News: Nina Keller: From Intern to Highly-Qualified International Teacher - Nov 30, 2016
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016Candidate Stories

Nina Keller: From Intern to Highly-Qualified International Teacher

Nina Keller was already living overseas when she landed her first international teaching assignment. She had just graduated with a BSc in Political Science and a BA in Spanish at Portland State University in Oregon, but, due to a hard hitting recession, she was unable to find a full-time teaching job. She managed to find some opportunities tutoring and volunteering in local schools, but Nina knew she needed to move away for something fulfilling. Prior travels and studies abroad in Costa Rica and Egypt made her eager to go overseas again. Fortunately, Nina's sister and husband, living and teaching English as a Second Language in Korea, invited Nina to come for an extended visit. She stayed with them in Songdo, all the while taking Korean classes, teaching English, and establishing herself in the expat community. The latter paid off, as it was Nina's connections that got her an interview! She had been playing on an Ultimate Frisbee team during her stay and learned from a teammate—one of several educators on the team—that Chadwick International School needed to replace an intern as soon as possible.

Nina yearned to be part of an educational environment that valued student-centered teaching and learning, she delighted in the internship she landed at Chadwick. Years of volunteering in orphanages, homeless youth facilities, primary schools, and community colleges had taught Nina that children have a natural thirst for knowledge regardless of their circumstances. She couldn't help but feel that traditional educational environments fail to capitalize on their curiosity and enthusiasm. Her two-and-a-half years at Chadwick not only developed her knowledge and the skills necessary to be an effective teacher, but they also cultivated Nina's passion for responsive teaching, based on how students best think and learn. The professional development she received from Chadwick inspired her to further her education. She elaborates,

"My experiences at Chadwick and at USC, where I did my Masters in Teaching, really helped me to validate that view and to learn about the development, pedagogy, and best practices to maximize student motivation and learning outcomes."

When the time came to pursue her first full-time teaching position, Nina enlisted the services of two agencies to contact schools all over the world. She also sought the advice of experienced colleagues, who advised her not to rule out positions in Asia even though she had lived in Korea and wanted a new experience. Nina emailed and Skyped with dozens of schools. It wasn't until she attended the Search Associates London-January Fair, however, that she met with success on many levels. She says,

"At first it was very intimidating! There were so many experienced educators, and I had only taught as an intern! But there was so much positive professional energy, and I had… many energetic, inspiring conversations. If I had any doubt before, I knew I was in the right profession. It was truly a weekend of profound professional development… I have kept in touch with several of the other educators I interviewed with, and I appreciate the lasting connections I was so fortunate to make in London."

After a great interview with Head of School Katherine Brewer, Nina accepted the offer from Shanghai Community International School (SCIS) right there at the fair! She explains,

"I really connected to Katherine's educational philosophy. It felt very right to join her school. To reinforce the decision, I spoke with knowledgeable colleagues about the school. I also emailed some contacts Katherine gave me, and they were quickly responsive and positive about their experience at SCIS."

In addition to the fair, Nina found invaluable. She made regular use of the "My Job Search" and "Messages" functions while looking forward to daily email updates. To those interested in teaching internationally, Nina says,

"I would wholeheartedly encourage it whether he/she was single, moving a family, or anything in between! There's a fit for anybody, and Search Associates really helps narrow the search to tailor anyone's preferences… I found Search Associates to be very attentive, knowledgeable, and connected."

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Nick Kendell has worked in Asia, Australia, and Africa as an educator and administrator.