Californian Nick Porras got his first taste of teaching—and Africa—through the Peace Corps. His undergraduate degree in hand, Nick moved to The Gambia, where he stayed for three years. He says,
I had an absolute blast there! Prior to moving to The Gambia, I had never really traveled much. I loved cultural immersion, learning a new language, and completely changing my daily routine. While I couldn’t make serving in the Peace Corps my career, international teaching seemed like the next best thing.
After Nick’s service in Africa, the state of California awarded him a five-year teaching credential, as they do with all Peace Corps volunteers who serve as educators. Nick was certified to teach English, Grades 6–12.
Nick comes from a family of educators; his dad was a high school principal for most of his childhood, and his older sister is a university professor. His original plan was a career in music engineering, but the desire for a more stable career won out. And once he began teaching, he was smitten by the kids. Nick explains,
They are still trying to figure out who they are and find their place in the world. High school is very much about finding a unique identity for yourself, and I love being a conduit for that process.
Nick tried to return to The Gambia after a year of teaching at the French Lycée in New Orleans. He emailed the head of the American Embassy School in The Gambia to inquire about any teaching vacancies there. There were no openings at the time, but the director connected Nick with a friend who ran TLC International School of Mauritania. Off he went, and there he stayed! Nick shares one of the many benefits of teaching abroad:
I have found that depending on the country, teachers are really revered and respected overseas. In an overseas environment, parents really view you as a genuine authority when it comes to issues like curriculum and best teaching practices.
Nick met his wife Binta Kante, working at a cafe that he frequented in Mauritania. They both happened to speak a somewhat rare West African language. Binta loves to travel just as much as Nick does, and their son Boubacar, now 17 months, will be joining their next adventure.
Next year will be Nick’s sixth year of international teaching, five of them at TLC International School, where he currently teaches high school humanities. Having watched the school grow and expand, he says, “it’s tough to say goodbye.” Now, for a different slant on his international adventures, and with the help of Search Associates (SEARCH) and John and Susan Ritter, Nick is headed to the Dominican Republic and Carol Morgan School. He says, "It’s definitely bittersweet to be moving on to a new opportunity."
Nick registered with SEARCH after finding out about us through an online forum for international teachers. He attended a virtual job fair for African schools even though he much prefers meeting face-to-face. Using the SEARCH database, Nick and Binta focused on looking at schools in several regions of interest that fit his profile. Nick describes how the SEARCH platform has worked for him:
I mostly used it to view new openings. I really liked the fact that I received an email each day with new teacher vacancies. I liked going to the school pages and looking at all of the information posted. . . . I found site useful and was surprised that a school actually used it to reach out to me.
The Dominican Republic was not on Nick and Binta’s radar. They had planned on “sticking around Africa.” When Carol Morgan School reached out for an interview, Nick watched as many YouTube videos as possible, favoring the ones that let you “walk-around” to obtain a simple, objective view of the country. After that first interview with Carol Morgan School, Nick felt it was the right choice. He explains,
I walked away feeling completely energized and excited about my profession. The staff at the school were genuinely excited about what they were doing, which is something that I really value.
Though Nick will be teaching abroad at a high school that offers Advanced Placement classes, his goal is to pursue training in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, and he recommends the same to you:
I did not have IB experience, so it limited the types of schools that I was looking at potentially joining. My advice for making yourself an attractive candidate for international schools would be to make sure to acquire teacher certification and try to get IB experience if possible. A lot of schools are looking for teachers with IB experience.
Another important lesson in the job search is to be open to many parts of the world rather than focusing on a single region. If Nick hadn’t been open to crossing the Atlantic with his family, he might still be looking for a position!
In a pleasing story of cause and effect, Nick Porras gave himself to the Peace Corps and received the gift of teaching children and then a credential. Now he is a gift to international schools.