Adriaan and Carmen Elias have enjoyed rich experiences teaching in international schools for some twenty years. They have had the opportunity to live and work in Kuwait, Mozambique, and India, and in August 2023 will be heading to the International School of Dakar, Senegal.
Since leaving their home base in Cape Town, South Africa, where they met and married, the couple has always worked in the same schools. In fact, for eight years at Al Bayan Bilingual School, Kuwait, they loved working as co-teaching partners in the same class.
The Eliases are passionate about the overarching mission of international schools to nurture global citizens who can be of active service in their communities.
Carmen’s second grade students connected with a secondary school International Baccalaureate (IB) Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) group who founded Honey Hill to support small, local beekeepers. The students studied the life and importance of honey bees and how their disappearance would affect our lives. They raised community awareness as well as money by selling honey and beeswax. The funds were used by Honey Hill to ensure that bee farmers in the local community develop sustainable beekeeping practices.
Adriaan’s students, during a unit of inquiry called Who We Are, worked collaboratively to formulate questions for interviews with stakeholders in the entire school community “to establish how diverse we really are in the way we work, the way we think to fulfill our responsibilities, and the way we respond to norms.
The benefit of joining the global international school community has been a family affair. The Carmen and Adriaan have been thrilled to see their son’s growth and learning opportunities. Aidan (12), who spent his first years in Mozambique, has also been deeply influenced by the Maputo way of life. His father explains,
The way people stop to talk and share their daily experiences on the streets was an invitation for our family to build friendships with people outside of our school bubble. In Maputo, art and creativity in the form of music, painting, dance, crafts are seen daily on the streets, and our family became a part of the art scene. Aidan is creative and learning from the musicians and artists helped to develop his artistic skills. Growing up in Mozambique and interacting with humans, despite differences in race, nationality, and cultures, has given him a growing understanding of what it means to be human or a global citizen.
As a student Aidan has been encouraged to explore subjects that interest him, such as the wildly different bullet train in Japan and the Northern Lights. In Mozambique, in Grade 2, Aidan tracked the building of the Maputo Bridge, understanding the pros and cons of building a bridge across the bay. He also had the chance to have exchange visits with students at a local school and to help raise funds to build an awning for their playground for shade on hot days. While at Stonehill International School in Bangalore, during the Week Without Walls, Aidan got to travel to the Indian French colony in Pondicherry where the architectural designs fascinated him.
It was with the help of Search Associates (SEARCH) that the Eliases landed their positions at the American International School of Mozambique in 2014 and, most recently, at the International School of Dakar. From the start, their Associate Gez Hayden and Executive Assistants Amelia Ren-Hayden and Neil Kilah, helped Carmen and Adriaan register as candidates and figure out the best international school opportunities for the Elias family. Adriaan says,
They would respond swiftly to emails with advice and ease our anxiety with the step-by-step instructions about setting up our profiles. Their knowledge of locations and schools helped us make informed decisions before spending hours, sometimes days, writing applications to schools.
The Eliases also found the SEARCH platform invaluable. “The fact that out profiles were available to all schools made it possible for schools to find us based on their search criteria,” says Adriaan. The couple used the notifications they received each morning to help them track available vacancies at schools of interest. The Daily Updates inspired them to learn more about schools that had not been on their wish list, and then add them!
The decision to move to Mozambique and now to Dakar was made easy by this process. The couple knew they had found the right match after interviews with the heads of schools, primary school principals, and leadership teams. Adriaan recalls,
They asked the right questions, questions that helped us to reflect on our teaching and learning journeys and express what inspired us to do what we love doing… Both AISM Mozambique and ISD Senegal are schools that build … community connections, which provide opportunities for all stakeholders in the community to listen, empathise, share stories, laugh, play, and recognize the humanity within all of us as we strive to be internationally minded, spirited global citizens.
To educators wishing to teach abroad, Carmen and Adriaan say,
“Be open-minded and willing to embrace the customs, cultures, and traditions within communities, and interact with the locals.