Jon Nordmeyer was destined to work in education from the start. Around schools his whole life, this son of thriving, beloved teachers admired his parents’ commitment to helping students and their families. Jon learned from his parents that “teaching is a way of life as well as a service” and a lot of fun.
When studying Greek classical archaeology at university, Jon realized that both uncovering how people lived, learned, and worshipped thousands of years ago and finding meaning in an artifact or fragment of a document, by reconstructing the context in which it was created, use the same process of inquiry that students should engage with every day. Jon says,
It’s about making meaning together, and then finding relevance for our own lives. I wanted to be a teacher to continue that learning journey and joy of discovery that can light up classrooms.
A year or two later, a classmate steered Jon toward Search Associates (SEARCH) and its international internship program. SEARCH Founder John Magagna introduced Jon to Gail Schoppert, director of American School of The Hague (ASH) who offered him an internship. Jon knew he’d found the perfect intersection of personal exploration, teaching, and service. He reflects,
Even though it was my first experience with international education, it was clear at that time that SEARCH played a valuable role by connecting candidates to the best schools.
Jon has been involved in international education ever since. The ASH internship in 1990 was followed by an appointment at Taipei American School. After marrying Cynthia—"the best decision I ever made,” says Jon—they worked at The Koç School, Turkey; Shanghai American School; and, most recently, International School Bangkok. Jon and Cynthia raised their two sons in overseas schools, where they learned Turkish, Chinese, and Thai. Gus and Atticus, who still speak Chinese, are interested in pursuing international adventures themselves.
Jon and Cynthia have relied on Search Associates for its database and for personal advice from their Associates regarding overseas teaching positions. Jon says,
Search Associates’ extensive network of contacts helped me and my wife to navigate choices and, ultimately, end up working at some incredible schools. I’ve been able to work with some inspiring school leaders over the years, and many of those connections originated with SEARCH. Now that I’m working at WIDA, I’ve continued to find connections with SEARCH valuable. . . .John Magagna and I have enjoyed staying in touch at the AAIE Conference every year.
Jon has been International Program Director of WIDA, a center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that researches language development and promotes equitable education for multilingual learners. WIDA develops English language standards, assessments, and instructional resources while also providing innovative professional learning. The name “WIDA” originally comes from the first three states to join the U.S. consortium: Wisconsin, Delaware, and Arkansas. While maintaining its original name and serving the same mission, WIDA now serves educators in 41 states and over 500 international schools around the world.
Educators often connect with WIDA because they are familiar with its English language development assessments, but the organization is so much more than a test! WIDA is committed to challenging linguistic discrimination and other forms of bias for all learners, Pre-K-12. Jon explains,
Our work lives at the intersection of equity and language. We have helped transform EAL programs around the world by developing more inclusive and equitable learning ecosystems to build on linguistic and cultural diversity as a resource for the entire school community.
As International Program Director, Jon guides research and development to support the WIDA International School Consortium. He provides support for schools in its global network by connecting educators around the world. To solve shared problems of practice, Jon’s team accelerates innovation by integrating teachers’ on-the-ground practical wisdom with the latest insights from research. Jon says,
It’s not uncommon to find myself in a webinar with teachers from a dozen countries, spanning as many time zones, working together to share insights about teaching in today’s schools.
And WIDA-trained teachers are valuable assets! Jon is often asked by school leaders how they can find WIDA-trained teachers. His team has worked with recruitment partners, like SEARCH, to add WIDA experience to their recruiting databases, so that recruiters in member schools can find high-quality candidates with WIDA experience. This collaboration is essential to support schools around the world.
During the COVID-19 crisis, WIDA tapped influencers and innovators across its network to find out what they were learning. WIDA was able to curate strategies, resources, and lessons learned from schools in Asia—the first to make the shift to remote learning—and share them with the entire network. When schools in Europe, Africa, and the Americas eventually transitioned to virtual school, WIDA was able to share principles and practices for teaching multilingual learners online. WIDA’s professional learning program pivoted to focus on synchronous and asynchronous learning, through webinars, co-writing projects, and video dialogue.
Jon and his team at WIDA move in a world of “probletunities.” The consequence of an international crisis became a broadened horizon. He explains,
The pandemic opened up spaces for conversations about equity and systemic challenges across the international school system—conversations that have been long overdue. We are now hearing more questions about how to decolonize international education and build on the assets of multilingual and transnational students.
Former SEARCH candidate Jon Nordmeyer now enjoys the privilege of assisting schools abroad to use new and better ways of engaging with the diverse communities we serve. It’s his way of life. A service. And a lot of fun! Jon can be reached at Jon.Nordmeyer@wisc.edu.