Andrea McLean fought the feeling for a long time; for years, she ignored the signs that teaching was her calling. Throughout her life, she found herself working with children in one capacity or another. Her high school teacher and mentor, Mr. Lee, noticed this inclination and pushed her to go into education. Trying to ignore the pull she felt towards teaching, Andrea continued her studies in business and law. Unlike many educators, she didn't find her way into a career in education; instead, she says, "as corny as it may sound, education truly found its way to me."
Fate worked its magic when Andrea found herself working as a substitute teacher and loving it. Still in denial, however, she returned to the corporate world, but found herself feeling completely unfulfilled. Unexpected events paved the way as well; her organization downsized; Mr. Lee passed away, and a new program based in New York City was recruiting interested individuals without educational degrees to enter the field of education. So she made her first leap. Andrea recounts,
"On the day of Mr. Lee's wake, I applied for the alternative route program, with the premise, 'if it is meant to be, then it will be.' I was admitted into the program, and the rest has been the best decision of my life. Mr. Lee was correct, yet again."
Andrea enjoys the special energy that students give her. She describes the joy she finds in moments when children who have struggled for days, weeks, or even months, finally get a concept or skill:
"The light in their eyes changes, and there is a new-found confidence that exudes from children who once believed they would always be left behind. Days like that make everything else worth it."
Andrea had always held the view that to grow—as people, but especially as educators—we must open ourselves up to new opportunities and perspectives. She realized that teaching and being an administrator within the bubble of New York City was not going to benefit her pedagogical growth or help her further develop what she could bring to her classroom or office. She says of this epiphany,
"If I were preparing my students to be global citizens, I, in theory, should be a practitioner of this belief."
At the recommendation of a former classmate who had taken a position in Egypt, Andrea contacted Search Associates. She attended the Cambridge Fair only weeks after her application was accepted. She remembers the fair vividly:
"Oh, My Goodness! It was one of the most intense, high-energy, stressful, exhilarating experiences I had ever participated in. It was wonderful! To be truthful, I think I ran on adrenaline that entire weekend. There was very little time to be still, mind or body."
Several months later, Andrea was persuaded to attend the fair in Bethesda, Maryland. What a difference between the two Search Associates fairs! Bethesda was much more intimate and slower-paced, with fewer schools and candidates. This vastly different setting provided Andrea with a rich opportunity to develop relationships with other candidates and to hear about their experiences within the international school community. Andrea was offered a position, and made her second leap.
Now, as she finishes her first overseas appointment, and second year teaching, at the International School of Curaçao in the Dutch Caribbean, Andrea is already looking forward to her next opportunity. She has accepted a position at the American School of Warsaw (ASW) in Poland—her third leap! She is thrilled to find a school that matches her passion and aligns with her philosophy. Additionally, Andrea felt a certain kinship with the outgoing director of ASW, who traveled a similar career path. Andrea describes the steps she took before accepting the offer:
"I made sure to research the school and living in Poland. Especially as a woman of color, it is ever so important to have a realistic expectation of the country I will be calling home. I had to make sure I did my due diligence for both professional and personal reasons. As always, my first and most beneficial resource is my Search Associate and/or any other Associate willing to give me a listening ear. I had the benefit of being at the Cambridge Fair, allowing me the opportunity to sit and speak with various Associates, who brought up considerations I had not thought of and who connected me with other candidates in similar situations."
A big fan of searchassociates.com, Andrea utilized all the site's functions during her job search, and she can't think of any areas for improvement currently. She explains,
"Search Associates' thoroughness in creating a one-stop-shop website is far beyond what I thought I needed to assist in making a decision. There's a peace of mind that comes with knowing your research is already half-way there… Search Associates seems to be leading the charge in providing digital information to candidates."
Andrea's best advice for prospective international educators:
" …the opportunities are amazing; the community is supportive, and the growth potential (as an individual and educator) is exactly what you make of it. Many people are in different places in life. But until you take the first step, you will never know if there is a position that is the perfect match for you. Worst-case scenario: you live abroad for two-years and return to the U.S. with international experience. Your market value will have already risen tremendously, so just do it!"