over
the world; 3. Escaping a false sense of security and comfort in the
United States; 4. Experiencing and embracing new cultures; 5. Working
with faculty that share a common passion and vision; 6. Witnessing to
families and sharing the Gospel.
What are the most gratifying
aspects of your job? The
best part about my job is that is forces me to my knees daily. There is no
way that I would be able to accomplish anything here without God stooping
to strengthen me. In other careers, it’s a constant battle to achieve
more, gain the promotion, and climb the ladder. I have learned that
teaching is truly the opposite. It is a constant battle to empty yourself
more, bow in service, and build a ladder for others to climb. I don’t
think I would have learned that as fully and as quickly had I taught in
the U.S. The obstacles you face as a teacher are magnified exponentially
overseas. The good news is that the greater the obstacle, the more fruit
He wants to produce through you.
What has been your biggest
challenge as a first-year teacher?
First, that I spent my novice year of teaching away from “home.” Up until
my move, I had never fully experienced what it means to be an outsider.
The language, culture, food, physical surroundings, and comforts were
totally different. I had to make a choice between rejecting the world I
was living in or embracing it. Through a lot of prayer, the Lord
graciously gave me a heart for the people He called me to live and learn
amongst. The second major challenge was a lack of resources. Our school is
very small (around 200 students Pre-K through 12), and since we live in a
third world country, there is little accessibility to classroom luxuries.
Technology is very behind, which means no Smart boards, laminators, color
printers, overhead projectors, iPads, or laptops. There also isn’t a
Walmart or Staples around the corner to pick up supplies. I learned to get
really creative and be flexible in ways I never would have been before.
How did your time at GCC prepare
you for the teaching field? GCC
honors excellence and creativity, which has enabled me to create a
classroom environment that honors those things as well. The high standards
I was held to in my classes and during student teaching are the standards
that I hold for myself now as a professional. Also, my professors at GCC
knew me, invested in me, and respected my contributions as a learner.
Those are qualities I wish to convey to my students.
What advice would you give to a
current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future
teachers in action! I remember as a teacher-in-training that so much of
my field experiences and student teaching were focused completely on me.
My lesson plans, my performance, my formal observations. One of my
greatest regrets is not watching
enough. The best teachers have learned through diligent observation and
masterful imitation. I’m not discounting the need for originality, but
your mentor teacher is too valuable to ignore. Use the knowledge and
practices that they have gained from years of experience.
What job search tips would you
give to GCC students?
Be careful what
you pray for. If your truest heart’s desire is for Him to send you, to
be His hands and feet, then get ready to be surprised. International
education was definitely not
in my plans, but He took my prayer seriously when I committed my way
fully to Him. Don’t dismiss an opportunity because it wasn’t part of
your plan. When it comes down to it, your plans don’t really matter. Be
in the Word consistently, growing in sensitivity to His Spirit and
learning how to discern His voice. Then, and only then, can you move
forward in confidence toward the ministry He’s prepared you for.
What are the challenges and
rewards of teaching in another culture?
Barrier: Every single one of my students is an ESL student. Their home and
culture language is Spanish. Although I had some background knowledge of
Spanish, I had basically zero experience with English language education
in college, so this was a major shock. Last year I had two students show
up at my door to join my class (literally), and neither had
any prior knowledge of English.
2.Resources: As I
mentioned before, technology is way behind in Bolivia and American
classroom resources are practically nonexistent. Also, I’m only able to
pack two suitcases each time I come back and the postal system doesn’t
support sending books or supplies from the States.
Barrier: I know I mentioned this as a challenge, but it’s also an enormous
blessing.My students have
such a richer understanding of language and their growing fluency in both
Spanish and English only adds to our classroom dynamic. Also, this has
transformed my teaching practices! I have improved so much in my ability
to set expectations clearly, translate hard concepts, and teach literacy
the ever-increasing pressure of the state testing craze in the U.S., a
multitude of teachers complain that it infringes on their creativity and
ability to ‘own’ their classroom. That’s not the case here at all. We do
standardized testing three times a year, but the results only inform our
teaching practices rather than command them. I have so much freedom to be
creative in my lessons, re-teach when it’s necessary, and design
meaningful units geared to my students. I do all this without the fear of
a government program or administrator telling me what or how I need to
Sizes: Last year I taught the largest class at our entire school, which
was 22 students. If you think about average class sizes in U.S. public
schools, that’s considered a small class. At HIS, we typically have 14-18
students per classroom. Research tells us over and over that smaller class
sizes are often a direct correlation to high student achievement. I have a
thorough knowledge of my students personally, academically, and
spiritually. I get to work with them one-on-one and in small groups every
single day. I know their weaknesses and also where they can be challenged.
perspective: Throughout my schooling, I was taught about global
competition and how the U.S. is falling behind academically. I was taught
a worldview that centered completely on the States’ desire to “be the
best.” Now that I’m teaching in an international school to a population of
Bolivians, the whole notion of competition seems irrational. Literacy is a
worldwide epidemic, and the heart of Christ is for the nations. I believe
that God honors global collaboration, especially when it concerns the
welfare of His children around the world.