Gita Gemuts had only been at DSB International School (DSB), Mumbai for two weeks when the school received the city’s stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. Her move to Mumbai in March had come on the heels of an unexpected change to her employment in Ecuador. With the help of another agency that lists substitute positions, Gita secured the maternity leave cover at DSB, teaching middle school history, International General Certificate of Secondary Education, and International Baccalaureate (IB) History. She had also been relieved when Senior Associate Gez Hayden—within three days—helped her re-activate her file and register for Search Bangkok, where she secured her next long-term position in Kuwait, starting August 2020. “Thus, I found two jobs within six weeks after a pretty intense application process,” says she.
After only two weeks in Mumbai, however, Gita, was put under lockdown along with the entire city. Despite strong support from DSB and her neighbors, Gita was apprehensive of the new challenges she faced: how to find food, how to connect with the community during a quarantine, how to get medical support. In the end, Gita, who holds citizenship in both Australia and Latvia, determined it would be easier to repatriate back to Riga, to her mother’s vacant apartment. As someone in the COVID at-risk group, she was able to catch a flight from India to Amsterdam to await the once-a-week flight to Riga. Gita reflects on her Mumbai experience:
DSB International School did everything right, especially considering this was a short-term cover position. They organized my flights, put me into an apartment that was fully paid for, including utilities and internet. Even though we had met only for two weeks before the lockdown, they continued to check in on me, and after several weeks in lockdown when I decided that I should return to Latvia, they supported me with the agreement to cover all costs associated with flights.
From Gita’s hotel room in Amsterdam, she began teaching her students in Mumbai, whose time zone was three hours earlier. This required her teaching day to start at 4:30 a.m. and end at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. Gita and her students learned that the International Baccalaureate (IB) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) organizations have cancelled this year’s examinations. Examination results will be evaluated on internal assessments that they have already completed, and internal assessments will be turned in for moderation by the IB Organization and Cambridge IGCSE. She is now in Riga—where she has completed her 14-day quarantine—and will continue teaching her students remotely until mid-June.
Over the years, Gita has earned three master’s degrees and has been trained in all four programs offered by the IB (PYP, MYP, DP, CP), developing a range of skills that have allowed her to shift between primary and secondary positions. This also made her more competitive as a single mother with two dependents. Gita says,
Back in 2007, I moved from my first international school teaching position at the International School, Riga to Tashkent International School in Uzbekistan, a wonderful school. As a single mom, I lived wonderfully, like no where else. We had a house with a pool, a nanny, a maid, and a chauffeur, and I saved half my salary.
After four years in Uzbekistan, Gita’s boys—ten and twelve at the time—were itching to move somewhere new! Gita registered with Search Associates (SEARCH) in 2010 upon colleagues’ recommendation, and she has been working with Gez ever since. She says,
At the time, there was one other professional agency. All the other places you could look up international school jobs didn’t have the type of information that the SEARCH database offers because SEARCH schools are required to complete a detailed set of information so that they could join the database as well.
The single-with-two-dependents profile was a big hurdle for Gita. Gez and she concluded—after she attended a London January fair in 2011 with 13 interviews and no job offers—that a later-in-the-season, spring fair would better serve her. She certainly knew she was qualified, and she knew schools were interested. That is why the website has been incredibly useful: she could determine if a school accepts dependents, whether it meets her salary range, and what types of benefits are offered. Gita describes why she values Search Associates:
You want to go to a fair where there are people supporting you! Associates know all the schools, know all the people who come to do the recruiting. I always recommend SEARCH for their service.
After working at Nexus International School Putrajaya, Malaysia from 2011-2013, Gita took Gez’s advice and attended the Search Bangkok Spring fair. There her skills and experience were considered first and foremost; she had 11 interviews and three offers. Gita signed with Prem Tinsulanonda International School Chiang Mai, Thailand as IB DP Coordinator and Psychology Teacher. The family loved it there and stayed for five years. Gita says,
My boys received the best education they could have ever received worldwide. They graduated from an exclusive boarding school in Thailand, with the value of about up $20 thousand a year. Both are now in honors programs at universities in Holland.
Friends and family describe Gita’s sons as eloquent conversationalists and global citizens interested in the world. Gita says their IB education, through all three levels, built their ability to be learners who apply their knowledge. They are Third Culture Kids who speak English, Latvian, and Spanish, with a little French, Russian, and Mandarin, and bits of the local languages from everywhere they’ve been. Search Associates has helped the entire family enjoy wonderful international opportunities.
Gita has benefited from many SEARCH services: the requirement that both candidate and recruiter sign a contract—with SEARCH as a third party/witness—that both sides uphold their end of the contract, and if things go awry, there is a consequence; and once a file is activated with SEARCH, it remains in the archives. All of Gita’s documents were in the database when her employment situation in Ecuador changed abruptly this year. She was able to email Gez to reactivate her file—no new documents beyond one reference needed! Before the Ecuador-Mumbai move, in November 2019, Gita attended the Bangkok Leadership Fair and signed a contract as Secondary Principal, Kuwait Bilingual School, starting August 2020.
Gita, now a single-with-no-dependents candidate, has weathered incredible turbulence during these past six months. As she finishes her virtual teaching from Riga to Mumbai, she looks forward to taking up her next position. Meanwhile, a historian at heart, Gita Gemuts has launched a blog: Life in the Time of COVID-19. It includes not only her personal accounts, but also those of friends from around the world. You can find her there.