Canadian teacher on country number five

Nicole Adams brings rich global perspective to Rocky River second graders

by Josh Whitener

Nicole Adams, right, encourages her students to think globally. Josh Whitener/UCW photo

MONROE – Nicole Adams always wanted to be a teacher, but little did she know she would get the chance to teach in five different countries on four different continents.

After teaching in England, Uganda, New Zealand and Canada, the native of Trenton, Ontario, is bringing a rich global perspective to her second-grade students at Rocky River Elementary.

Adams first spent time overseas studying in Australia as an exchange student while working on her teaching degree, followed by a visit to England. Because teaching jobs in Canada are hard to find, Adams decided to apply to teach in England and spent two years there as an international educator.

Following three months of volunteer work in South Africa, Adams secured a teaching job at an international school in Uganda. For two years, Adams taught students of more than 50 different nationalities, including diplomats’ children and children of high-class Ugandan families.

“That was just so cool to have kids from all over the world,” Adams said.

Subsequently, she spent another two years teaching in New Zealand, which she loved.

In 2010, Adams returned to Canada and taught for one year at a school on an Indian reservation – the only teaching job available.

After a trying year dealing with difficult students, Adams applied to the Visiting International Faculty program. She considered working as a VIF teacher several years prior, but due to the poor economy, the program was not accepting any new teachers at the time. Fortunately, Union County was bringing in a wave of VIF teachers for the 2011-12 school year, which led Adams to Rocky River Elementary.

“I’d gone off to all around the world, but I hadn’t really explored much in North America,” she said. “It was time to start seeing a little closer to home, so I gave the States a shot.”

After experiencing so many different cultures, coming to America was fairly easy. But she had to adapt to using a stricter curriculum and less inquiry-based learning.

In her previous teaching experiences, Adams incorporated more projects and interactive learning in the classroom, as opposed to the heavy emphasis on testing here in the States.

Based on her experiences, Adams believes the inquiry-based learning is more effective and would like to see more of that incorporated into American education. “(In the States), it’s test, test, test, and not every kid does well on a test,” she said.

Having taught virtually all elementary school subjects, Adams tries to incorporate a little bit of global learning into each different subject. Her students have adopted Australia as their country to study for the year. They’ve compared landforms of different countries and continents. They’ve also worked on their language arts skills through reading postcards from their “traveling friend” (several of Adams’s contacts throughout the world who send postcards from their own country).

“We’re not trying to do something big and huge on top of something else, but trying to take what we’re already having to do and just bring the global (perspective) into it,” Adams said.

Adams said she has thoroughly enjoyed the North Carolina weather and being close to the mountains and the beach. An avid hiker, she frequently drives 40 minutes to hike at Crowder’s Mountain, and has enjoyed playing on a soccer league.

The thing that has impressed Adams the most about education in North Carolina is the dedication the teachers show to their students and their job.

“Teachers here work harder than I’ve ever seen teachers work anywhere,” she said.

Adams plans to return to Canada at the end of the school year. Although she isn’t sure what the future has in store, she undoubtedly will take what she learned here in the States wherever she goes next.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “I’m glad I came for that, and for the people I met.”

Featuring our Visiting International Faculty
Union County Weekly is shining the spotlight on some of our school’s teachers taking part in the Visiting International Faculty program. Teachers from across the world can join the program and be placed at a school in the U.S. for a few years as part of a cultural exchange for both teachers and students.

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