When opportunity came knocking for three 2013 Mercyhurst University early childhood education grads to teach overseas, they seized the chance.
Shana Brown, Jenna Gannon and Tawney Johnson have accepted 10-month teaching positions in Ningbo, China, through China’s leading education service provider, Dipont Education.
The young women are currently in Ningbo, preparing to embark on a new after-school initiative that will have them using their native tongue and an American curriculum to teach English, math, science and art in a preschool program for Chinese children.
“The experience so far has been great,” said Gannon, who arrived in China earlier this month. “It's still a bit overwhelming and very new; none of us have ever been in a city this big before.”
Despite the trepidation of living in a foreign country where English is not the primary language, the women are eagerly embracing this unique start to their teaching careers. Leanne Roberts, Ph.D., chair of Mercyhurst’s education department, says she has every confidence in them.
“Fortunately, with Mercyhurst’s strong liberal arts core, 80 or more hours of required discipline-specific coursework and more than 700 hours of diverse clinical experiences, just about all of our graduates are prepared to teach anywhere,” she said.
More importantly, graduates who are open minded and willing to go anywhere to teach typically find success in their fields, she added.
“Any experience in the classroom benefits a young teacher,” said Roberts. “Teaching in a different country is both a professional and personal opportunity. These three teachers will grow as individuals through their experiences. I anticipate that they will return with stories of great challenges and great successes.”
In addition to clinical and practicum requirements education students must complete before graduation, each of the three teachers has risen above and beyond to gain experience in the field. Specifically, Gannon worked for two summers with children as a camp counselor; Johnson has experience working with preschool-aged students at a day care; and Brown has dedicated her time working for Mercyhurst’s Carpe Diem Academy as well as volunteering at The Quality of Life Learning Center working with children of refugees.
“I have learned a lot in the classroom, but I feel like I learned much more when immersed in the schools,” said Brown. “At Mercyhurst, the professors are guiding you every step of the way, and the clinicals are something that have really paid off in terms of gaining experience working with kids.”
It isn’t “all work and no play” for these three. Sightseeing definitely tops their list of things to do during their temporary arrangement halfway around the world.
“This will be my first time outside of the United States, besides being on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls,” said Johnson. “It’s going to be an adventure.”
In addition to China, Mercyhurst students and graduates have also held teaching positions and internships in Haiti and Ireland.
“This is the direction we must head,” said Roberts. “We need to deliberately prepare our majors to be ready to educate not just in Pennsylvania, but also to people living in communities around the world. Today’s young teachers have to begin seeing the world as it really is — a global marketplace with global opportunities.”
PHOTO: (L-R) Jenna Gannon, Tawney Johnson, Shana Brown