What keeps a teacher, at any age, feeling energized? Search Associates Candidate Brian Higginson, 69, will tell you: “That feeling of making a difference in students' lives is what drives me.” He does what he loves—teaching drama and English—and has pushed through some trying times, with professional development from the start and by switching gears and moving overseas to teach abroad.
Originally from the U.K., Brian trained as a drama and English teacher in the early 70's, working in some tough inner-city schools that “very nearly killed off my desire to teach,” says he. But he hung in, gradually improving his craft and earning his first degree in Drama in Education, followed by a Master’s in Creative Writing. Through drama and theatre, Brian discovered he had a knack for connecting with students., and he still derives satisfaction from former students’ messages on Facebook!
It wasn't until 2003 that Brian discovered the world of international teaching, when he met Elizabeth Hollister at a storytelling workshop in California. At the time, Brian was living in the U.K., and Elizabeth was on break from her elementary teaching position in Tanzania. They got married in Dar Es Salaam in 2004 and moved to the U.S. in 2005. A talented, middle school language arts and ELL/ESL teacher—not to mention skilled storyteller—Elizabeth was snapped up by The Park School of Baltimore. Brian secured an English teaching position at Boys’ Latin School of Maryland. They stayed in Baltimore for nine years.
In 2013, encouraged by her teenage daughter, Elizabeth expressed a desire to return to international teaching. She had heard good things about Search Associates (SEARCH), so the Hollister/Higginsons registered as candidates. Since then, they've used SEARCH for three job searches. They consult the website on a daily basis and consider the daily updates particularly useful. Brian adds, “SEARCH’s help, support, and infrastructure have been invaluable.” Having attended the Bangkok Fair in 2018 and Cambridge in 2020, he definitely recommends going to a job fair:
It's stressful, of course, but not so much as you would think. Both fairs are so well organised that navigating them is straightforward. I would certainly attend one again if I do go for another job.”
When the Hollister/Higginsons landed posts at the International School of Myanmar in 2014, they were apprehensive about their six-year-old son’s adjustment. Once it became clear that Finn loved the whole experience, the whole family was flying. Brian reflects on his son’s growth:
“Finn, now 12, has developed an ease and confidence that I don't think he would have developed back home. His perspective on the world, from mixing with kids from so many different backgrounds, has widened tremendously.
Now in his sixth year as an international teacher, Brian and his family are at the International School of Dakar (ISD), Senegal. His happiness in the world of international education is contagious:
Living and working overseas, in places I might otherwise not even have got to visit, adds a daily frisson of excitement. In the classroom, the joy has been in meeting many different cultures and catering for those different perspectives on a daily basis. It's a privilege to be able to get to know local staff and custodial/maintenance staff in the schools and be able to take part in local customs and celebrations.
One pivotal educational experience for Finn happened during Week Without Walls when the students interviewed local Senegalese fishermen about their lives and helped them mend their nets. They also visited the home of a Senegalese family to celebrate festivals.
In August 2020, Brian will move to Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan where he will teach English and drama at the International Maarif School. Elizabeth and Finn will remain at ISD; Finn loves his school, and the family is excited for him to graduate with his International Baccalaureate Diploma. Brian adds, “They will have yet another exciting vacation destination on their agenda.” His final note to prospective international educators:
I would say don't hesitate. I came late to international schools teaching, and I wish I had got there earlier . . . It becomes more difficult to find openings as I get older; many schools/countries have strict age limits, and I am beyond them all Nevertheless, I do believe that the thrill of international teaching has helped me retain a youthful energy.