Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #40: Amber Acosta (A teacher at the American International School in Egypt)

August 28, 2019


Every so often International School Community is looking to highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight blog category.  This month we interviewed Amber Acosta:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

Hi! My name is Amber Acosta. I grew up in Connecticut, but when I am back in the United States, I call Vermont home. I have a bachelors degree in business from Fordham University and a masters degree in teaching from Sacred Heart University. I have taught grade 2 for the past 5 years at the American International School in Egypt (West Campus) and am excited to start a new position this year teaching lower elementary technology, using my certification as an Educational Media Specialist. My professional interests outside of technology are STEM education, library, and makerspaces. I recently became certified in STEM and am looking forward to using my skills this year, as well as creating a makerspace at my school. I have a husband and an 11 year old son. My husband is a teacher, too. He teaches economics and business at the same school.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I did not really plan to teach internationally – I fell into it and ended up loving it! I taught in Egypt for one year after college before starting my masters, but did not necessarily intend to come back. However, my husband and I decided to move to Egypt (where he is originally from) in 2011. I contacted a previous administrator and found they had an opening for me at their school. The rest is history! I knew I would continue to teach internationally after that, especially after my husband joined me in teaching as well.

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.

I have worked at Global Paradigm International School and American International School of Egypt (West Campus), both in Cairo. Global Paradigm was in its second year when I joined, so there was a lot of room for me to be a part of the accreditation process and really help build the foundations of the curriculum. I enjoyed the challenge! Also, we had small class sizes and I loved feeling like my students and I were a little family. At the American International School of Egypt, we have a large student body and staff. I have really benefited from meeting so many teachers from around the world and learning from them through discussion and observation. Another great thing about AIS is that we not only have professional development in our staff meetings, but also have the chance through our stipends to take classes or attend professional development anywhere we wish. I have had the chance to grow so much in my time at AIS, as well as have fun! Our Seuss-themed Literacy Week is a blast for both students and teachers. Also, it is fantastic to take my students every year to the pyramids- where else can you do that?

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

My son has grown up with both Egyptian and American cultures and we also travel internationally for many of our vacations. He has developed such a broad perspective of the world and a curiosity about different cultures. I think one of the best cultural encounters anywhere is always trying the food in a new country!

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

My husband and I would absolutely love to teach in and explore a new country in the near future, so we have been thinking about this recently. It is very important to me that the school is progressive, has opportunities for professional development, and values teacher-input into curriculum. I would also like for there to be emphasis on project-based and real-world learning. My husband and I started and currently run the school gardening program, in which students grow, pack, and sell produce, so we would love to work somewhere that we could still be involved in gardening or eco-initiatives. 

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

Teaching around the world – awesome!

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Thanks, Amber Acosta!

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 receive one year free of premium access to our website!

Interested in comparing the schools and comments in Egypt. Check out our blog post here.

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Highlighted Articles

Teaching and Learning through a Multilingual Lens in the Early Years (Part 1/3)

December 7, 2015


This article is Part One of a guest-author series by veteran international school teacher Eithne Gallagher – The Glitterlings and Interlingual Classrooms: Teaching and Learning through a Multilingual Lens in the Early Years

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Building a better world for future generations is essential for the continued existence of humanity. Education can no longer simply reinforce conformity among homogeneous populations or promote homogeneity among diverse populations. We need a new educational paradigm. As Jim Cummins (2008) points out:

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The building blocks for a better world must be seeded in Early Years education. We must enable children to see themselves as agents of change who are capable of understanding world views and universal values. Children should be aware that they all have a diverse cultural, ethnic, gendered, linguistic and racial identity because they will then be better equipped to accept that others are the same. As Skelton (2002) says, “I am different and have a right to be. You are different from me with the same rights but we can live together.”

Interlingual Teaching and Learning

In today’s ever smaller world schools need to be orientating their curricula towards nurturing tomorrow’s Global Citizens. This means implementing a thoroughly inclusive teaching approach that recognises and supports all languages and cultures present in the school. We need “Interlingual” classrooms and schools. The “Inter” prefix brings the notion of everyone being open and responsive to learning about other languages. In the Interlingual classroom children not only learn their own mother-tongue but learn about all the other classroom languages as well. Interlingual classrooms are places where children are allowed to use their languages as cognitive tools. They can transfer skills, concepts and learning strategies across languages.

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A Glitterlings “Big Book” engaging the EYs class at Marymount Int. School Rome. The children are learning what the word ‘polyglot’ means.

Interlingual teaching and learning takes as its starting point the practices of bilingualism, which include translanguaging (using languages flexibly, shifting and mixing them in the learning process), and transliteracy in the individual, and expands these practices for the benefit of the individual and the Interlingual community. Garcia (2009) argues that translanguaging has much value for bilingual children. It gives them a voice and builds on their home language practices. It also creates authentic language awareness activities for monolingual children by stirring the natural linguistic curiosity that is inherent in all young children.

Children need to experience a sense of belonging in Early Childhood settings so there is a seamless flow between children’s homes and school. We know that children achieve greater educational outcomes when they learn in a setting that embraces their language and culture (Fleer, 2002) and values prior learning experiences.

Teachers should be careful that young children are not silenced because they are not encouraged to use their home languages. Research has shown that children need to construct and reconstruct their lived lives in playful contexts and they also have to find their lives mirrored and referenced in the texts they encounter in the early years.

Administrators and teachers must become informed about the relevant research on multilingualism and take responsibility for implementing practices that address both students’ language learning and academic needs. Principals and Vice Principals have the role of evaluating teachers and to do this correctly they need to be informed on what effective practice for multilingual learners looks like. Teachers need to build language objectives as well as content objectives into their planning. School leaders have a crucial role to play in creating a collaborative ethos of critical enquiry and setting up the circumstances for teachers to plan effectively.

(Stay tuned next month for Part Two of this guest-author series on interlingual education)

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eithneEithne Gallagher is a recognised authority in the field of ESL in International Education and has over twenty years’ experience of teaching in international schools. She has twice been chair of the European Council of International Schools ESL & Mother-tongue Committee; she is a regular presenter at international school conferences and has delivered workshops and lectures for teachers, administrators and parents across the world.

Her writings on ESL & Mother-tongue issues have been widely published in educational journals and magazines and she has published a book entitled Equal Rights to the Curriculum in which she argues for school reform to meet the educational needs of all children growing up in a multicultural society. Eithne’s most recent work is a story-based Early Years programme for International Schools and Pre-schools: The Glitterlings was published by Oxford University Press in October 2015. Eithne provides support and consultancy for schools wishing to implement inclusive, ESL and mother-tongue policies.

Eithne is the mother of three bilingual children and lives with her family on a hilltop outside Rome.

* The Bibliography for this article series can be found here.

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