International Educator Interviews: Kelly in Guatemala

Since starting this blog over three years ago, I’ve shared with you why I decided to teach in Beirut, how I landed my first international teaching position, and even did a longer interview for the blog Atlas Sliced talking all about the nitty-gritty of teaching abroad. I love the world of international teaching and think that it’s such a great opportunity for adventurous teachers who love to travel and want to experience new cultures while putting down some (temporary) roots in a new country. Not to mention the professional benefits that come along with working in some of the best schools in the world.

I’ve given advice to countless friends and friends of friends about getting started teaching abroad. Over the last few months, I have been substitute teaching in Illinois and every chance I get I talk up teaching abroad in the teachers’ lounges where I’m working. Through all this talking about my own experiences, it hit me–I’ve met so many international educators over the last few years that it would be fun to share their stories on my blog. Each one has taken their own path and has a unique story to tell.

I’m so excited to bring you the first interview in the series today! Our first international educator is Kelly teaching in Guatemala. I think Kelly was the very first international school teacher that I ever met. I was traveling around Guatemala one summer and bumped into her and her friend Jessa traveling around before Kelly started her first international posting. I picked her brain about working abroad and got really excited to take the plunge myself. Seven years later Kelly is still at that same teaching position in Guatemala City! I’ll let Kelly tell you the rest.


Kelly in Guatemala

Buenos dias!! My name is Kelly, and I teach in Guatemala City, Guatemala. This is my first international teaching post, and I am in my 7th year. I teach 4th grade, and I love it. Teaching internationally is a wonderful experience for any teacher who enjoys new adventures, cultures, and can be flexible. Being a part of a new culture means you must have a flexible attitude and be willing to try new things. I have learned to eat new foods, explore new terrains, and adapt to a lifestyle different from my past. Daily life includes work, travel, and learning all the time! I hope others have the opportunity to explore a new country and culture as I have.
kelly running
How did you end up in Guatemala?

I have always loved the Latino culture and came to volunteer in Guatemala in 2006. I knew immediately this was where I wanted to be… I just didn’t realize I would still be here!

What’s challenging about teaching at a new school in a new country?

The most challenging part of teaching in a new school and country is a mix of so many cultures. You have the host culture (the country where you moved to), and you also have the mix of cultures of each person that you teach with. This was my biggest challenge coming from a rural school in Georgia where there was not as much diversity.

How is teaching internationally different from teaching in your home country?

I have found that the biggest difference in teaching internationally is FREEDOM!! You have the freedom to teach how you want to teach. There are standards and curriculum, but it is not as rigid because we do not have to teach to state tests. Another huge difference is the teaching time. Because we are a bilingual school, I have a lot of time to prep and grade at school.

How do you go about making a new place your own? (That is, both your new accommodation and your new country.)

I am fortunate that I speak Spanish fluently, so that has been helpful in Guatemala. I also have brought a lot of stuff at home (personal art, keepsakes, etc) that has made my transition much easier. In Guatemala, you can find most items, but you may have to pay a premium.


How do you know when it’s time to leave?

I haven’t yet, but I know this is a super hard question for many. All I can say is, never look back. You may find an amazing school, or you may pick a lemon. Either way, just keep moving forward.

I love Guatemala. Yes, it is a bit dangerous, but I am close to the beach, mountains, lake, rivers, volcanoes. I am happy where I am, for now!

guatemala children

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in international teaching?

Do it!! Your initial contract is for two years. You can survive any situation for that amount of time. The teaching is the bonus to living and exploring so many parts of the world. I highly recommend it.

I think that the most important piece of advice that I can give is to find friends outside of school, too. Many people get sucked into the bubble where their school friends are their only friends. Thankfully, I have found friends outside of school and that allows me to be open with the local culture.

Find the full series of Interviews with International Educators here.

If you are an international educator and you would like to be featured on The Present Perfect, contact me at thepresentperfectblog {at} gmail {dot} com.

6 Comments on “International Educator Interviews: Kelly in Guatemala

  1. What a fun new series–can’t wait to read more! Hope lots of people see it and are encouraged to teach and travel internationally.
    Also, how great to see photos of Guatemala–I *loved* traveling there, and I totally owe that to you! 🙂

  2. My teaching career has taken me to several prefectures in Japan and four U.S. states. After four years teaching in the Arctic Bush of Alaska, Barbra and I have come down with “itchy feet” syndrome again. Looking forward to reading more of your posts on international teaching!

      • Definitely! After reading about these International Schools, my wife, Barbra, and I find ourselves wishing we would have known about this option years ago. But, now is now. So we’re do our research, putting together our applications and hoping for the best. We are VERY flexible about where we would be happy to go – virtually anyplace in the world!
        If you have any further advice or insight, we are eager learners!

        • It’s absolutely not too late! I recommend checking out Search Associates, ISS, and Tie Online. There are also some useful articles on the website Transitions Abroad.

  3. Pingback: Stephanie in Hong Kong | The Present Perfect

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