Home Country: Hawaii
Currently studying a Master’s Degree in Organizational Change and Development with a focus on international education, Jessica is eager to use this scholarship to transfer her teaching experiences to Ghana and “gain qualifications to be a strong educator and ultimately learn more about international education and opportunities of full-immersion.” Should she be the successful scholarship recipient, Jessica is enthusiastic about sharing her volunteering experience with those considering teaching abroad. “While traveling, I see writing as my kuleana (responsibility) to share my experience with as many people as possible. By doing this, they too can share the adventure with me and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to work with diverse cultures,” she shares.
Why are you passionate about teaching English abroad?
Qualifications: Lifetime Wanderluster.
Skills: International Education Advocate.
Yes, that pretty much sums me up.
Teaching abroad is a lifestyle choice, and my passion for it comes from believing in it whole-heartedly. Living in Hawai
i, an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the old adage “the world is at your fingertips” is not necessarily true. The State of Hawaii is unique because of its geographical, historical, and social realities. Hawaii-based students are challenged for education extending beyond its shores. Witnessing this, I am aware of the barriers to culturally competent education and the opportunities missed for students to receive a global education. I am eager to continue my experiences in Ghana, Africa to gain qualifications to be a strong educator and ultimately learn more about international education and opportunities of full-immersion.
What experience/skills can you apply to teaching English abroad?
I continue to train in a field that is preparing me for cultural change and international education programming. I earned my Professional Certification in Culturally Adaptive Leadership in 2013 at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I am currently a candidate for my Master’s Degree in Organizational Change and Development and my focus is in non-profit programming and international education. I critically think about my domestic and international teaching experiences to foster change development in education on a global context.
While earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Santa Clara University, my minors were in Urban Education and English. The curriculum focused on teacher skill development and gaining a deeper understanding of the barriers to quality and culturally competent education. To further immerse myself in the field of international education, I participated in the IES Abroad semester program in Barcelona, Spain where my chosen courseload and research focused on educational development of the Spanish child. While at SCU, I was selected as a Kolvenback Immersion team member for the immersion trip to Nogales, Mexico through the Borderlinks Program. The purpose of our volunteerism and field research was to be exposed to the challenges of immigration lifestyle on Mexican-American border and opportunities of education for immigrant youth. Also through the Kolvenback Immersion program, I participated in a two-week full immersion through the Rostro de Cristo organization in Duran and Guayaquil, Ecuador. My time was spent working with community partners to develop the after-school program for students, and using my Spanish communicative skills to lead tutoring sessions to the community children who were not all able to attend school. Additionally, I devoted myself to live on $1.00/a day, under the poverty line like the majority of those in our village.
The most relative experience I had was my year of teaching English at Suranaree Wittaya School in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand in 2011-2012. As the ‘English for Communication’ instructor for Mathayom 2, 4, 6, and member of Foreign Language Department Team, I developed lesson plans, participated in Department development projects, facilitated the after-school Spelling Club, and learned ways to be a culturally-competent teacher within the community. Through the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) program, I participated in pre-departure TEFL courses, but was not given the opportunity to earn my full certification which I will be able to earn through the IVHQ Scholarship.
Why do you believe you will be effective in teaching English abroad?
When I stood in front of the classroom and saw the faces of 60 Thailand high school girls staring back at me, I had never been so enthralled in my life. Teaching English abroad fulfills me. I can testify that something happens when two cultures come together to communicate and work towards the sole purpose of learning – it is magical. Two countries, two cultures, two stories are shared, and that is where the best kind of learning happens. I believe it is my kuleana (responsibility) to connect diverse cultures through education and immersion.
My thick leather-bound black notebook from Spain sits on a shelf above my bed. My ratted page-torn memo book from Ecuador is kept in a shoebox underneath my bed, surrounded with other trinkets the after-school children gave me as departing gifts. My loose-leaf notes and self-drawn memories from Mexico are stored in my carry-on luggage I still have yet to fully unpack. My Thailand Wordpress blog is publically posted online for reading by my closest friends and family. My past experiences of volunteerism and teaching English abroad have prepared me well. I have the personal conviction to continue learning to be a better teacher inside the classroom, as well as a stronger advocate for international education outside of the classroom.
What are you looking to gain from the experience?
I hope to be challenged, made to feel uncomfortable, and pushed beyond my limits because as a teacher I know this is how growth happens. The purpose of teaching abroad is to change and open the world of students… but to also change and open your own world. I am confident that the students, curriculum, and community of my placement in Africa will help me gain deeper understanding of culturally competent education. Because I have dedicated myself to this field, I know my experience doesn’t stop when I step off the airplane and I’m back at home. My ultimate vision is to translate my teaching overseas to change development efforts internationally and domestically back home in Hawai`i. My hope is to share my experience with all of you and, in doing so, inspire further advocacy for a globally-connected world, full-immersion, and service-based experiences.