Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Alumna Teaches in South Korea

Heather E. Douglas, MAT '08

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." – Martin Luther King Jr.

Suffering fresh jetlag, I was jolted awake by the cruel sound of my alarm clock. It was my first day teaching at a private school in South Korea and I wanted to make a good impression.  The dress I put on came straight from the suitcase I had packed in Oregon three days earlier.  For breakfast, I ate cold tofu because it was the only familiar food I recognized.

With butterflies in my stomach, I said silently to myself “be brave” as my shaky hand locked my apartment door.  On the outside, I was elated to have a real teaching job, but inside I was terrified.  My ability to communicate with my students and can I survive living in a foreign culture were only some of many questions racing through my mind that morning.

Like a school of fish flooding onto the immense sea of sidewalks, I joined hundreds of blue and white uniformed Korean children walking to school.  I felt curious stares as I adjusted my messenger bag. Classical music was piping through loudspeakers over the sidewalks, which were lined with trees full of pink cherry blossoms, and for a moment I forgot my angst and simply enjoyed.

Six months ago, I was a different person.  As I look back, I want to tell my old self “just enjoy the ride.”  At the beginning, I had no way of knowing the amazing adventures that awaited me. Simply visiting a foreign land only offers a taste, whereas immersion in a culture is life changing.  And (let’s face it) while the prospect of getting a teaching job in this economy can be quite daunting, international teaching opportunities abound in many fantastic countries around the world.

In 2007, when I began the MAT program at Pacific, Dean Ankeny professed to our fresh cohort seated in the room that first day:  teaching will take you on many adventures.  

It turns out he was right.  Sometimes I shake my head laughing at the randomness of life as I find myself gazing at a Buddhist temple or hear my students giggle and yell “teacher, teacher, anneyonghaseyo,” or as I ride my bike through the neon lit streets of South Korea inhaling the smells of exotic street food.

Although Douglas, MAT '08 originally graduated as a Language Arts teacher in the MAT program, through this international experience she has discovered her passion in working with ELL students.  She is currently working on an ELL endorsement, and hopes to continue to work with students from other cultures.  In her free time, Douglas enjoys photography and nature.

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