When Savanna Kuisle and Diane West, alumni of the Curry School of Education’s teacher education program, were both offered international placements at the American International School of Dhaka in Bangladesh, they jumped at the opportunity to teach abroad.
The first-year teaching experience at the school is designed as an internship to aid in the transition from being a student teaching in the United States to a full-time teacher abroad. Both Kuisle and West are receiving structured support as they progress through the year.
“I like the idea of working at AISD because it is a highly reputable school among the international community and has a well-developed support system for new teachers,” West said. “I am thrilled about the resources this school will offer me, from technology to traveling to gaining insight from experienced teachers who can share their experience.”
West’s official title is high school English intern and she is working with a variety of levels of English classrooms. Her hope is to get to experience the 11th- and 12th-grade International Baccalaureate programs for English.
Kuisle is working in eighth-grade language arts, eighth-grade social studies and seventh-grade humanities classrooms. “At the beginning of the year, I’ll have just a partial load of classes and work more closely with a mentor teacher. As the year progresses, I will slowly take on more classes and responsibilities,” she said.
Both graduates received one-year contracts. However, the school has mentioned the possibility of offering full-time, two-year contracts at the end of the internships if positions are available and the women would like to stay.
For both Kuisle and West, teaching is their first priority.
West brought with her to Curry firsthand experience of the positive impact a teacher can make. “A very special high school English teacher helped me to develop my passion for English literature,” West said. “I saw him transform students who hated poetry into poets themselves. When I came to college, I saw that I could take my passion for English literature and use it to help other young people develop theirs, just as my high school teacher had done for me.”
Kuisle said she found her niche at Curry. “I love the quirkiness and the unpredictability of middle schoolers,” she said. “I love that no two days are ever the same. And I love making meaningful connections with students and perhaps even changing their lives.”
Kuisle and West view their roles as teachers as much bigger than simply delivering content to their students.
“My goals in teaching have grown and changed with my experiences in the Curry School,” West said. “To be a teacher is to be a role model for young people. Many of my teachers and professors have shown me light and hope in matters that have nothing to do with their subject, and I desire to do the same for my future students.”
Kuisle’s perspective is similar: “Even though my specialty area is social studies, my goals in teaching really do not revolve around the content; rather my goals are focused on my students. I believe that teachers have a duty to meet the needs of all students, whatever their needs – whether academic, social, or emotional. I want to create a classroom environment where my students feel respected, supported, and that they are a critical component of the community.
“At the end of the day, teaching is about the students themselves and not how many historical facts they memorized.”
In a typical year, about 40 percent of Curry’s teacher education graduates begin their teaching careers in Virginia with nearly 40 percent teaching out of state. Almost 10 percent teach abroad, with the rest choosing not to teach immediately following graduation.