When Simone and Nathan first met in Hobart, Tasmania, Simone was still at university, and Nathan—originally from New South Wales—was working as a lab technician at a nearby hospital. After graduating, Simone remained in Hobart, pursuing what she had always wanted to do, teaching social studies, English, and math at the secondary level.
The couple’s initial plan was to work abroad for a year before returning to Australia to get married, settle down, and raise a family. But a year in South Korea teaching English in a bilingual elementary school changed all that! That overseas teaching opportunity was so wonderful that they returned home for their wedding as planned and then boarded a plane back to Korea two days later! Though not originally a teacher, Nathan says,
We went overseas to do something different, and I enjoyed it so much that I realized teaching was the career I wanted to do. I love watching the excitement and fulfilment students get when they accomplish their goals. I have not looked back since.
Having decided to remain abroad, Nathan enrolled in an online program to earn his teaching degree through an Australian university. He also found an advertisement online for Search Associates (SEARCH) while surfing the Internet for overseas teaching opportunities. The Lieschkes registered and signed up for their first SEARCH job fair. Simone explains,
SEARCH seemed to be the best recruitment agency for our needs at the time. It has been invaluable, and we have used it as our primary resource for recruiting. All three of the international schools we have signed contracts with have been through SEARCH.
The Lieschkes enjoyed a very positive experience at the SEARCH Bangkok Job Fair; there, they landed their first overseas appointments in Guangzhou, China. Since then, international schools have snatched the teaching couple up before fair season has even begun! While Simone and Nathan would love to attend another, they have noticed that leadership positions, for which Simone is applying, are mostly advertised prior to international school job fair season. Nevertheless, the couple shares the benefits of attending:
We loved that we got to interview with so many schools, and we could go to the school information sessions to meet the leadership team members who were recruiting teachers and learn about the various countries/cities and schools.
For job searches, Nathan and Simone have relied primarily on the SEARCH database as well as contacting former colleagues who have worked at or are working in schools with advertised overseas teaching vacancies. After 17 years of international teaching, the couple has built a strong network. Simone adds,
It can be challenging finding positions for both of us in a great school in a country that we feel meets the needs of our family. What helps us most is keeping an open mind to all opportunities and actively reaching out to schools. We also look closely at the school’s website to see if the programme is a good fit and whether we are aligned with the school’s mission and philosophy.
Nathan and Simone often used the SEARCH website to look up desirable schools and locations. The school package information and links to the school’s website helped them the most. Daily emails highlighting relevant positions also alerted them to opportunities of interest. The couple found the best response rate when they applied directly to a school.
Simone and Nathan research countries of interest to determine, first of all, if those places are safe to raise a family and, next, what opportunities are there, both in and out of school, for the whole family. They have looked for diversity in the student population as well as what programs would be appealing for their daughter Abigail at different stages of her development.
Because of the diversity in their school communities, the Lieschkes have cultivated friendships with people from around the globe. Abigail has benefitted from school facilities and programs “not possible in Australia on a teacher’s salary,” says Simone. The family enjoys a better quality of life due to international teaching benefits such as housing, free or subsidized tuition, and travel allowances. The Lieschkes have worked in well-resourced schools with smaller class sizes “compared to home.” Nathan and Simone love the internationally-minded, International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) implemented in the schools where they have taught. The family has been able to travel the world. Simone says,
Coming from Tasmania, travel is quite inaccessible due to distance and cost. Living overseas (prior to COVID-19) afforded us so many opportunities to explore the world. Our daughter now gets to explore with us.
Abigail has had a “beautiful childhood” living abroad and attending an international school, says her mom. Because of the friendships Abigail has with children from around the world, her social development and world perspective have blossomed. Born in China and cared for by a Chinese speaking aunty/nanny, Abigail began speaking Mandarin and English at the same time. Her schools celebrate United Nations week, a rich opportunity to learn about issues faced by the world while also celebrating cultural diversity and connectedness. Living and traveling overseas has also broadened her world view as well as her empathy for others.
In addition to their two and a half years at Sahmyook Elementary School in Korea, Nathan and Simone have taught at the American International School of Guangzhou—the first job they got through SEARCH—for 11 years, and the Canadian International School in Singapore. They have just accepted positions at the American International School of Lusaka, Zambia and are very excited for this next adventure, especially after many years in Asia!
If you are thinking about pursuing international school opportunities, Nathan and Simone say that research and open-mindedness will make it much more likely for you to find a great place for the whole family. Simone shares their experience:
We initially hadn’t considered China, and we checked it as an option last minute. We were then hired by the American International School of Guangzhou, and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. We loved our experience so much that we stayed 11 years and started our family there.