After receiving an email around midnight about eight years ago, Canadian William Fraser made a decision to take a “complete and total risk!” A school in Shanghai wanted to hire him, sight unseen. Evidently, the agency that he had contacted to place him in a public school in the United Arab Emirates had given his information to other schools around the world. William, who was working as a substitute teacher, decided to go—and stayed for five years. And he met the love of his life there.
When William met Jessica Martinelli at a community event in Shanghai, he was in his second year and she in her fifth. Jessica had moved to Shanghai two weeks after graduation, having studied Mandarin as part of a double major in international relations and linguistics. During one of several student exchanges in Beijing, Jessica had traveled to Shanghai for the weekend and fallen in love with the skyline: a beautiful river with super modern architecture on one side and the ancient on the other. Jessica also fell in love with teaching while working in various jobs there. She says,
I was supposed to be in advertising, marketing, branding, finance in international companies needing an English-speaking person fluent in Italian. I settled into teaching because it fit with my values and who I was as a person.
Jessica and William found out about Search Associates (SEARCH) from colleagues in Shanghai who had used the organization for years. With its help, William and Jessica have taught in Taiwan and recently made their next move to Stamford American International School in Singapore. When they were ready to move on, they knew it was a no-brainer to re-register. Jessica says,
Nothing really stacks up to it: Use of the platform combined with the personal support of our Associate Xiaohang Sumner made it feel like SEARCH wasn’t a faceless tool. We were able to build a relationship with our Associate as she answered all our questions. The design of the platform and how you filter to design your search is invaluable. It tells us the cost of living. What you take home. Lots of details that are not on a school’s website, which saved us time. All this quelled our anxieties and insecurities.
It was 2019 when William and Jessica joined SEARCH and signed up for a job fair. At Search Hong Kong Fair, they were thrilled to land international teaching positions at I-Shou International School in Taiwan. Soon after, the pandemic struck, causing the couple’s last six months in Shanghai to become remote and making their move to Taiwan extremely challenging. While Taiwan never fully locked down, there was quite a bit of distance learning.
After successfully navigating the pandemic years at I-Shou International School, Jessica and William decided to stay a third year while preparing for their new overseas teaching adventure. This time around, they developed strong parameters for their next international school experience. Though money was not a high priority, they wanted to be able to save a little, and they wanted health insurance and annual flights covered. They needed to be in a cosmopolitan area with “lots to do,” such as volunteering and participating in events. Jessica and William wanted an academic calendar conducive to their work/life balance, in an international school community working towards a common goal, among people passionate to be there. While William and Jessica didn’t need a “top tier” school, they wished it to have resources enough for professional development and support for English as an Additional Language, special education, and literacy coaching, elements vital for the teaching couple to do their jobs well.
In September 2022, William and Jessica reactivated their files with SEARCH and registered for Search Bangkok January Fair. They felt they were doing “everything right,” working the platform and sending out CVs, but they got no responses. Jessica recalls,
The Fair was what made the difference. We loved the fair—it’s so much better than “cold calling.” We are good at interviewing. We’re likeable. We’re quite extroverted. And we went with no expectations…We just thought we’d bring the best version of ourselves, every minute with every single person. In this way, we got all our interviews and talked to as many people as possible…and we met many interesting people.
Fortunately, William and Jessica hit the jackpot when they signed with Stamford American International School, as a result of attending their first fair that year. Jessica will lead a Grade 3 International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme homeroom, and William will teach both the IB Middle Years Programme Language and Literacy and Individuals and Society.
There is no doubt that the couple is passionate about teaching as well as mentoring other teachers. William, a new graduate of Endicott College’s International Education master’s program, is now focused on pedagogy and has a thirst for curriculum design and architecture. Jessica, born and raised in Italy, is ignited by language acquisition. The perfectly bilingual teacher loves “building relationships with students as they go from no ability to ability." The overseas teaching couple has this to say to you:
If you have a dream then you must follow it. Open your mind to greater possibilities, different possibilities, better salary, stable income, and immersing yourself in cultures. The adventures and life experiences are priceless.