Teaching couple Jenna Heidel and Tanya Wienand finished their sixth year at International School of Riga, Latvia while preparing for their next appointments in Brazil. They navigated distance learning for their Grade 1 and 4 students, whom Jenna says, “proved themselves to be resilient, positive, and capable individuals.” How did they manage?
In the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, the first order of business was to find ways to help each family establish a healthy home-work-school balance for their young students. Daily and/or weekly schedules were shared with parents and students, and lessons were either pre-recorded and shared with students or taught on Google Meet. Jenna and Tanya began each day with either video greetings or class video chats. They were available on Google Meet to help students with questions about their work or just to chat. Teaching days were busy: assessing student work, giving feedback and then using results to plan future teaching. While the most difficult challenge for Jenna and Tanya was the physical separation from their students, they were incredibly proud of how well the children coped.
It’s hard to believe that after a few weeks in an Intro to Education course at college, Jenna concluded that she “didn’t have the patience to work with children.” Years later, that opinion turned 180 degrees. She says,
Life always has a funny way of working out because my wife, Tanya, was working as a teacher at an international school when we met online. After getting married and moving to China, my interest in education was reignited, and I pursued my teaching certificate. It’s been the best choice, and I haven’t looked back.
By the time, Jenna and Tanya were ready for their next move, they were both able to secure teaching positions at the same school in Latvia, where they have been these last six years. They love “working with the students, getting to know them, building those relationships . . . and seeing the growth they make both as individuals and also in their academics . . . over the course of school year,” says Jenna.
Tanya pursued her career in international education inspired by her sister, who was happily teaching overseas. Prior to China and Latvia, she taught in Zambia and the U.A.E. Tanya landed her position in China as a member of Search Associates (SEARCH), working with Senior Associate Gez Hayden, who later helped both Tanya and newly-registered Jenna secure appointments in Latvia. When it was time for their next adventure, the couple attended the 2020 London January Fair, “a great opportunity to meet some incredible recruiters and have interviews with some amazing schools,” says Jenna. Although they didn’t land positions at the event, they say it was worth it; they would “definitely attend another.”
Jenna and Tanya used the SEARCH database to see which schools had open positions, and they made a spreadsheet to keep track of them. Researching the laws concerning LGBT rights in the countries of the schools with open positions was a priority. After that, they would visit each school’s website “to get a sense of the school” before filling out applications. Jenna says,
Sometimes, it felt like the SEARCH website was our second home . . .‘My Job Search’ was our most frequently visited part of the dashboard, as it led us to the list of schools with jobs matching our specific interests. . . It was very useful to have all of a school’s information in one place, along with daily position updates, the job fairs, and advice from Gez.
Tanya and Jenna accepted positions at the International School of Curitiba in Brazil, confident in the school’s mission, philosophy, and community spirit. Of course, they can’t wait to explore Curitiba! While navigating the effects of the pandemic, they are still excited for their next adventure:
Living overseas is an incredibly rewarding experience and opportunity, and teaching in an international school is one of the best ways to get to know people from all over the world.