Beverly Conway unexpectedly became an educator twenty years ago, during her second year at university, when a close family friend asked Beverly to tutor her teenage son in English. Beverly found that initial experience so rewarding that by the time she graduated with a B.A. in Literature and Spanish, she had already established her own tutoring service in English and Spanish. After 12 years of tremendously gratifying self-employment, Beverly was ready for a change and began coursework for a Master of Education at Framingham State College in Massachusetts.
One of Beverly's professors, Dr. Charles Skipper, was so impressed with Beverly's work ethic and determination that at the end of the course, he invited her to join the faculty at the Escuela Americana in El Salvador, where he was Superintendent! Beverly understood that accepting this "momentous offer" (as she describes it) meant closing her company and leaving family behind to pursue an international teaching career, but she decided to take the plunge. She exclaims,
"It was one of the best decisions of my life! I loved exploring a new language; I loved the warmth and kindness of my new Salvadoran friends, and, just as much, I loved the fantastic energy, the mutual affection, and vibrancy that characterized my classes."
As the only faculty member from the Caribbean, Beverly soon recognized what was distinctive about herself. She explains,
"I was quickly appreciating values about my identity and culture, some (social) traits I would "adjust" to better fit in with my colleagues, [as well as] other traits I [would] adamantly [cling] to, which made me uniquely me… I accepted that it was ok to be 'different.'"
After four wonderful years in El Salvador, Beverly sought the services of Search Associates to find her next overseas teaching position. She refers to meeting Senior Associate Ray Sparks as "great luck" and shared with him her goal of ultimately moving to an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Europe. Beverly began her research on the Search Associates website, poring over the data on school profiles and putting together an Excel spreadsheet comparing schools. She comments on her job search process:
"I found the Search Associates website easy to navigate, …efficiently structured, and informative. My first job fair in Boston… was an amazing experience: hectic, intense, [and] competitive. This dynamic was an asset to me during interviews. Ray's consistent support throughout the fair reassured me that everything would work out as I wished."
Beverly returned from the Search Cambridge Fair with a position lined up at Taipei American School (TAS). The decision to accept their offer had been easy due to a favorable interview, the school's global reputation, and "the well-established services of Search Associates by [her] side."
Her four years at TAS constituted the period of Beverly's greatest professional growth. As an IB Literature teacher, she significantly developed her repertoire of teaching skills and knowledge of the IB program under the mentorship and guidance of fellow Diploma Programme literature teachers. She thoroughly appreciated the support and camaraderie of her colleagues in the English department.
In the meantime, Ray and Beverly kept in touch, and she let him know when she decided she was finally ready to pursue an IB position in Europe. She recalls,
"…Ray was there in my corner for my second [and most recent] job fair. [He gave] me tremendous reassurance that my dream of many years would finally come through. And it did! After a successful Search Bangkok Fair, I was thrilled to secure a job in Munich."
Beverly has witnessed the significant change in the international teaching job search process since she began teaching abroad. In addition to the use of recruiting agencies, the use of Skype as a job search tool has become quite common. Many principles have remained constant, however, so Beverly has the following advice for fellow educators pursuing positions in international schools:
"Become certified in your subject area, and approach a job fair with an open mind… While you may be interested in a geographic region, bear in mind that many wonderful and often unexpected opportunities come up on the spur of the moment as the job fair progresses. Also, [newly-qualified] teachers should be open to accepting a position in a location or at a school that they may not have previously considered, but one which will give them the necessary experience to move on some years later to a "choice location."
Beverly has brought to the international education community a thirst for experiencing new cultures, "good energy" for starting over (and over), and, of course, a passion for teaching. Five international schools later, she has become self-reliant, resilient, and grateful in new ways. She wouldn't change a thing!