We recently caught up with alumna and current ambassador teacher, Anna Samson. We asked her to compare and contrast her experiences with Participate Learning, and what some of her fondest memories are from her time teaching in the United States, and what brought her back. Continue reading to get to know Anna better!
What made you want to apply to teach in the U.S. with Participate Learning (formerly VIF)?
I was intrigued by the idea of teaching internationally and was hoping to learn more techniques and teaching strategies that might be beneficial for me and my future students’ learning. I initially applied and passed the 1st interview in 2006 but I declined to continue due to personal conflicts, then I re-applied and got hired in 2008. I think the reason behind my decision to finally pursue a career as an international educator was the thirst to accept a new challenge in my career as a teacher. It was a crazy idea then since I have a stable job and life back in the Philippines, as well as my husband, but we left everything and started a new adventure with my then 7-year-old son.
During your first experience teaching as a VIF teacher, where did you teach?
I was interviewed and accepted in a Title 1 traditional scheduled school by the principal, Ms. Terry, in Cumberland County Schools, Fayetteville, North Carolina. Then in my 2nd term, I was interviewed and accepted in a Title 1 year-round school by Mr. Ferguson in Union County Schools, Monroe, North Carolina.
What was it like when you returned home? How did you share your experience from the U.S. with your friends and family?
I returned to my college teaching in the university I previously taught in and readily included some strategies in the curriculum of teaching math and reading to my 4th-year college of education class. After a year I was accepted in an international school with mostly Japanese, Korean, and Chinese students with whom I was able to use and integrate most of the reading strategies I practiced in my U.S. classes to help them easily learn the rigors of reading, writing and speaking and learn as English Language Learners.
What did you miss most about your home country during your time in the U.S.?
I missed our food, my families and friends, and our festivities like how intimate and elaborate we celebrate Christmas, Fiestas, and other traditional celebrations with our relatives and friends.
What was most memorable about those first years teaching in the U.S.?
The staff in my grade level were very accommodating, and I love the bond that connected me to some teachers and my teacher assistant who is a very good friend and mentor. I also loved the professional developments offered in and out of our county.
Since returning to teach in the U.S. in 2016, how does this time compare to your first experience?
The staff of VIF (now Participate Learning) was mostly new but they are as helpful and friendly too. There were no other teachers hired from my country since most of the focus was on DLI Spanish and DLI Chinese. I was the only Filipino hired in that year compared to 40+ Filipino teachers from the 2008 batch. I applied to a year-round school so there were only 6 of us during the orientation compared to almost 300+ teachers from around the world in 2008 with the traditional school schedule then.
My second term of teaching seemed to be easier since I knew what to expect from the orientation down to the first month of teaching so this time my husband and my son traveled to the U.S. at the same time. I was pretty much familiar with the N.C. Standards and style of teaching and programs in a Title-1 school so there was little adjustment and catching-up, unlike the first time I thought in Fayetteville, N.C.
What is one thing you wish you knew before teaching in the U.S.?
The classroom management style due to cultural differences was a huge shock for me and I wished I was front-loaded with simulated scenarios or experiences prior to arriving and teaching in the U.S. I really was surprised that even though I carry a 14-year experience of teaching in elementary in the Philippines I was still at a loss sometimes on how to effectively manage student behaviors in a Title-1 school. It was a challenging first two years for me and I had to attend professional development (PD) for classroom management, have a mentor, and re-adjust my teaching styles.
What are a few of your favorite moments/memories from your time in the U.S.?
- I had one of my students for both schools in Cumberland County, Fayetteville, and in Union County, Monroe to be the “most improved student” in our grade level at the end of the year awards. I was so proud of their growth and the confidence I instilled in each of my students. I remembered a grandparent who approached me at the end of the year Promotion Ceremony and shook my hand and thanked me for making his grandson become a better student and a better person.
- I served as a Local Adviser for three years in Cumberland County and had the opportunity to host events, help, and meet several new teachers in their initial year and became their confidant and local support during their initial years, some of which became my permanent friends now on Facebook!
- I traveled to several places for PD and leisure in North Carolina, visited families in California, went with family and friends to Georgia, Virginia, Florida, and Washington D.C.
- I experienced a lot of “firsts” while in the U.S.:
- My first snow and hail storm while I was in the school’s parking lot
- My first tornado that hit just 5 minutes away from our apartment
- My first emergency ambulance ride to an emergency room hospital transfer
- My first traffic police ticket for speeding 40 in a 25 speed limit road, I forgot due to my nervousness but I should have taken a selfie with the officer as a memento!
- Meeting staff from both schools that became my good and great friends, learning and teaching with them through the years in Fayetteville, N.C., and Monroe, N.C.