Over 18 years, Amos Owiti and his wife Martha Ojwang have taught in international schools in Kenya, Ethiopia, Singapore, China, and most recently, Thailand. As soon as Amos became aware of international schools, not only around the world, but also within his own country Kenya, he was convinced that it was his destiny:
I could interact with and learn from the cultures of other people around the globe. I was also looking at it as the best forum to shape and change the mindset of young scholars so that they can look at the problems of the world from a diverse perspective, making attempts to solve world’s problems, once they accept and believe in their responsibility as global citizens.
Back in high school, Amos decided to become an educator when he realized that he had a talent for “leading the way,” helping his classmates solve advanced math problems. At college, he not only earned a Bachelor’s degree in Science Education, but he also gained “the confidence to articulately disseminate facts and principles to the young upcoming scientists.” Teaching in international schools has extended his own education considerably:
What I love most is the challenging nature of the Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme and the diverse nature of the students I have handled over the years. . . My curiosity and interest as an educator have grown because of the different curricula I have taught, the diverse nature of students from one country to another, and more importantly, my interactions with colleagues from different parts of the world.
Amos met his soon-to be-wife Martha “way back” in Kenya while visiting a cousin, who happened to be her colleague at school. Martha teaches English literature, history, and, most recently, English as an Additional Language. Since marrying, Amos and Martha have always worked in the same schools.
Amos discovered Search Associates (SEARCH) through a colleague who praised the agency’s excellent digital platform. Relocating from Singapore to China, Amos wanted a job “in record time.” Within two weeks of registering with SEARCH, Amos attended a number of virtual interviews which “bore fruits.” Now, he always advises international school colleagues to take SEARCH seriously:
The best and most authentic way to get a job as an international educator is to register with Search Associates and honour all their modes of operation. Going through steps of first-time registration looks a bit tedious, but it is worth the effort because your details remain safe on the website and only need to be updated. After that, navigation of the job search is pretty easy.
Though Amos and Martha have not yet attended any job fairs, they would like to attend one in the future—for the overall experience as well as face-to-face interviews. In the meantime, they rely on the My Jobs section of the website, which includes daily updates. They love being able to focus on the location and kind of school they seek. For their latest job search, the couple has focused on schools in Asia since they already had experience teaching in the region and felt they had “mastered the art to manage students, factoring the demands of parents and employers.” One particular Daily Update from SEARCH prompted Amos to look at details about Singapore International School of Bangkok, Thailand before he applied for a position. The school’s curriculum, values, head of school profile, and physical location made it the right choice for the whole family. Amos and Martha were hired as a teaching couple when a last-minute vacancy for an English teacher emerged.
In Thailand during the COVID-19 lockdown, Amos was able to conduct his high school classes with relatively few glitches. Sharing his screen, he was able to direct students on text annotation by using Power Point slides and his stylus pen. Amos was able to keep a regular school day schedule, after which his administrators would host virtual staff meetings with updates and a schedule “for virtual IT training with the latest home-based learning developments.” The fluctuation of the internet as well as occasional power outages in the homes of students were causes of stress, but Amos describes the hardest part of the lockdown:
I was nervous to concentrate on teaching online while my six-year-old daughter also needed my attention to login to her Google classroom. My other child, already a freshman at the university, could easily manage her home-based learning.
Also nerve-wracking was the facilitation of end-of-the-year, high stakes assessments, such as Cambridge and IB exams that were mailed in sealed envelopes to students off site. With the camera focused on their hands to ensure academic honesty, students had to open their packages and complete their exams. As soon as the time was up, students had to stop writing, scan the question paper, and upload the scanned copy to a folder linked to the school’s Google Drive. Amos says that while he and his colleagues banked heavily on the students’ honesty, the results of his data showed great discipline.
It was a great joy for Amos to see his students again when, after a three-month lockdown, the Thai government allowed international schools—with strict adherence to social distancing and health guidelines—to open their doors to students.
As a result of their parents’ commitment to international education, Amos and Martha’s children Sybil Dorcas Odhiambo (19) and Zahara Graca Odhiambo (6) are multilingual and self-reliant. Amos says outstanding facilities combined with a holistic approach has developed much more than his daughters’ academic potential. Sybil’s participation in a number of sports have developed her mental strength and social skills, which he feels has enabled her to fit in anywhere around the globe. Amos says, “This is quite different from education at state schools in Kenya, where more emphasis is put majorly on cognitive skills only.” Accepting of cultural differences, Sybil and Zahara have been able adapt to cultural norms as well as the different levels of technology available in new places. Both girls are also able to view situations from a global perspective. Of course, their proud parents appreciate the “robust” curricula that their daughters have followed. There’s no doubt about it: Amos and his family love teaching, learning, and living abroad and look forward to more adventures.