Melissa Leach: Colorado to the Cayman Islands
Meet Melissa Leach! For the past six years, she’s been a special education teacher and behaviour interventionist in Denver, Colorado. Next school year, she’ll be taking her passion for people to Cayman International School!
Was there a compelling call or interesting story behind your interest in teaching abroad?
I love Colorado, but have been itching to travel! I grew up overseas — in Indonesia and Scotland — and I miss exploring other cultures. My friend used ISS to move overseas and she highly recommended it to me! At first I was really nervous- it’s one thing to say you’re going to pick up and move, it’s another to actually do it. However, after exploring my new school’s website and talking with the director and staff, I felt comfortable that it would be a great fit for me! So, I’ve accepted a position with CIS for next year!
I’m a behavior interventionist mostly. I work with students who have severe emotional and behavioral disabilities. I love my kids! They always have the best personalities and are really fun to grow with throughout the years. I also do Mild/Moderate SPED, which is what I will be doing at CIS. I’m excited to help them grow as a special education department, and also ready to see new structures and teaching methods that I can adopt!
What inspired you to sign up with a service like ISS, and how has your experience been?
I signed up because my friend used ISS 6 years ago to be a librarian abroad and has loved it! She recommended it to me because it was a safe and efficient way to apply for jobs overseas. My experience has been great! It was easy to create a profile and I like the ease of seeing which jobs are available each week. I have only been on the site for a year and have already interviewed with many schools. As of this month, I have accepted a position in The Cayman Islands and am super excited to begin my adventure!
What excites you most about your new role and school? How did you know when you found the right fit?
I think exploring a new place and culture is the most exciting part of this! I am ready for a change and am excited to meet new people! I really believe having three long, detailed interviews with not only the director of the school, but also the upper principal, really helped me decide Cayman International School is the right fit for me as an educator. Their teaching philosophies are very much aligned with mine. I felt that right away we had a comfortable, good rapport with each other. I felt at ease with them and that, for me, was super important. I have no doubt that they will be a really kind, fun, and open-minded learning environment for me to join.
What research did you do before accepting your job?
I’ll be honest — it’s embarrassing how little I knew about The Cayman Islands before I interviewed with the school. As soon as we were done, I began doing some research about the history of Cayman and present-day life in the Islands. I am also lucky to have a first-hand resource — my cousin lives in Cayman and so she has been a great person to go to with questions. I also asked a ton of questions during my interviews. What is island living like? What activites and social events are common on the weekends? What’s the hardest part about living abroad? The best part? I think one of the best things about the interviewers from The Cayman International School is that they wanted to make sure not only the school, but the location, would be a good fit for me. They gave me numerous resources to look up in order to make a pretty educated decision.
What advice would you give to educators looking to recruit overseas for the first time?
I would say it is very tempting to jump on your first offer because the idea of going overseas is so exciting! It is super important to do your research. Just because a school seems like a good fit doesn’t mean that the city will be. I think allowing yourself time to look into different places is important. My friend who has been traveling and working at numerous schools (all through ISS) has given me great advice: you know the kind of person you are and what’s important for you to be happy. Look for those things before accepting an offer.
Thank you for sharing your story and advice, Melissa! All the best in the coming transitions. We can’t wait to hear how you will make a difference at CIS!
Ready to launch your own teach abroad story?