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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Information for Members

It’s easy to network on ISC!

August 6, 2019


How many times have you applied to a school wishing that you knew somebody that worked there?

Knowing somebody and getting the ‘inside scoop’ on an international school will definitely help you in your quest to set up an interview there.

At International School Community we made that search for ‘informed people’ even easier with our new Top 40 Schools with the Most Members page.

Currently, our top 40 international schools with the most members are:
24 members – American International School in Egypt
23 members – Copenhagen International School
21 members – International School of Kuala Lumpur
21 members – International School Manila
17 members – Seoul International School
17 members – International School of Tanganyika
17 membersJakarta International School
17 membersMEF International School Istanbul
17 membersWestern International School of Shanghai
16 membersFairview International School
16 members – American School Foundation of Mexico City
16 members – American School of Barcelona
15 members
Singapore American School
15 membersInternational School Bangkok
14 membersUnited Nations International School (Vietnam)
14 membersShanghai Community International School
14 membersShanghai United International School (Hongqiao)
14 members – Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Astana
14 members – Istanbul International Community School
14 membersNIST International School
14 membersBrent International School Manila
14 members – Seoul Foreign School
14 membersQatar Academy (Doha)
13 members – KIS International School (Bangkok)
13 membersGraded – The American School of Sao Paulo
13 membersAmerican School of Dubai
13 membersAmerican International School of Johannesburg
13 membersAmerican International School (Vietnam)
13 membersCairo American College
13 membersGood Shepherd International School
12 members –Suzhou Singapore International School
12 membersChadwick International School – Songdo
12 membersInternational School of Beijing
12 membersWestern Academy of Beijing
12 membersAmerican International School of Kuwait
12 membersAnglo-American School of Moscow
12 membersAmerican School of Kuwait
12 membersCanadian International School (Singapore)
11 membersAmerican Embassy School New Delhi
11 membersBilkent Laboratory & International School

The members of these schools include members that currently work there now or have worked there in the past.

With 100-300 new members joining each month, this list will continue to grow and grow; with even more members showing up as potential people to network with.

It is simple to network on our website: just click on a member and then click on the ‘Contact this member’ button (Premium membership access required).  Then write him/her a message.  When your message is sent, the other member will get an email alert letting them know that they have a new message waiting for them on our website (you don’t need premium membership access to reply to a private message on our website). Numerous International School Community members have already taken advantage of this unique feature on our website!

As far as we know, International School Community is the only website where you can quickly and easily network with real people at a specific international school.  Meaning, if you want to get in touch with somebody from the United Nations International School in New York and you are currently a premium member of International School Community, you now have 6 members that you can contact on our website that either work there now or have worked there in the past.  

Get the answers to your questions; now that is easy networking!

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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. 

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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.

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Discussion Topics

Why Do International School Educators Teach Abroad? To Work AND Party!

December 1, 2018


The majority of international educators are professionals. They are some of the most innovative and progressive teachers out there.

However, International schools teachers certainly like to have their fun as well. Some might say the whole point of teaching abroad is to escape their boring home country/city life and inject some more excitement.

When not teaching at their international schools, there must be time to take in the city life and party!

Teach Abroad

It is not that difficult to find a group of colleagues at your international school to go out and party with you. And depending on what city you are living in the world, there are always certain spots at which to hang out.

People teach abroad for many reasons, and one of them is for a good nightlife. Some cities in the world are better known for their nightlife than others, so it is good to do a bit of research before your move. But anywhere there are expats, there is bound to be a neighborhood or two that they like to hang out in.

Teach Abroad

And let’s not forget the annual school Christmas party! Many international schools go all out to put together a nice Christmas party for their staff. Crazy antics usually happen at an international school Christmas party, thus proving that numerous international school educators indeed like to balance doing their job and also saving some time to party!

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Using our ISC’s unique Comment Search feature, we searched the keyword “party.” We found that we currently have 71 comments (Dec. 2018) with that keyword on it.

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“There is so much nightlife here. If you want to go out and party in the city centre, there are endless place to do that. Locals love to go to a pub and stand outside of it and drink away with their friends, even if it is cold out outside. But I must say that last night, we saw at least spots on the sidewalk where someone had vomited. So people are definitely getting piss drunk here. LOL.” – American School of London (London, UK)15 Total Comments

“Plenty of nightlife. Clark Quay is probably the most known of the party scenes, but there are lots of other options from a plethora of rooftop bars, brewpubs to small local clubs…” – Singapore American School (Singapore)184 Comments

“Foreign staff usually are offered accommodation in an apartment complex that is next to the school. The complex features a small pool, gym and party area. Parties are held by neighbours regularly so it can be noisy at times, but it dies down after a certain time. Also, the size of the bedrooms are a bit small but you get used to that….” – American School of Belo Horizonte (Belo Horizonte, Brazil)72 Total Comments

Teach Abroad

“New staff start a day earlier and are invited to a welcome breakfast, where we met all the academic coordinators and people in key roles, such as the nurse and admin staff. Christmas is a special time, where we had a special staff breakfast on top of a glamorous Christmas party! The principal is also very friendly and arranges social gatherings…” – SEK Catalunya International School (La Garriga, Spain)29 Comments

“They’ve started having an annual New Year’s party after the winter break where parents, faculty, and alumni have a very relaxed evening, catching up after their holiday adventures…” – Canadian Academy (Kobe) (Kobe, Japan)68 Comments

“You can find anything for any taste. You can opt for some quiet activities or team sports, quiet walks or a wild party in the city. There are excellent clubs and bars, and some quiet places. Ask the locals or more “experienced” expats and they will guide you…” – Knightsbridge Schools International Panama (Panama City, Panama)39 Comments

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Comment Topic Highlight

Back to School Initiatives and New Demands: Welcoming or Stressful?

September 20, 2018


Every school year, a school always goes through some new changes or simply experiences new things that the staff is now required to do or complete. The changes could be related to the school’s curriculum, to some new professional development based on new initiatives, new building procedures (like fire drills), new mandatory training (like child protection), etc.

Stressful

For many things (like ones actually dictated by the host country), they are mandatory and the admin simply just needs to fit those required things into their yearly meeting schedule.  Combine those required things with the other things and initiatives that a school wants to do, it can make for a sometimes stressful school year for the staff (and admin!). Furthermore, balancing these new things with your normal planning work and actually teaching students can prove to be very challenging.

So what are some of these new initiatives that international schools are focusing on in recent years?

A number of international schools are having their staff work with the Managebac program. There are 57+ comments related to Managebac on our website.

It’s also fairly certain that your school is now or will very soon be going through an accreditation. ISC has 347+ total comments related to school accreditation on 247 international schools at the moment.

With regards to curriculum, it appears that a number of schools are doing training with the Common Core curriculum. There are 24 comments that are about the different schools taking on this in recent years.

There are also 25 comments on IB training.  117 comments on different workshops going on in 90+ international schools.

And the list goes on…

What is a possible plan then for balancing all of these newly added things so that staff and admin don’t get too overwhelmed?  As one ISC member wrote about working at United Nations International School (Vietnam), “the [needs to be a] conscious adoption of a “less is more” ethos.”

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new things added at a school. Our members can share what current international schools are doing in this topic. There are a total of 567 comments (Sept. 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 65 comment topics called – “Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“The use of Kagan cooperative structures is the focus for this year. The entire faculty had 2 days of training before the commencement of the school year with another session upcoming later in the year. The goal being student engagement. Most of the faculty have been receptive and are already using the structures in their classrooms…” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea)147 Total Comments

“The school just finished a multi-year curriculum initiative designed to put the entire Pre-K through 12th grade curriculum documents onto Rubicon Atlas. The school seems to focus most on literacy in the Lower School, innovation and design in the Middle School, and IB/AP in the Upper School. School-wide, there is a focus on Differentiated Instruction, but this takes different forms in different divisions. There is a new Head of School coming in for the 2018-2019 school year…” – American School of Paris (Paris, France)47 Comments

“The administration said they care more about kids learning English and Maths rather than any other subjects. What makes the school unique, seems independent of what they are pursuing; bring more local students no matter what their academic level is…” – Changchun American International School (Changchun, China)122 Total Comments

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“Professional development this year has included IBDP two-day Category 3 in-school workshops on the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge. All staff also completed a Stewards of Children online course and a one-day first aid and CPR course…” – Tsukuba International School (Tsukuba, Japan)25 Comments

“The school has offered, over the past two years, very little in terms of professional development. There has been talk of a curriculum change to the Cambridge Primary Curriculum for September 2018…” – Cambridge School Doha (Doha, Qatar)57 Comments

“The school is just setting up a Professional Learning Centre to improve instruction and practice at the school first. The school has designated professional learning time on Friday afternoons and encourages professional development…” –  YK Pao School (Shanghai, China)38 Comments

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