April 04, 2015

Amanda Isberg M.A.T. ’10 shares tips for international teaching

Amanda Isberg MAT ’10 keeps a blog about her passion for international teaching. We caught up with her in Venezuela.

Amanda Isberg M.A.T. ’10 always knew she wanted to travel the world. After earning a B.A. in international studies at the University of Oregon, she worked at summer camps in Yokusuka, Japan and Gaeta, Italy and spent four months teaching ESL with the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan. Those experiences convinced her she wanted to spend her career working with children. Since graduating with her M.A.T., she has taught at international schools in China, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Isberg keeps a blog about her passion for international teaching, where she shares advice for others interested in the profession. We caught up with her in Venezuela.

What inspired your passion for traveling?

Growing up, I was a voracious reader. (I still am!) The books I read mentioned faraway places that piqued my interest. Then my grandparents went to Europe and I realized that normal people travel, too. I knew I needed to find a job that would pay me to travel the world. International teaching was the perfect fit.

What do you love about teaching internationally?

My favorite part is meeting people from all over the world. At most schools I’ve worked at, the foreign-hire staff is usually a mix of U.S. and Canadian citizens, but occasionally I will work with colleagues from China, the UK, India, and Mexico. Then, of course, there are the fabulous local people in whatever host country I’m working in. Conversations are really interesting when you have so many people who can say, “I’ve been there” or “I have family from that place.”

How is teaching in other parts of the world different from teaching in the US?

I enjoy not having high stakes testing. My current school does the MAP test, but we use this mostly to measure student growth.  Not having a test for every little thing allows authentic learning to happen.

Can you pinpoint one way in which you think Lewis & Clark prepared you for success in this line of work? 

I love that I had a yearlong internship experience. This gave me a close look at how a classroom can evolve over a single school year. This and an ESOL practicum prepared me to start full-time two weeks after finishing up my last practicum.

Was there anything at LC that encouraged your development as a global citizen?

Nearly 100 percent of my students have been non-native English speakers, so the ESOL classes I took were extremely helpful. Learning how to construct lessons to scaffold learning for ESOL students in a mainstream classroom is something that I’ve drawn on over the past five years of teaching elementary and preschool students. Without those classes I think my life as a teacher would have been much more difficult. I’ve been in Venezuela for the past three school years. Before that I was teaching in China and Mexico for a year each. I love Latin America, but if I manage to stay in Venezuela for three or four more years, I think I will be ready to explore a new part of the world. I think I would like to teach in southeast Asia next. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines are all countries I would like to work in one day.

You keep a blog about teaching internationally. What would be your number one piece of advice for people interested in going in to this field?

I’m a huge nerd and I loved every minute of both undergrad and grad school, but if you are not sure if you want to make a career out of international teaching, you should try traveling for six months to a year by yourself to get a feel of what it is like to be away from everything and everyone you know.

Read more advice on teaching internationally at Amanda Isberg’s blog, Teaching Wanderlust.