News: Home in International Education: The Millers' Teaching Adventure - Mar 8, 2024
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Friday, March 8, 2024Candidate Stories

Home in International Education: The Millers' Teaching Adventure

Liz and Dan Miller have been teaching candidates with Search Associates (SEARCH) so long that they can't quite remember how they first got involved with the organization. After meeting at Zurich International School (ZIS)—Dan teaching music/band, Liz teaching Grades 3 and 4—the couple has found positions through SEARCH at the International School in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Stamford American International School in Singapore; Anglo-American School of Moscow; and Mont’Kiara International School in Malaysia. Now the Millers are heading to Saudi Arabia to teach at the American International School–Riyadh (AIS-R). They describe the ease of their latest job search:

Harry and Margaret Deelman are the most amazing Associates; they really helped us to get our files up on SEARCH as early as possible. They knew how the hiring climate has changed over the past few years, and their advice was invaluable. We focused on the matching jobs for us as a teaching couple…investigated schools we were drawn to and wrote personal emails to them.

Liz began working in her first international school “almost by accident.” She had been living in Switzerland, traveling on her South African passport, and was on her way to England when her then fiancé convinced her to apply to “100 places” so that she could remain in Switzerland. This effort yielded one interview… at Zurich International School (ZIS). Up to that point, Liz had had no clue about international schools. She ended up staying for eight years.

Inspired and mentored by his band teacher, Dan had known since his teen years that he wanted to be a music teacher. However, he discovered a home in international schools after college. Over dinner at a friend’s house, Dan learned his friend was considering attending an international teaching job fair in San Francisco. Everything Dan’s friend described about overseas teaching was exciting. While his buddy never made it to the fair two weeks later, Dan did! He accepted a position in Niamey, Niger as the school specialist, teaching music, drama, art, P.E., and beginning French to students aged 4-18. Dan reflects,

After college, what started out as an adventure to Niamey, Niger became a part of life where I feel most comfortable abroad: in an expat community.

The Millers have formed “instant connections” with other international teachers and expatriate communities where they have lived. They have also felt blessed with students who are open-minded, knowledgeable, well behaved, and highly motivated academically.

While Dan’s older children attended schools in Niamey, Cairo, and New Delhi, Liz and Dan’s youngest, Owen, began in pre-K at the Anglo-American School of Moscow and later attended Mont’Kiara International School in Malaysia. The couple reflects:

Without a doubt, living and studying overseas has made our children open-minded, flexible, and adaptive; and has given them a view of different cultures, religions, and environments they would never have experienced living in their home country. It has also made them independent and resilient.

In Moscow, Owen benefited from not only an extraordinary pre-K class of 11 students from nine different countries but also an exceptionally skilled Reggio Emilia teacher who empowered students to chart their own learning journey in creative ways.

One of the Millers’ most memorable experiences was attending the children’s theater performances. Each group had chosen their setting and crafted it from scratch: cardboard castles, painted backdrops, puppet stages. Owen cherishes the memory of creating a clay whale for one of the play’s characters which involved glazing and baking the sculpture in the kiln. The creative process and the autonomy of the students in deciding how they wanted to perform and present their plays was astonishing. Students also ran every aspect of the program, from taking coats to serving drinks and popcorn, to handling spills.

Owen is just as excited as his parents about his next international school experience. At the beginning of their latest job search, Liz and Dan discussed eliminating the Middle East from their list but in the end decided “to leave them and see what popped up.” They are so grateful because two days after making that decision, they received a “wonderful and very inspiring letter” inviting them to interview with AIS-R. The couple says,

We had been keeping Owen in the loop as jobs popped up and had shown him a few of the schools we were interested in, but he REALLY wanted us to get the jobs at AIS-R… Hopefully, AIS-R will be our last job until retirement.

During their many years of teaching overseas—24 for Dan and 18 for Liz—the couple has enjoyed “huge success” at several SEARCH job fairs. This time around, however, they landed positions using the platform. And they have perfected a job search routine. They gain an overview of schools of interest using the SEARCH database before scouring the school’s website. They use Google Earth to check out a school’s location and surrounding areas and the Big Mac Index to determine the cost of living. Finally, they talk to people who had lived in that country or worked at that school. The Millers say,

We usually feel like we know the area, the cultural customs of what is acceptable and what is not, and at times, a bit of the local language before we arrive. It becomes our home before we even get there.

Liz and Dan Miller encourage you to take the leap to international schools:

Be selective about what you buy and what you want to ship...It is a wonderful profession to be in, and it’s exciting.

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Harry Deelman was at various times headmaster of schools in a fascinating foursome of global cities: Buenos Aires, Rome, Dubai, and Bangkok.