A chance to travel and earn a bit of pocket change spurred college grad Priya Jaggi to teach ESL in Bangkok through the Teach in Thailand Program in 2012. Robin Branson was also teaching English at a nearby Catholic school, when a mutual friend introduced the couple, both California natives. As their relationship grew, so did plans for a future together. During their time in Thailand, followed by a short stint in Korea, Priya and Robin realized that they loved teaching and a career in international teaching was actually a thing! They also understood that they would not get far without gaining teaching credentials and stateside experience, so the couple returned to California to do just that. They married in 2017, about halfway through their four years back in the U.S.
In the last ten years, the Bransons have developed and sharpened a mission that they live and breathe. That clarity of purpose—and the help of Search Associates (SEARCH)—propelled the couple toward their latest dream appointment at the American School of Brasilia (EAB).
“To give the world the truth about history” is Priya’s conviction. She and Robin believe that education is power, and they are determined to teach their students to navigate and think critically about the overload of information accessible to them. Robin adds,
It’s so easy in the modern world to feel that everything is so screwed up. I want to go into every classroom and convince my students that they really do have the power to change the world. I want to empower them to create and to think and be things that will make the world a better place. There are enough avenues for every single kid to study anything at the highest level. As teachers, it’s our responsibility to provide tools for and help kids realize that engaging in their passion and learning in school can exist at the same time.
During their search overseas teaching positions, the Bransons encountered dozens of mission statements of international schools of interest, but EAB’s mission resonated deeply: Learners inspiring learners to be inquisitive in life, principled in character, and bold in vision. Another powerful draw for the Bransons was the school’s dedication to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ). Priya comments,
What I really love is the fact that Search Associates is looking inside themselves about teachers of color and DEIJ. I am passionate about it as a history teacher. It was really interesting because right in the middle of our job search, DEI stuff was emerging. It was the right timing, and EAB is head and shoulders above everyone else in this regard; our head of school at EAB is passionate about it. For me, the topic of DEIJ is an important interview question because Robin and I will not settle for anything less than our pedagogical values.
When Priya and Robin interviewed with EAB, the head of school started the interview with "What does DEIJ mean to you?” This was when Priya was convinced that she and Robin hadn’t “just checked a box on searchassociates.com.” Schools responding to the Bransons were committed to actively providing opportunities for conversations about creating a safe and accepting place for all students and staff. These conversations would also be included in the classroom and in the curriculum. Priya says,
Our school has created a group of student ambassadors because we strongly feel that it is our students who should lead this work and teach us what their needs are, in order to create that safe and inclusive environment.
EAB is the second international school appointment that Priya and Robin have secured through SEARCH. After moving back to California for certification and teaching experience 10 years ago, the Bransons taught in Sacramento for four years. They registered with SEARCH after hearing about it from a friend, a former Peace Corps volunteer teaching at an embassy school in Mongolia. Robin says,
If you want to work at the good schools, SEARCH is the agency you want because they have a process on both ends, with significant vetting of both candidates and schools. This alone tells you something about the caliber of schools because they want great candidates.
The Bransons are “amazed” by the amount of data that the SEARCH platform provides. Robin describes the site as a “launchpad for dreams.” He and Priya love the filters for paring down regions, positions, and matches for teaching couples. With so much information at hand, they found it vital to create a spreadsheet, tracking schools of interest, details on each, and what application steps they had covered. Through the platform, the couple has found the virtual fairs easy to navigate and schedule interviews.
In 2018, Priya and Robin took advantage of the one free job fair that SEARCH offers by attending the agency’s Latin America fair. Though they did not land an appointment in the region at the time, the Bransons found that meeting Senior Associates Bob and Jen Imholt to be invaluable. When the couple found positions teaching middle and high school at Suzhou Singapore International School (SSIS) through the SEARCH platform in January 2019, Robin said Bob was “incredibly helpful, responding to communications right away.”
If you want to teach abroad, Robin urges, “Don’t dilute the water of your own unique and interesting qualities,” in order to be more hirable. Consider that you are the best teacher, and don’t be shy about putting forward the things that are most important to you and your distinctive talents. He adds,
It was the DEIJ piece and who we really are as educators that determined the best match for us. Maybe fewer schools will contact us knowing that, but those that do will be the right match.
The Branson share some wise advice about reaching out to prospective international schools. Don’t write about you; instead, write about what you noticed about their school, and make a connection from them to you. Tailor what you say to what you know the school specifically needs. Your first statement needs to stand out, so make it about them. Follow this with crafting different versions of your resume, catered to individual schools’ needs. A final note from the mission-driven teaching couple:
Go with confidence, and remember, there is a school somewhere in the world that wants you.