Teacher Feature: Marina and Christopher
Say hello to Christopher Winchester and Marina Lavalle! In November 2019, Chris and Marina accepted exciting new positions at Asociación Escuelas Lincoln in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Beginning next school year, Marina will be an IB Global Politics and 9/10th Humanities educator, while Chris will teach IB English A: Language and Literature and 9/10th English.
Currently, they teach at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, NYC, in positions they accepted back at the 2017 San Francisco ISS job fair. We’re honored to be part of their journey over these years and celebrate this latest chapter in their careers!
Catch up with Chris about their journey through education, what they love about international school communities, and more.
Please introduce yourselves! What should we know about you?
Marina and I are both from Virginia. We grew up in the Fairfax area of northern Virginia, outside of D.C., but we met in college at VCU in Richmond. Marina and I connected on travel and our love for Latin America, and when we graduated from VCU we both moved down to Ecuador and worked at the American School of Quito. We spent three years in Quito and then decided to take a year off of work, so we bought a 1985 RV with two friends and spent a year travelling around the US and Mexico. While we were living in the RV, we stopped into San Francisco and went to the ISS job fair, which is where we got our positions at Léman. Now we are very excited to head down to Argentina!
What first drew you to being educators?
I knew that I wanted to work with young adults and I wanted to have an opportunity to continue to study and teach literature, so I was fortunate to fall into the IB program. In addition, I wanted to find some kind of lifestyle that would support my continued desire to explore the world, and when a good friend of mine got a job teaching middle school in Costa Rica, I knew that the international teaching path was where I wanted to be.
Luckily, when I took my first posting in Ecuador, Marina came down with me and she was able to fill a needed position a month or two after we arrived. They liked her at the school, so they offered her a full contract for the following two years and she found education to be her calling as well.
How did you decide to make the leap into teaching abroad? And what has the experience of international education and living abroad been like for you?
As I said, a friend of mine got into teaching abroad and I knew that I wanted to go overseas after hearing about his experience. In addition, many of the international schools are on the forefront of education today with rich professional development opportunities and highly motivated students. My HL English class with my seniors sometimes feels like a college seminar, and I’m so lucky to have students that are so dedicated to their studies.
Outside of the schools themselves, one of our favorite things about teaching abroad are the communities at the school. I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s a genuine response. When you go overseas many of the people that you work with are open to new experiences and looking for new friends, so you become a close group pretty quickly. We are still very close with a number of our old colleagues from Quito, and our experience there was wonderful because we always had someone to travel with or go see a new part of the city with. While NYC isn’t quite ‘abroad’, it’s been an awesome experience to come and live in New York City and experience all that it has to offer. It’s cool to be able to be in the US and also at an international school.
What are you excited to experience in your next school and country?
We have always known about Lincoln—it has always been one of our dream schools we wanted to work at. Marina and I both studied abroad in Buenos Aires in college and much of her family lives in the city, so it’s a bit of a homecoming for us. Marina will be teaching a new IB course, Global Politics, and I will be branching out to work with younger students, so this move is a big opportunity for both of us to grow as educators.
ISS has been awesome! We got our jobs in New York City from the ISS fair in San Francisco, and we got our new jobs in Argentina at the AASSA/ISS fair in November. We both love going to the fairs—there is so much benefit to being able to talk to the schools in person and get a feel for the people that work there. In addition, we have gotten so much personal attention through ISS, and every question we had about a school, country, director, etc. was taken seriously. The fairs are intense, and there are a lot of major decisions to be made, but every time we walked into the ISS office, the representatives took time to listen to our questions and concerns and helped up make a decision. I honestly think that the personal attention that ISS provided us helped us get to where we are today. I want to give a special shout out to Laura Light, who helped us with both our jobs in New York and Argentina, she was so helpful and supportive!
And finally, any advice for other educators thinking about taking their career abroad?
Do it! Be open to places you never would have thought about living and working in. It’s a great career and a great community—I can’t recommend it enough!
Our thanks to Chris and Marina for sharing their journey! We’re wishing them a wonderful chapter ahead with the Asociación Escuelas Lincoln community. If you’re also interested in launching your career in international education, learn more about the ISS EDUrecruit ecosystem here.