News: The Hursts: A Teaching Couple's Journey - Oct 23, 2017
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Monday, October 23, 2017Candidate Stories

The Hursts: A Teaching Couple's Journey

Graduating with teaching credentials, yet not finding a job is a common story in Canada, says Laura Guay Hurst. In Laura’s case, she earned a degree in history from University of Brunswick before studying art at McGill University and art education at Concordia. She was on fire and ready to go! Laura exclaims,

“An art teacher in a school is there to inspire and harness creativity, direct it, and help students use it to improve their lives. We have the best job in the school by far, and we play with paint and clay and markers and glue all day. How can life get better than that?”

Todd and Laura HurstSpurred by student loan debt and few teaching opportunities in her home country, Laura took a job in Mokpo, South Korea, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Not only did she enjoy the experience, but she also met her future husband Todd Hurst.

Todd had been raised in an international family. His father was a correspondent for Canadian Television, and as a child Todd lived in China, Ottawa, Moscow, and Washington, D.C.  He recalls,

“I certainly have memories of all these places. Especially attending the Anglo American School in Moscow, where I got to experience first-hand what it was like to be a student in an international school and my family immersed themselves in the expat lifestyle. My mother became head of the PTO, and my father founded the Moscow Little League, which still exists to this day.”

The Hurst family in Chiang MaiThinking he’d follow in his dad’s footsteps, Todd majored in Communications and wrote for the campus newspaper at university, but his post-graduate stint teaching ESL in South Korea convinced him that teaching was his calling. When Todd met Laura, she was already certified, and that motivated him to earn his certification as well.

Laura and Todd taught in Korea for two years before returning to Canada to marry. Laura landed a job in a remote village on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, called Zeballos. Todd describes those days:

“During that first year, while Laura worked, I was the on call teacher, on call teaching assistant, even on call janitor (since even janitors need time off). Those experiences further told me that teaching was something I wanted to pursue. Eventually, I got a full-time teaching assistant job and then applied to teachers college in Cardiff, Wales (as becoming an international teacher was always on my mind.)”
Exploring the White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The Hursts moved to Cardiff so that Todd could earn a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. Laura filled in for an art teacher on maternity leave in a public Welsh school. When the teacher returned, Laura stayed on as a French teacher since she is fluent! Later, they returned to Canada, having secured permanent jobs back in Zeballos. In this small, rural school, Laura co-taught high school English, history, art, native studies, and French while her co-teacher specialized in math, science, music, and native language. Newly-certified Todd was in charge of a class of students from Grades 3-5! The Hursts remained in Zeballos for two years until, as Laura says, “they got pregnant.”


The Hurst family in Algonquin Park, Canada

They worried that once Laura had the baby, they would not be able to find—or afford—care for him when she returned to work. It was Todd’s parents who recommended that Todd and Laura contact John and Susan Ritter, friends from their days in Beijing back in 1984! Surely, Search Associates would help Todd and Laura find positions in an international school that would allow them to raise their family comfortably. The Ritters introduced the Hursts to Senior Associate Ray Sparks, whose region is Canada, and Ray has guided and advised them over the last three contracts. Todd describes their first Search Associates experience:

“I remember looking around on the website and getting excited about a school in Thailand. We sent them an email about our concerns about taking our ten-month-old son abroad. At the San Francisco Job Fair, we ended up getting that exact job, at the American Pacific International School (APIS) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were sitting in the initial school introductions, just finding out about as much of all the schools that we possibly could. APIS was crowded, standing room only. We put up our hand to ask a question about the challenges of bringing a small child… and he had remembered us from our initial email because he knew exactly how old our son was. So we landed that job. It was, in fact, offered to us in the drinks line at the cocktail party, because we were schmoozing with other headmasters.”

The Hursts admit that jobs fairs have been both challenging and exhilarating. At Search San Francisco, they were interviewed by eight different schools in eight different parts of the world, before accepting their jobs at APIS. Laura describes the way a good match between candidate and school feels:

“APIS in Thailand . . . is a beautiful boarding school in a very quiet area south of Chiang Mai. We knew that it was the right fit for us because we had seen that it was advertising a secondary art teacher and an elementary teacher position. We were so excited when we interviewed with APIS, because we know what they were about. They did a lot for us. They recommended an amazing nanny for Miles; they helped us buy a car; they made sure that our documentation for our visa was okay. They really helped us settle in and find our feet.”

Ella Hurst was born in Thailand, and after three years, with Ray’s help, the Hursts found positions in the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC), Vietnam, where they stayed for three years, followed by St. Francis College, Sao Paulo, Brazil, for two. Laura says,

“International teaching is a way for us to expose our children to the world. Todd and I travel well together; we love it, and this is a lifestyle that encourages exciting new experiences and a lot of travel. Our son Miles is seven and has lived in four different countries, and Ella is five, and she has lived in three different countries. They have visited way more than that.”

Todd and Laura love teaching overseas where they have met many like-minded and active teachers who want to help education progress. They also appreciate how plentiful professional development opportunities can be. Laura feels that teaching abroad allows for more freedom and creativity:

“You can bring in ideas and see them flourish. Todd created Passion Day. Students and teachers had a whole day to pursue their passions. It was a day that was repeated and still happens at ISHCMC even after we have left. I have implemented St. Francis Draws, where once every few months I create a theme and the student body is welcome to submit drawings exploring it. It is wonderful to be able to follow your passion and share it with your community.”

Now Laura and Todd are preparing for their next adventure! They say,

“We use the [Search Associates] website all the time. We check out who is posting jobs and have a good read about the ones we may want to approach in the future.”

After having greatly benefited from Search Associates job fairs in San Francisco and Bangkok in the past, Todd and Laura hope to land their next appointment through Skype and Facetime interviews. They recommend you take the leap to teaching overseas. Here’s more wise advice from two of the most flexible teachers we know:

“Do not forget that everywhere is good, and everywhere has its trying moments. Using the community around you is really important. Being part of the community—as much as the travel and the school—is why you are there. You should be there to help and improve and enrich the expatriate community. Every single one of the kids that you will teach is from somewhere, and helping give them amazing experiences abroad is really important.”

Did You Know…?

Senior Associate Diana Kerry was an international educator and administrator for 25 years in various countries, including Iran, France, Thailand, and Indonesia.