Sara Zohoré began her journey as a middle school math teacher in the inner-city of Houston, Texas, U.S. when Teach for America recruited her. Her initial plan was to contribute two years of service in the classroom before returning to her original passion of politics and policy-making. “But once you experience the direct impact you can have on a student’s life, it becomes nearly impossible to leave!” she says.
After two years with Teach for America, Sara joined an educational non-profit that worked with high-achieving minority students in the greater Houston metropolitan area. In 2010, the non-profit “tanked,” leaving Sara unemployed with mortgage payments due for her new home. Sara’s mom sent her a link about teaching English abroad, and one link led to another. Sara explains,
It didn’t take long to find out about the international school world, which I had no idea even existed! I left my three dogs with a family that agreed to foster them with the plan to return two years later… and now it has been 11. The dogs were adopted by their foster family, and I have no plans to go back stateside anytime soon!
Certified as both a Grade 4-8 generalist and pre-K to12 teacher of physical and health education, Sara landed a position at Korea International School, Jeju Campus (KISJ), teaching middle school science and communications/public speaking. Two years later, when she was deciding her next move, a colleague recommended that Sara register with Search Associates (SEARCH), knowing that an Associate would guide her through the process of finding the right international teaching position. Sara signed on and immediately registered for a Search Bangkok Fair. Attending that Fair in 2013, and the Leadership Fair in 2016, was so enriching that Sara looks forward to the return of in-person job fairs. She says,
I LOVED the opportunity to see so many schools, speak to so many leaders around the world, and network with other international teachers. I picked up a job in a country where I said I would never consider—China—and ended up having an amazing three years teaching middle school science and dance at Shanghai Community International School, Pudong … My mind has become more open to exploring different cultures and areas of the world after having conversations with so many people who were in regions I previously would have never considered.
Sara’s third international appointment in 2016-2018 was serving as Athletic Director and teaching secondary PE, health, and dance at Concordia International School, Hanoi. During a job search, Sara checks her “My Positions” update via email daily. She likes looking at the World Map on the SEARCH platform to see what schools are located in different regions. Other than information on the SEARCH site, Sara studies the websites of schools of interest and has also conducted Twitter, Google, and YouTube searches to find additional information about a school, its administration/leadership, cities, and countries. For her current appointment, Sara’s search was more specific. She explains,
I knew that I wanted to work in Africa after volunteering in Uganda and Ghana over a summer, so after I re-registered with SEARCH, a majority of my applications were to schools in that geographical region. My Search Associate John Ritter also had much experience in this region, which is why I believe he was assigned to me in the first place. John and Susan were vital in helping me navigate the experience, from suggesting tweaks to my resume to sharing personal stories from their time abroad in the region. All of our interactions were extremely personable and helpful.
In 2018, Sara accepted a position as Athletic Director and Head of the PE Department at the International Community School of Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, where the former upper school principal who hired her had not only gone to the same university in Florida as Sara but was also from her hometown! “Talk about a SMALL and connected world,” she exclaims. In no time, Abidjan sent Sara more blessings.
During her first week of relocating, Sara met Jacques Bernard (Bern) Zohoré on the local basketball court in her neighborhood. She approached Bern, who was holding a summer basketball clinic, to ask if she could lead a HIIT (high-intensity, interval training) warm up for them one day. She adds,
I wanted to give a little of my time and talent to the local community, and in return, the local community gave me the love of my life!!!!”
Prior to Sara’s arrival, Bern had been Basketball Coach for a couple of years at the International Community School of Abidjan (ICSA). As Sara is Athletic Director there, she is thrilled to be working in the same department at the same school as Bern, now her husband.
The couple are proud parents of Cannon Lagotche , nearly two, whom they are raising as bilingual. Sara says, “The whole dual-language thing is definitely happening!” Papa and their home helper communicate with Cannon in French, but Mama talks to him solely in English. At home, Cannon is also privy to many of Mama and Papa’s exchanges in English.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Bern and Sara were on maternity leave, having already left detailed instructions for their absence. ICSA resumed in-person instruction in August 2020. Effects of the pandemic and quarantine continue at school, yet Sara and Bern have a mission:
Even when students ARE given the opportunity to return to physical/movement activities, a lot of them are choosing not to, as they have found other avenues to connect and socialize during the pandemic. Our goal as educators of wellness is to guide our students back to the basics: Healthy body = healthy mind. Leadership opportunities abound through sports. Athletics provides an incredible platform to nurture virtues and values that we want to instill within our students!
Devoted mom and Athletic Director, Sara can always be seen on campus after hours—where she works daily until 5:30-6:00 p.m.—with Cannon riding on her back as they check in on all of the athletics and activities happening. They check in on Papa as he coaches his student-athletes/team.
Sara’s favorite part of being an educator is getting to know students outside of the classroom. She believes that people connect, grow, and flourish through sports and activities in a way that is more lasting and liberating than can be achieved from almost any other experience. She feels it is her responsibility to advocate for participation in activities that allow students to explore their interests and talents, or to try something entirely new.
The international school environment lends itself to new adventure. Recently, with the guidance of John and Susan Ritter, Sara accepted her next appointment! The Zohorés will be making their way to Asociacion Escuelas Lincoln in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and SEARCH is behind them all the way.