Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #38: Tareq Hajjaj (A teacher at The American School of Belo Horizonte)

September 11, 2018


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

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Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I very much consider myself a third-culture kid despite living 25/31 years in Western Sydney. This area is the most culturally diverse area in the southern hemisphere and I grew up experiencing both Australian and Arab cultures.

Born in Kuwait, I spent the first four years of my life there before migrating to Australia. Throughout my life I frequently travelled to Jordan to visit my extended family. My family originates from Palestine before it was partitioned. And previous to that, we have routes in Egypt.

My schooling and tertiary education were completed in Sydney. When I was completing my high school studies, I was considering teaching as my profession. Although, I decided to study a Bachelor of Commerce first knowing that obtaining a Masters of Teaching would only take two years of full-time study on top of that.

Throughout my tertiary studies, I worked in a variety of education and community welfare jobs. At that time, I never thought I would be embarking on an international teaching journey. I was very much a typical guy in his 20s in Australia. I loved Rugby League, Touch Rugby and cycling and all my travels with friends via domestic trips. By the time I graduated, I was ready to experience a life-changing international journey.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

During my last semester of university, I attended a job fair organised for the post graduate students completing educational courses in my university. At the fair were some recruiters looking for teachers to work in the UK and I immediately was interested. The process was straight forward. The recruiter organised an interview with herself and then a principal within a school. They liked my enthusiasm and how I was looking forward to the adventure and willing to learn about the UK curriculum. From there I had to collect documentation such as police checks, and I was helped to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa. Before I knew it, I was offered a short term maternity leave contract for a Grade 5 class and a few weeks after graduating, I was ready for a September start in the UK.

Before going to the UK, I took a detour to visit a close friend of mine in Shanghai for one week. He was about to begin his 2nd international teaching post. It was a wonderful visit which opened my eyes to a new culture.  It wasn’t long before I was back there teaching kindergarten.

In my first year of teaching I was extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to have completed six weeks of casual teaching in Australia, a semester block as a Grade 5 homeroom teacher in an East London public school, and being the first teacher to open the one of two new kindergarten classes (a first for the school). My life was very different; I met so many new people, learned how to speak basic conversational mandarin, enjoyed a diverse lifestyle in two major world class cities and grew a lot as a teacher.

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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 in England (Brookside Junior School), Egypt (Cairo English School), China (Shanghai United International School, Fudan International School and Guangdong Country Garden School), and Brazil (The American School of Belo Horizonte.) In this time I have had the opportunity to teach Canadian British Columbian, UK National Curriculum, American Common Core Curriculum as well as the International Baccalaureate. All schools were fun places to work.

Cairo English School stands out as the school with a stunning campus. It had over 1500 students and chaotic hallways but the students were always cheerful and there were always many extravagant events going on around the school.

An even bigger school was Guangdong Country Garden School. They had over 4500 students! It was impossible to even meet all the students. I worked in the kindergarten. I remember the play times with over four hundred 3-5-year-old students running around in many directions. It was a boarding school, and it was common to see even kindergarten students still having lessons in the evening.

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Both Fudan International School and The American School of Belo Horizonte are smaller schools with approximately 350 students from K-12. I was the Grade 5 homeroom teacher at both schools so I was given a lot of freedom in planning a lot of the curriculum according to the American Common Core and IB syllabi, and the school’s scope and sequence.

It is still hard to decide whether I prefer the larger schools or smaller schools. They both have their advantages. Every school was unique in its own way.

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

I have been in Belo Horizonte for two months now. My impression is that Brazilians are very social and love to enjoy themselves. Every weekend there is loud music coming from different places in my neighbourhood and many social gatherings within my apartment complex. Just about everybody greets you in a friendly manner and people are usually excited to hear where I am from and speak of their desires to visit there.

Belo Horizonte is considered the Brazilian Belgium. It may not be known for having beautiful beaches like the other places in Brazil, but it is known for producing beers of good quality such as Krug Bier, FalkBier, Backer, Küd, Wäls and Artesamalte. To complement this you will find the popular night spot of Savassi heaving every weekend complemented by music festivals.

Whilst Belo Horizonte seems to be unknown from the outside world, it is the third largest city in Brazil. It boasts the most bars per capita with over 12,000 bars in the city. Most of these are informal sit down spots where you can enjoy an informal meal. Beagá (the city’s nickname which is its initials in Portuguese) also boast a fine arts culture with beautiful street art sprawled around the city. It is definitely a hidden gem (and ironically the mining capital of the country).

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

It is very important to be responsible and choose your employer well. That means finding out as much as you can about the position and the school, where you will live and information about the country you will be living in. After you have found out as much as possible, evaluate what is really important to you.

For me, as I have moved around a few times in my 7 years of teaching. Now I am more inclined to look for supportive school that will offer me 2-3 year contracts and ongoing professional development so I can take my teaching pedagogy to the next level.

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

An amazing and unforgettable experience.

teacher

Thanks, Tareq Hajjaj!

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 one year free of premium access to our website!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a veteran international school teacher like Tareq Hajjaj?  What character traits does it take?  We have an article on our blog that discusses this very question. It is called the “Top 10 Character Traits of a Seasoned International School Teacher“. Read the whole article here.

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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #37: Tr. Ponnumuthu Thankaraj (A veteran international school teacher from India)

April 30, 2017


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

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Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I am a Mathematics Teacher and I love teaching mathematics for slow learners as well as gifted ones. I have done my Masters of Science with Major Mathematics from Vinayaga Missions University, at Salem, India. Also I have a degree in Education from Tamilnadu Teachers Education University,  at  Chennai. I have done a E-Comerce cource from Informatics Computer Institute Noida, Delhi which helped me to involve students into modern technology. I had a training with Cambridge International Examinations for A and As Level Mathematics through Gandhi School, Anchol, Jakarta Indonesia. I had a nine months training from Institute for Total Revolution, Vedichhi, Valod District Gujaraat, India. During my school days, I used to be very shy in nature, but now I have improved a lot and able to Train the Trainer position for a couple of times. I am basically from a small town called Mondaikad at Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu, India.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

My first International Experience was with Holyland International School at Kathmandu, Nepal, which I went by train and bus as mode of travel around three thousand kilometers from my home town with extreme climatic change from 32 degree Celsius to -2 degree Celsius on January 9th 1993. Even though  there is no visa requirement to enter into Nepal,  I consider it as my first International Teaching Community.

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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.

   #. Holyland International School, Kathmandu, Nepal
   #. Greenland International School, Kathmandu,Nepal
   #. Learning Realm International School, (LRI) Kathmandu, Nepal
   #  Arena Multimedia, Noida, UP, India
   #  Under Ministry of Education, Republic of Maldives  3 schools
        Laimagu School, Shaviyani Attol,
        Male English School, Male’,
        Majeedyya  School, Male’
    # Cathedral Vidya School, Lonavala, Pune, India
    # Bina Bungsa School, Semarang & PIK-Jakarta, Indonesia
    # Under Gandhi Group of Schools
         Gandhi Memorial International School and
         Gandhi School, Anchol
    #  Singapore International School, PIK-Jakarta
    #  GemsEducation Our Own, Fujairah, UAE, and now at
    #  Ayyeyarwaddy International School, Mandalay, Myanmar.
By teaching in above schools I followed, national school curriculum, IGCSE, A & O-Level, IB and State Common  Core Syllabuses.

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

While working in Indonesia and Myanmar, the People are very polite and respectful. I was selected as “The Most Patient Teacher-Secondary” from Singapore International School made me to smile since it happened within three months time. From  AIS, Mandalay I had a lot of fun by riding motor bikes for 9 hours with a group of 7 teachers and the water-festival at school premises made me happy which one can feel it by experience only. Students happily call me Teacher Pon Pon; it makes me to smile at times. Implementing Student Centered Learning by the slogan “Each One Teach One” , gave me satisfaction of teaching learning through Peer and Teachers as well as one to one learning. At one instance, without knowing local language, my barber shaved my mustache instead of trimming it.  It makes me self-smile whenever I thought of the situation how it happened 🙂  It is really fun as we are here from different countries and being one family like environment during luncheon.

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

I prefer not to bargain for salaries, it should be according to the qualification and experiences as per the school.  I had couple of experiences to bargain it.  It really made me to think how can a Teacher to bargain like a business person with the school.  The complete Teacher Resources for the particular class should be provided by the school, which will save a lot of time of preparation of lessons, instead of searching the resource itself.  As I am highly capable of teaching middle school and High school, managing students is not  a concern for me. There should be free internet facility for additional search of ideas/ images/project models etc.

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

Training the Students to Become Global Citizen.

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Thanks Tr. Ponnumuthu Thankaraj!

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 one year free of premium access to our website!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a veteran international school teacher like Tr. Ponnumuthu Thankaraj?  What character traits does it take?  We have an article on our blog that discusses this very question. It is called the “Top 10 Character Traits of a Seasoned International School Teacher“. Read the whole article here.

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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #36: Cassandra Anthony (A teacher at Stamford American International School)

March 11, 2017


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

member spotlightTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I’m originally from Sydney, Australia however as a child I lived in both Germany and the UK for various amounts of time. I first did a Music degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, followed by a Graduate Diploma of Education at the University of New England, Australia. A couple of years after this, with an interest in Education Psychology which had been piqued whilst studying Music Education at the Conservatorium, I decided to do a Masters of Arts (Music Psychology in Education), at the University of Sheffield, UK. This masters degree really opened my eyes to the world of Academia as well and I’m currently halfway through a PhD in Music Education at the University of Queensland, Australia. I guess you could say I’m the eternal student!

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

The travel bug hit me big time in my early 20’s and I travelled extensively around Europe, Asia, the USA and Africa. I became very interested in the International School scene after meeting a music teacher who worked at WAB in Beijing and had been international for the last 15 years, this really opened my eyes to what could be an amazing lifestyle overseas whilst still teaching. This friend kept me in the loop of ‘good’ jobs that were coming up in various countries but due to study commitments, it wasn’t until I was 30 that I was truly ready to embark on an International School journey. I found my job on the schools website and applied, within a month I had a job interview and a job offer a few days after that. It was definitely a case of right place, right time for me.

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.

member spotlightI began working at Stamford American International School, Singapore in August last year. I have close friends who live in Singapore and have visited them very regularly so knew that Singapore was an ideal ‘first international school’ country for me. SAIS is an IB world school which also follows the AERO (American Education Reaches Out) standards, this was my first IB PYP experience and it’s been a learning curve but I absolutely love inquiry education and I’ve learnt so much in my first 8 months already. My school has a huge mix of nationalities, Americans, Canadians, Brits, Aussies, New Zealanders, as well as several other nationalities. It’s a cultural melting pot and it’s one of my favourite aspects of the school. My school is quite large with over 3000 students from 2 years-grade 12. The students are exposed to a wide variety of CCA’s and they have a Global Mentors Program which brings leaders in various fields to the school to give presentations and engage with the students, already this year we have had a Nobel Laureate, a Real Madrid soccer player and the ex-flautist of the London Symphony Orchestra visiting the school! 

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

Singapore is a unique place, a lot of people say it’s boring but there is so much to do here! I have funny cultural interactions with my colleagues a lot, I share my classroom with an American teacher and she has learnt a lot of Aussie slang from me! The first time I described a lesson as a ‘ripper’ she looked very concerned until I explained a ‘ripper’ meant a great lesson, it still makes me laugh! I can’t convince her to like vegemite for breakfast but she does love weetbix now! 

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

DO YOUR RESEARCH! I read as many reviews as I could possibly find about the school, read the good, the bad and the ugly so you can make the most informed choice. Find out about the professional development opportunities (ie if you’re new to a curriculum, will they send you on training?). Good leadership is also essential, ideally you want those in positions of authority to have several years of classroom experience behind them so they can be supportive of decisions for staff as well as students. The internet is such a powerful research tool now, use google maps and google images to find out about the location of the school, if there is accommodation nearby that is affordable or will you need to spend a lot of time in transit to and from, check out expat forums to get an idea of salary or prices of food/travel/transport. 

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

Exhilarating, Challenging, Adventurous, Broadening, Inspiring

teacher

Thanks Cassandra!

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 one year free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in the Singapore like Cassandra?  Currently, we have 24 international schools listed in Singapore on International School Community. 13 of them have had comments submitted on their profiles. Here are just a few of them:

EtonHouse International School (Singapore) (Singapore, Singapore)30 Comments
International School Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)17 Comments
Nexus International School (Singapore, Singapore)22 Comments
One World International School (Singapore, Singapore)16 Comments
Overseas Family School Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)26 Comments
Singapore American School (Singapore, Singapore)44 Comments
Stamford American International School (Singapore, Singapore)47 Comments

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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #35: Anita Sutton (A teacher at the British International of Moscow)

January 21, 2017


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

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I’m originally from a very small country town called Warwick, about 2 hrs south-east of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  My family is from all over, NZ, Australia and Croatia. 

I graduated from the Queensland University of Technology with a Bachelors of Education specialising in Early Childhood Education. I am a passionate Early Years advocate and am inspired by the Reggio Emilio approach. 

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

When I graduated from university I wanted to explore working in the UK. I lived in Bristol, UK for 2 years working in primary schools all over the district, which helped me gather lots of ideas, experiences and helped me build a bank of knowledge from more experienced teachers. 

After 2 years, a colleague recommended I look to the Middle East for more adventure, which lead me into taking a position as an EYFS teacher in a British International School in Dubai. I worked there for 3 years before taking up my current post in Moscow, Russia.

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 worked at Jumeriah Baccalaureate School in Dubai and currently working at the British International of Moscow. 

Dubai was a great opportunity to learn about the melting pot of cultures, I had over 15 different cultures and heritages in my class of 20.

Because Dubai has such a range of expats your class list reads like a meeting of the United Nations. I got to work with a range of teachers from all over which was a great opportunity to learn new things and approaches.

Dubai has so much to do but I didn’t save very much money, but the experience was invaluable and had definitely given me the skills to be flexible and keen for a new adventure which led me to Russia.

In Moscow, the language is the biggest barrier but I am determined to speak a basic level of Russian. I am enjoying the change in climate, from 50+ for 8 months of the year to -3 to -18 for 8 months of the year. I also loved experiencing my first ever Autumn. We don’t really have Autumn in the area I’m from in Australia, it’s just scorching hot or warm. Moscow was so colourful, the red, the yellow, orange and the green, I had forgotten how beautiful nature was after the desert! Snow has been interesting but the architecture in Moscow is stunning!

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

Coming from the Middle East, when you greet someone it’s always 3 kisses to the cheek, back and forth. I arrived in Russia and kept going for the third kiss when greeting people, which, in Europe is one on each side, so it seemed like I was trying to be a little more than friendly when I first arrived in Russia. 

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

I found it has been really helpful to make sure that any school I am considering working at is supportive of their staff, and has a clear vision of where SLT see the school going. 

I also like to get a clear idea of how much importance Heads of school place the Early Years. Good Heads of School/Primary keep up to date with current research and know that when children have access to a strong foundational beginning in school, it is beneficial to building an exceptional student as they progress through school, which leads to a strong school and a happy student base.

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

Enriching, adventurous, challenging, rewarding, limitless.

teacher

Thanks Anita!

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 one year free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in the Eastern Europe like Anita?  Currently, we have 105 international schools listed in Eastern Europe on International School Community. 54 of them have had comments submitted on their profiles. Here are just a few of them:

Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine)122 Comments
International School of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia)34 Comments
Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)66 Comments
Wroclaw International School (Wroclaw, Poland)46 Comments
American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)82 Comments
International School of Latvia (Riga, Latvia)33 Comments
American International School of Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia)29 Comments
Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria)28 Comments
International School of Azerbaijan (Baku, Azerbaijan)39 Comments

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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #34: Ms. Barbara Meinel Jacobs (A teacher at the Albanian International School)

December 15, 2015


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

RRona and meTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I’m from the USA, but I  have been involved in humanitarian work and teaching around the world since 1973. A close friend of mine was a Montessori teacher from Ireland and she had invited me to come to the UK to work with her. After 3 months I moved to Essen, Germany to set up a Montessori center for very small children. I had 3 little students: my 5 month old daughter and 2 boys, both 4 yrs old. One was German and the other was Finnish. Neither of them spoke English or each other’s languages, so I taught them in English 5 hours a day. They learned fluent English by the time my daughter was 11 months old.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

In March I moved on to Italy and from there got married, lived on a farm, and we traveled around Europe working with youth groups and setting up little Montessori/Preschools in Italy, France, and Portugal. This was just the beginning of our travels with our little growing family of six.

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.

Currently, I am teaching Preschool (EYFS) Albanian International School in Tirana, Albania. I’ve been teaching at this school since it’s conception in 2011. I started as Librarian sorting through 12,000 books and documenting their titles and authors. Then I taught English to the students that first year. The next year I started with the Preschool kids and have been involved in these ages ever since. I really enjoy teaching the littlest students of our school! It’s so much fun and exciting when they learn a concept, begin to speak English, make friends and discover something new about the world we live in.

My day begins at 4am. I wake up early so that I can think through the day, change any plans that may need to be changed and listen to calm music before I have to really get up at 6am. Then I leave the house at 7:30 and take a short walk to school.  

One of our favorite things to do during rainy season is to dance for our exercise/play time. Albania has a long rainy season of December through middle of June! It rains every day and it is cold. We keep the little ones inside so discovering “Just Dance Kids” on YouTube has been a life saver! The kids love dancing along with the figures on the screen and are now proficient dancers.

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

A really funny thing happened to me last week. We had been preparing for the Albanian independence days celebrations at school. My kids were dancing and singing in Albanian for weeks in preparation for their show. On Saturday after the show I was walking down the street to the supermarket playing music in my head. Halfway home I realized that I was singing Albanian folk music instead of the usual music I play in my head. I’ve finally become Albanian! I’ve been here since 2010.

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

One of the important things I look for when searching for an international school is whether there is much pollution (I have asthma), a safe environment, and they won’t mind my age or nationality.

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

Exciting, fun, new friends, challenges!

Thanks Barbara!

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 the Eastern Europe like Barbara?  Currently, we have 105 international schools listed in Eastern Europe on International School Community. 54 of them have had comments submitted on their profiles. Here are just a few of them:

Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine)122 Comments
International School of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia)34 Comments
Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)66 Comments
Wroclaw International School (Wroclaw, Poland)46 Comments
American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)82 Comments
International School of Latvia (Riga, Latvia)33 Comments
American International School of Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia)29 Comments
Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria)28 Comments
International School of Azerbaijan (Baku, Azerbaijan)39 Comments

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