International Teachers, News + People
Paying It Forward: 2019’s Local Adviser of the Year
When an ambassador with Participate Learning arrives ready to take on the new adventure of living and working in the US, providing him or her with a bit of extra support can make all of the difference. The Local Adviser Program pairs incoming teachers with experienced teachers who will serve as guides and resources in their advisees’ new communities.
Local advisers offer another additional level of support to incoming ambassadors. As experienced ambassadors, they provide guidance and help new ambassadors transition to their new communities and teaching positions. All local advisers serve as mentors to new teachers and share what they learned from their own experiences about how to be a successful cultural ambassador of their country. Each year, one local adviser who goes above and beyond for his or her advisees is recognized as Local Adviser of the Year.
Madonna Ferguson-Henry, a fourth-grade cultural exchange ambassador from Jamaica at E. Melvin Honeycutt Elementary School in Fayetteville, North Carolina, took the crown for the 2018-19 school year. Her inspiration to become a local adviser came from the positive experience she had with her own adviser when she arrived in the US.
“My adviser was so good when I was preparing to travel to the US, so I wanted to be that person for someone who is coming to a new place,” says Madonna.
First Impressions, Lasting Impact
Local advisers are among the first connections that new teachers make in their communities. Those advisers speak from experience as they share knowledge about cultural norms and practices, school climate, expectations of the new international teacher, and training opportunities, as well as communication practices.
More than that, they make their advisees feel at home! Local advisers show a high level of care to their advisees as they transition, and they make such an impact that these teachers feel strongly about passing on the kindness they received by becoming advisers themselves and offering support to the next year’s new teachers.
Time Helping Others Is Time Well Spent
While the role of the local adviser requires time and preparation, many find it to be a tremendously rewarding experience. Madonna says that she feels wonderful when her advisees praise her for all of the support she has offered, and that alone makes it worthwhile.
One of Madonna’s advisees, Tanya Dixon, has endearingly referred to her as “a family member away from family,” one who ensured that she always felt at home and had a shoulder to lean on.
Madonna takes pride in offering professional guidance and support but has never let her role stop her from being down to earth and supportive of her advisees. She exemplifies what a local adviser should be: professional, supportive, and a great resource to her advisees.
Advice from an Adviser
For anyone interested in being a local adviser, Madonna stresses the importance of getting to know your advisees before they arrive and preparing accordingly, based on their needs and preferences. “I want them to feel comfortable, and it goes back to communicating with them before they even get to the country,” says Madonna.
Madonna Ferguson-Henry is completing her second year with Participate Learning. Originally from Jamaica, Madonna is currently a fourth-grade teacher in Fayetteville, North Carolina.