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!

teacher

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.

continue reading

Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #39: Rachel Owens (A veteran international school teacher)

July 31, 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 Rachel Owens:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

Hi my name is Rachel Owens! I am an elementary school teacher and have taught pre-k, kindergarten, grade 2 and grade 3! 

I love teaching in the elementary school because the kids are so excited to learn and their energy is contagious! 

I grew up all over the Midwest in the United States. Born in Ohio, raised in Michigan and Illinois and then back to Michigan for college. 

When I was in 3rd grade, I started figure skating. It became my life. When I was 16, I was fortunate enough to join an elite group of synchronized skaters from Dearborn, Michigan called The Crystallettes. It was with this team that I learned the value of traveling. Being one of the three top skating teams in the country, I was able to represent our country in two international competitions- in Prague and Berlin. It was when I arrived home from those competitions that I realized I’d caught the travel bug. I couldn’t wait to grow up and see the world. 

My husband and I are both elementary teachers and have now lived and taught overseas for 7 years. We have two little boys who were both born during our time abroad. Jonah (3) was born in Kuwait and Eli (1.5) was born in Jordan. 

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

During my student teaching year in 2011, I started looking into what it would take to be an international school teacher. I come across the Counsel of International Schools (COIS) website and they happened to be having a job fair the following week. I booked a ticket on a bus to Chicago for $1 and made my way the Windy City. When I arrived at the fair, I was in way over my head.

I was surrounded by seasoned educators with years of international experience. What I thought was surely a small group of people interested in leaving the United States to teach in distant lands ended up being a whole community of teachers that I am so glad to be a part of today. After 7 interviews of hearing I needed experience before I could come to their school, I finally heard my first yes; which is how I started my international teaching year in Kuwait.

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.

My husband and I have taught at 2 international schools.

The first school was The American School of Kuwait. It was a great place for us to start our teaching careers. The school was already establishing programs such as Lucy Calkins R&WW and Responsive Classroom long before a lot of more prestigious schools were. It was also a great place to start our family. All the teachers live in two apartment buildings on a small compound which meant I had a built-in community of friends for ourselves and our little one. What made this school a unique and fun place to work was the staff that worked there. There isn’t much to do in Kuwait besides shop, go out to eat, and hang out at the pool (gosh that doesn’t sound too bad actually!) so you develop really deep and lasting friendships with your colleagues.

Then we moved to Amman, Jordan and worked at American Community School (ACS). We loved living in Jordan! It really has the perfect climate- mild and short winters, warm springs and hot summers. There is so much to do for both kids and adults there. The Dead Sea is just a 45 minute drive south and 45 minutes north is forests and mini mountainous areas for hiking. The school was wonderful! It is a smaller school, which we found we prefer and love because we got to know all the kids from multiple grade levels, knew all the staff well, and it truly felt like one big family. We grew so much as educators during our time at ACS. Being trained in Adaptive Schools, working with Paul Anderson for NGSS science, and working with Tim Stuart for PLCs were all experiences that we will carry with us to our next schools. Something unique and fun about ACS is every year at the end of the year the teachers make a End of Year Staff video that is shown to the students to kick off the summer. This year’s video was one of epic proportions as we took on legendary Queen! It turned out amazing! Here it is > https://youtu.be/MYybe0QmXzs

As for where we work now… well that’s what we are wondering too! Back in Dec 2018, we were hired to work at the Anglo-American School of Moscow. We were thrilled to begin working at an IB school where we knew we would grow exponentially as educators and where our children would thrive in their first classroom experiences. Unfortunately, due to political strife with Russia, our work visas were denied and the school had to cancel our contracts. 

Newspaper article link

AAS has been very supportive in our process of figuring out what comes next for our family- but we are still disappointed that Moscow isn’t going to be our next home. For now, we will be living in Fort Collins, Colorado, where we will continue to search for jobs overseas that will be a good long term fit for our family. We are excited to see where we end up next!

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

This summer while staying with my sister-in-law in Michigan, my 3 year old son heard us talking about some upcoming workshops she was attending, including one on masonry. My son asked “what’s masonry?” and he was told it is when you build things with stone. And his immediate response was, “Oh, so like the pyramids in Egypt?” In that moment I knew we were doing the right thing by raising our kids overseas. The cultural knowledge and appreciation my 3 year old already has is well beyond what most kids (and even adults) in the United States have. 

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

First and foremost we look for a location that is going to be safe and has a good quality of life for our children. Having both of my children born overseas, this life away from extended family is all they know. So we want to make sure that if they don’t get to be around grandparents and cousins, they need to be in a spot where they can still thrive, have friendships, be safe, and be happy.

Professionally, we look at the what programs/standards are being used by the school (Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, NGSS, etc) and what professional development opportunities there are. We also look to see if we think this is a school where we can grow either in our teaching practice or in leadership opportunities. 

I also think that the ability to save money is important. If we are choosing to take our children and ourselves away from family, then I’d like to be saving a bit of money to prepare for our kids’ long term futures.

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

 The. Best. Way. To. Teach

teacher

Thanks, Rachel Owens!

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!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a veteran international school teacher like Rachel Owens?  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.

continue reading

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:

member spotlight
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.

member spotlight

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.

member spotlight

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).

member spotlight

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.

member spotlight

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.

continue reading

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:

member
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.

member

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.

member


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.

member


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.

member

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

Training the Students to Become Global Citizen.

teacher

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.

continue reading

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

continue reading