Born in the U.S. and Spain, respectively, Andrea Plakmeyer and Rayesh Peswani met in Tanzania during her first year and his second teaching in Dar Es Salaam. Prior to that, she had worked in Ghana and Shanghai, and he in Australia, India, and Taiwan. Rayesh’s son Satya is a third-culture kid, raised in India, Taiwan, Germany, and Tanzania. Now this vibrant, international family has moved to Azerbaijan, with the help of Search Associates. Andrea wholeheartedly endorses teaching abroad:
It is a wonderful professional opportunity and a way to experience new cultures and perspectives. It’s a happy life.
You might wonder how a family that likes to be on the move handled the COVID-19 quarantine. Rayesh admits it wasn’t easy making the transition to distance learning, with three people working on laptops “in a small space.” The trio strived to create a discrete space for school work and routines for exercise, cooking, and leisure time. Andrea and Rayesh say that trying to figure out new systems and programs while staying motivated, and encouraging students to do the same, was greatly challenging. In the end, they are optimistic that “things will be easier in the new school year as everyone has had more time to plan and prepare for this situation.” Rayesh grants that because of the pandemic,
Life has been a little less hectic, and living with a bit of uncertainty can also teach valuable lessons like patience, empathy, and living in the moment.
Indeed, Rayesh fell into teaching by living in the moment. Years ago, after earning his post graduate diploma in Translation & Interpreting, he planned a one-year sabbatical to go backpacking through India. Three years later, and down to his last $300, with no real possibility of returning home to Spain, Rayesh applied for and landed a job teaching Spanish in an international school in South India. That he enjoyed it so much was a revelation! Once his contract was up, Rayesh returned to Europe to obtain a post graduate certificate in education, and for the last 12 years, he has been teaching internationally. He began as a middle and high school Spanish teacher, and over time became Head of Languages as well as an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) examiner. Recently appointed as an IBDP workshop leader, Rayesh says, “There have been many opportunities for professional growth."
Andrea began her career in education teaching middle school social studies. While attending a pilot program with other educators in North Carolina, she met someone who had taught overseas. As soon as she heard about the opportunity, Andrea knew that teaching abroad was exactly what she wanted to do. For the past 11 years, she has taught high school social studies, IBDP Psychology, History, and Theory of Knowledge. She explains why she is never bored:
I love the chance to be creative, work with students, and keep learning new and interesting things throughout my career.
Rayesh and Andrea are the grateful beneficiaries of professional development offered by their international schools. They also appreciate less red tape and bureaucracy, as well as smaller class sizes and fewer behavior issues than in schools in their home countries. Teaching abroad has allowed them “to focus on the best parts of the job—learning and working with students.” Rayesh describes how international schools have also enriched his son’s life:
Satya has learned to confidently navigate in many different settings and situations. He makes friends quickly and is aware of many different perspectives. These are soft skills that will benefit him in the future. He has also had a well-rounded education. He has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with a school trip at the age of 15. Not many kids can experience the feeling of success that comes from persevering through that type of challenge.
Rayesh and Andrea found out about Search Associates simply by working in the international community, where many teachers rely on SEARCH to look for employment. Though they have not yet attended a job fair, the couple uses SEARCH as their go-to website when the end of a contract draws near. They find specific information about schools most helpful in terms of demographic breakdown and programs offered, but it’s the SEARCH Personal Touch that allows this family to take bold yet safe leaps:
Senior Associate Harry Deelman and the Chiang Mai office have been incredibly helpful offering advice and insights. They’ve been ‘around the block,’ and we’re happy to take advice wherever we can find it!
For their latest job search, Andrea and Rayesh re-activated their SEARCH accounts and began looking for schools with positions for both of them in a good place for Satya to finish high school. They wanted a school with not only a reputable academic program and diverse population, but also one that fit their vision of teaching and learning. Furthermore, they ruled out places not likely to hire them, like South America— unlikely to import foreign Spanish teachers.
In the end, with a limited number of schools offering positions for both of them, Andrea accepted a job at The International School of Azerbaijan (TISA) to teach Psychology while Rayesh focuses on earning his Master’s degree. Rayesh and Andrea made their decision after researching both the school and the area, using Tales from a Small Planet, International Schools Review, and the SEARCH website. They also spoke to friends who had worked in that region. After interviewing with the director and principal, whose educational vision and professionalism impressed them, Andrea and Rayesh knew TISA was the right choice.
This summer, Andrea, Rayesh, and Satya are settling in and learning about their new culture and school community. For Rayesh, “Home is wherever we live at the time.” After many years of landing in a new place, he has learned a thing or two about adjusting:
Be open-minded and be willing to go with the flow. Every continent, country, and school has its little quirks. Don’t expect every place to be the same. That’s the fun of it.