Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #26: Usha Iyer (An international school educator/director currently working in India)

July 25, 2013


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Usha Iyer:

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.05.45 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I hail from Tamil Nadu (India). I am from Chennai but brought up in Dehradun, Uttranchal. The serene valley and the beauty of the hill culture exist here. It’s a small place but known for its best of the residential and day schools. I studied in a residential school but I was a day scholar. Mine was not an international school but we had a multi cultural environment as other nationality kids did study here. We had Anglo Indian teachers who taught us good discipline and grammar. I did my college also in Dehradun as my mother refused to send me to Delhi (Capital Of India) for my studies as she felt the city life could spoil me.

Teaching happened as it had to happen. I was a self made woman and felt that I should stand on my own legs .My father had instructed my mother to enroll me in the hotel management course in PUSA institute in Delhi .As he was working in Indonesia and communication was not that easy those days , I not doing hotel management and opting for teaching was not known to him. I wanted to earn and I felt I must pay for my post graduation. As I was obstinate in pursuing my goal my mother gave in. My father was very upset as there was no need to work; he felt it that way as he was making good money.

There was no look back after that. I got an opportunity to work in the same day and residential school. I was just 19 years and handling the 5th graders very efficiently. I finished my post graduation and procured the teaching degree while still teaching.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I got opportunity to work in a metropolitan city after marriage. It made a big difference in terms of interacting with different people. In fact after a very short span of 4 years of working in the city schools, I left for Saudi Arabia. That was my first opportunity working outside India in the International school of India. I could see a lot of Indian Muslim kids but we did have a lot of Muslim kids from Indonesia and other countries and a lot of kids from Pakistan. It was a wonderful experience as I got to learn Arabic. I lived in an international community where I was interacting with Egyptian, Lebanese and women from Philippines. I did make a few Lebanese friends.

It was a great experience for me as I learnt the prayers from Quran. I coming from a Hindu background I found it a cultural difference as the kids were allowed to do Namaz three times in school hours. There were separate prayer rooms for them to render prayer.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

1993-1997 – It was a great experience for me at the International Indian School Jeddah at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia  as I learnt the prayers from Quran. I found them very cooperative and we used to have fun days too where in we cooked our nationality food and have a good get together. What I liked about the school is it was very impartial .Although I was not a Muslim but I was chosen to represent Jeddah, Saudi Arabia along with an Indian colleague of mine to attend the two week workshop at Dubai. There were 52 delegates all over from the Gulf who attended the workshop. It was an icing on the cake for me. I got an opportunity to interact with people from Bahrain, Kuwait, U.A.E, Sharjah, Qatar etc. This kind of exposure opened my vistas for me to evolve a better English teacher as we could exchange notes on best practices. I came back to Saudi Arabia and the principal gave me an opportunity to establish the unique English lab which I dreamt of.

1997-2000 – It was another opportunity which God had given me to work in Nigeria. I was very keen in working in an international school but destiny had decided it differently for me. I was walking on the roads of Ikoyi, Nigeria. I just felt like walking with my resume into a Black school, called Kemsons School. The director seemed to be of a pleasant disposition. I told her that I want to head the school. She just looked at me and said yes, go ahead. It was fun setting up the school. I constructed a classroom made of glass instead of the regular walls for the play group kids and the kids loved it.

The best part for which I was applauded was when I conducted the FUNFEST for the school and raised 7 million Nairas The director was very happy with me. The most interesting thing about Nigeria is when I approached companies for sponsorship ,there was such a good response, especially from Lufthansa, the German airlines. They sponsored air ticket to go to London and back. That was the first prize in the raffle ticket .I was instrumental in telling the fun world Nigeria to bring down the toy train to our school.Oh! everyone enjoyed it.

The parents trusted me so much. My director met with an accident and I had to run the school without her. That’s the phase when I took the decision of sending my students to London on an educational trip and a cultural exchange programme. It was a great success. The best part was when we went to get their visas. The U.K embassy refused to give visa to my teacher as her passport had no stamping as it was totally empty as she has not  travelled to any country. It was a herculean task convincing those officers.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

I was back in India in 2000. After having traveled to Malasia, U.K., Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Nigeria, U.S., France either for professional development courses or to work, it was very difficult to compromise with quality and standards. I was very happy when I got an opportunity to set up an International school from scratch in Bangalore, India. It was named India International school. I became the founder principal of that school. I always wanted to have a student cultural exchange programme and wanted to enroll students from different races and community. I established the school in 2002 but it was achieved in 2009 and we had 1000 children. I travelled to Bangkok for several presentations. We had Thai kids enrolled in our school, followed by Chinese, Children from Hong Kong and Korea. It was very satisfying. What really made me happy was the school was created by me. The infrastructure, curriculum, the cross cultural environment everything was created by me.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

I have been so far running school for others. Now, I look at establishing an I.B. school. I have started my preschool in 2012. It has been rated as the best 20 preschools in Bangalore. Slowly it will have its elementary and high school wings and what I intend to do is to give the young children very strong roots and the wings to fly so that they can discover far more new horizons.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Beautiful, soul satisfying, enriching, enlightening and delightful.

Thanks Usha!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Saudi Arabia like Usha?  Currently, we have 5 international schools listed in Jeddah on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

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