News: For Phyllis Schlich, It’s Now or Never - Apr 22, 2020
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Wednesday, April 22, 2020Candidate Stories

For Phyllis Schlich, It’s Now or Never

When veteran Advanced Placement Literature and Composition teacher Phyllis Schlich attended International Baccalaureate (IB) training in New Mexico summer of 2005, she became intrigued by adventures of fellow American teachers who were teaching in places like Peru, Spain, India, and Korea. What a great way to see the world and be immersed in a new culture, she thought. At the time, though, responsibilities—school-aged children and parents entering their later years—kept her stateside. She recalls,

When I allowed myself to dream, I’d open my computer and search "teaching abroad."

Even though Phyllis never taught outside Kentucky, her classroom consisted of diverse students, and her nine years of teaching the IB Diploma Programme prepared her to be an international educator.

Two years ago, Phyllis realized she could seriously search for an overseas teaching position: Both of her parents had passed away, and her children had graduated college, married, and were enjoying their careers. Though Phyllis’s husband Jim was retiring after 28 years in education, he wholeheartedly supported her goal. Now or never, she thought.

I was getting older! I turned 61 March 2019. Some countries did not want applicants older than 60. I was encouraged when some schools indicated "no age limit," so I kept applying.”

Initial online searches failed to yield the kind of information and support Phyllis needed, but when a colleague mentioned how an acquaintance used Search Associates (SEARCH), and landed a two-year post in Morocco. The light went on!

When I found Search Associates, I knew this was the organization I needed. Senior Associate John Ritter and Executive Assistant Susan Ritter guided me through setting up my profile and revising (and revising!) my CV.

As soon as her SEARCH registration was complete, Phyllis logged on to and was amazed to find school openings! Everyday thereafter, Phyllis researched schools, and when she found a possible match, she wrote a cover letter and sent her profile. About a month later, her confidence soared as interview requests began to appear. Phyllis just might be the biggest fan of our website:

I loved how every message sent to every school was saved. I loved how I could search schools with positions for which I was qualified, and save them in My Favorites. The links directly to school webpages were always helpful. Detail within listings of openings also guided my decision whether or not to contact the school. I like that I could review my Profile and "tweak" it from time to time. Finally, the connection to the Cambridge Fair Portal from my dashboard was invaluable!

Phyllis arrived at Search Cambridge Job Fair with four Skype interviews, numerous applications, and several rejections under her belt. There, she felt like she could finally sell herself. She explains,

Instead of seeing "age 61" on a profile, hopefully schools would see an enthusiastic, knowledgeable educator with experience!

Turkey certainly wasn’t on Phyllis’s radar, but she received a written invitation from ENKA Schools’ secondary principal to visit their booth on sign-up morning. Why not. Phyllis not only visited the booth, but she also scheduled an interview—and attended the school presentation the morning of her interview. She learned so much:

The school was beautiful. Istanbul is both modern and ancient. The position was for IB English—my favorite of all the courses I have ever taught. My interview went well; the three administrators I met were women—impressive women.

Jim and Phyllis with their well-accomplished familyWhen Phyllis got the job offer for ENKA later that afternoon, she immediately sought the guidance of her most trusted resource, her Search Associates John and Susan Ritter, who guided her to ask the right questions, reviewed her contract, and encouraged her because they had lived in Istanbul themselves.

Phyllis received another offer to teach IB English, which complicated her decision. In the end, the prospect of living in Istanbul—with direct flights to and from the U.S., the school’s location and their generous accommodations—lured Phyllis. Location, location, location. On top of it all, she could not deny the chemistry:

. . . Those three impressive, female administrators! They connected me with the English Department Chair by phone, answered my questions promptly, made me laugh. It just felt right.

In June, Phyllis and Jim will celebrate their 40th anniversary as she prepares for her international teaching adventure. Jim sees Phyllis’s teaching abroad as a plus for himself: He gets to travel and experience a new culture without having to worry about lesson plans! Phyllis has much to say to teachers like her, who are older yet ready for a fresh start:

First, you must love students, the classroom, the subject matter, and the challenge of presenting an effective lesson. Be sure these are still your reality. The allure of travel will not sustain you for the entirety of an overseas career. My next advice is to value yourself and your experience. Have confidence. I love to teach. I am not ready to retire, and I desire a new teaching experience. I know I’m going to get this in Istanbul. And I am beyond excited and a bit proud of myself. At 61, I am starting again in a career I love.

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Ray Sparks's over 30-year career as an educator has involved working in Canada, Europe, and Asia.