International Educator Interviews: Kate (and family) in Houston, TX

The international educator interviews series is back! First up, I want to introduce you to my dear friend Kate whom I met during a literacy coaching program that we participated in from 2017-2019. Kate and her family recently repatriated to the U.S. where she works at a private school in Houston as the head librarian. In her 14 years in Education, Kate has taught English, Humanities, World Religions, and Photography I and II.

What made you decide to teach internationally? How did you land your first overseas teaching job?

I always knew I wanted to teach overseas. I grew up in Bandung, Indonesia until I was 18 years old. After moving back to the States for college, I knew I wanted to move back overseas as soon as possible. I was teaching at a private school in Minneapolis, Minnesota and thought maybe I would take a break from teaching to be home with my two children. I will never forget the day I got an email from the American Community School in Amman, Jordan, asking for an interview. We decided within a couple weeks to sell everything and move overseas! 

Where have you taught overseas and how did you end up back in the U.S.? 

I worked at the American Community School in Amman, Jordan for two years, the American International School of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia for four years, and Bandung Independent School in Indonesia for three years. We decided to move back to the U.S. for many reasons, but the main one was the pandemic. Being stuck overseas away from family for so long was very trying for our family. My husband was looking for a job, which is very challenging to do overseas, especially during a pandemic. Although we were offered teaching jobs in other countries, in the end, we felt it was the best decision to move back. We are very glad to be in the U.S., closer to family. 

How is teaching in the U.S. different from teaching abroad?

Teaching overseas is a truly wonderful experience. The students I had in my classes overseas were diverse, respectful, and inquisitive. I was privileged to work with some amazing educators. Because international schools often have teachers coming and going, there are always opportunities to take on new leadership roles and really grow your resume. The professional development opportunities through groups like NESA and CEESA are exceptional.

How easy/difficult is it to meet locals and integrate into the local culture in the places that you have taught?

Every culture is very different! Jordanian culture is warm, accepting, and vibrant. I really loved the people there and felt very comfortable living in Jordan. It was easy to make friends and it is really diverse. There are incredible sites to see and it is a good hub for traveling through Europe. Saudi Arabia was probably one of the safest places I ever lived. With two small children, we lived on a compound and really enjoyed the slower-paced life of having all of our friends in one place with a playground and pool, and store right there. It was very hard to meet local people, though we did through my children’s classroom friends. Indonesia is my home and the people are genuinely the nicest people you will ever meet. It is also incredibly beautiful there with jungles, volcanoes, beaches, and rice paddies. The challenge there is the frequent bouts of sickness with poor health care. It is easy to make friends with locals and they will be friends for life. Language is a barrier, though Indonesian is a language that is not too challenging to learn.

What is a myth about living abroad?

There are lots of stories about how living overseas is dangerous, but honestly, I feel more nervous in America! We definitely had some scares when we lived overseas, but I never worried about school shootings or people carrying guns.

What have been the challenging parts of returning back to the U.S. to teach?

There have been many challenges with moving to Texas. First, the schools where we worked overseas took care of our housing and furniture, and our children went to school with us. That is not the case in the States! Also, because we were overseas for so long, we really are starting over in so many ways. 

What’s it like living in Houston? What’s your favorite thing about living there?

It is wonderful to drive again after so many years of not being able to (in Saudi) or because it was difficult (in Indonesia). The convenience of the States is a nice benefit, as well as the good food! Yet it is the bigger things of coming out of a pandemic that make us so grateful. We spend lots of time with family and friends. We go to the opera, museums, farmer’s markets, breweries, dance performances, all of those things that were not available during the pandemic. Much of those things were also not available because they did not exist in the countries where we lived. We are finding a rich and wonderful life here in Texas. 

How do you spend your holidays? How often do you visit home/travel?

When we lived overseas we always traveled for every holiday and vacation. We would visit Minnesota in the summers, of course, that could not happen during the pandemic.

What has been your favorite teaching position/location thus far?

I loved something about all of my positions. I loved living in Jordan and the students were amazing. I loved being a literacy coach in Saudi and really felt like I was able to make a difference in the reading program. I loved living in Indonesia, and the school was such a lovely place to work. Now, I absolutely love being a librarian! 

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

We knew it was time to move back to the States when we had offers from other countries and did not have the peace to accept them. The thought of moving to yet another country was overwhelming. After we said no to the offers, we had such peace. For us, it was clearly time to move. 

What tips or advice would you give to others thinking about making the leap to a career in international teaching?

This is just my experience, but one of the hardest parts about moving around internationally is making the tough decision of when to leave and where to go! It is really wild to think that every couple of years you can uproot your whole family and move to a completely different country and start over. It is hard to choose to take the leap, but with every decision we made, I really felt peace.

You can follow Kate on Instagram @greenindomac and on Twitter @katemachall

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.

One Comment on “International Educator Interviews: Kate (and family) in Houston, TX

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

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