Alejandra: 7 years, 4 international schools, and ready for more!
Say hello to Alejandra Cruz-Milano, an ISS teacher hailing from a Caracas, Venezuela! She is an Early Childhood and Lower Elementary teacher who has been teaching abroad for 7 years. And Alejandra is still on the move: when we wrote to her about publishing this feature, she answered from the sky somewhere over Russia and NE China, headed to start a new teaching chapter at the International School of Dongguan.
What excites you most about your new role and/or school? How did you know when you found the right fit?
I am super pumped and excited to be part of ISD! I will be back to teaching Early Childhood in a modern, child-friendly and centered school. My very first international school was in northeast China, so I’ll be going back to China after 3 years of living between India and South Korea. Even though I found China was not always an easy country to live in, I had a great community, school, and the chance to travel. I had an awesome experiences, and I call it my first overseas home. I am looking forward to meeting my new school and new teachers, who seem to be very international; a lot do them speak Spanish, my native language. I am also excited to explore a new area of China that I have not been to or traveled around!
Tell us a bit about your journey in international education!
After college, I did a two year international exchange program teaching Spanish in New Jersey, USA. There, I met teachers from all over South and Central America, Australia, Spain, France, and other countries. This experience opened up the world for me about international teaching! When I went back home to Venezuela, I decided to go teach at The American International School of Caracas Escuela Campo Alegre and I fell in love with this school’s international education. I was hired as an instructional assistant, but I made a promise to stay at ECA and get a teacher position. Within a year, I got promoted to a Nursery (3-year-olds) teacher, then got promoted to the full time PreK4 teacher. I also got my masters in Multidisciplinary sciences of education from SUNY NY.
In 2010, I jumped into international teaching and got a job teaching kindergarten in Dalian American International School, where I had different roles and stayed for 4 years. Then I moved to Mumbai, where I taught Spanish to grades 3-4-5, and then Seoul International School teaching kindegarten and Language Support in lower elementary. I am now moving on to The International School of Dongguan in SE China to teach Jr. Kindergarten, which is one of my favourite grades to teach. Seven years later, with four international schools on my back — I love this experience, and I would not trade it or have any regrets.
What led you to sign up with ISS, and how has your experience been?
In 2010, I was working as a local hire teacher at The American International School of Caracas Escuela acampó Alegre. I had just finished my masters degree, and after being there for four years and getting to know many foreign teachers, I was curious and excited to figure out more about international teaching. So I decided to jump and take the risk to be an international educator! I asked a few coworkers and friends about recruiting agencies, and they recommended ISS. It’s an easy and teacher friendly website to use and it has a wide range of schools all around the world. My experience was great I found 3-4 jobs with ISS and they have all been at great tier 1-2 schools. The experience with ISS staff has been great very personal one to one and friendly. I totally recommend ISS.
What research did you do before accepting your job, and what questions do you advise asking?
Number 1 thing: You have to be flexible and open to go places you didn’t even think you would. After you have seen some school openings that interest you, check the school’s website and find out about the country. After or during the interview, ask questions about the curriculum, assessments, parent-teacher-student interactions, teacher evaluation assessments and professional development. Also ask questions about school programs, accreditation, teacher turnover, admin turnover, for profit or not for profit, student enrollment, laws regarding student enrollment, afterschool programs, etc.
Finally, ask questions about teachers life’s outside of school, housing, and transportation to school for teachers, Teacher community is very important. Ask about social groups, sports and fun events, performing arts. Do some research about the styles of living for locals and expats in the host country, the political and economical situation, how locals mingle with expats, things like that.
What advice would you give to educators looking to recruit overseas for the first time?
I would say just do it! Take the risk and jump into this exciting, adventurous, awesome multicultural international schools community and family! The worst that can happen is that you find it hard to live in your home country and school, but then you will move in 2 years to a new place, a fresh start. Also, if you are the kind of person that does not like surprises and wants to be in control, take some time to research your next country, city, and school. How is the community? What possibilities will I have to do outdoorsy or indoors activities? Travel, money saving, interaction with locals, amount of work to do at home and on weekends — even if you find some of the questions don’t match your answers, do it, take the risk. Sometimes you will see that living in a county that you don’t know or have connections to may seem hard, but it can be awesome in so many ways! You will learn and grow more than you think.
Thank you so much, Alejandra. All the best as you settle into your new life in Dongguan!
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