Teacher comes from London to teach at New Salem Elementary
For Emma White, becoming an international educator was somewhat of an accident. But it was the beginning of a step in the right direction that ultimately brought the English teacher to New Salem Elementary.
White had been teaching at the same school in northeast England for six years and was ready for a change when she received a piece of her neighbor’s mail by mistake. The mail was from Visiting International Faculty, an organization that provides international educators an opportunity to teach in the United States.
“I wanted to travel, and I have an occupation that you can travel with,” White said. “I found out about VIF and, you know, it gives me an opportunity to go to another English-speaking country with the help and support with getting visas and things like that.”
From 2006-2009, White spent three years in America as a VIF instructor, teaching in Miami for one year and at Winding Springs Elementary in north Charlotte for two years. She subsequently returned to England to teach in London until last fall.
As part of a countywide initiative to enhance global learning within the schools, New Salem Elementary principal Neil Hawkins decided to participate in the VIF Global Gateway program during the 2011-2012 school year. Through a series of Skype and phone interviews, Hawkins selected White to be the school’s VIF teacher.
“Ms. White brings a strong teaching background along with her warm and caring personality,” Hawkins said. “She is a very hard worker, skilled in technology and working with a variety of learning styles. New Salem is very fortunate to have such a qualified international educator as part of our instructional team.”
When White learned of the opportunity to teach at a school in Marshville, she immediately knew it was the right decision for her. “I didn’t want to stay long-term in London,” White said. “Another opportunity with VIF came up before an opportunity at home, and (at first), I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I want to go.’ And then I heard about (it) being in Union County, and it was so close to where I was before, and I said, ‘That’s it! I want to try that.’”
Through teaching at the different schools, White has gained experience working with a wide range of demographics. The schools in London and Miami were both culturally diverse, with almost all of her students in Miami being Cuban and over 40 different cultures being represented at the London school. Other schools, like New Salem and the school in Northeast England, have brought a smaller city or rural perspective.
In the classroom, White puts her global perspective into practice with various activities pertaining to all subjects. She displays posters listing British terminologies and their American counterparts, so when she asks the children to put on their “Wellingtons,” they know she means “rain boots.”
White also incorporates international culture into literature, through reading about the Chinese New Year, and geography, through sharing maps she has collected during her travels and comparing and contrasting mountainous and costal regions of North Carolina to those of the United Kingdom.
“(The children) enjoy it,” White said. “They kind of see that as just something else they’re learning right now. They don’t see it as ‘this is something special.’ This is part of their learning.”
For White, the two main differences between teaching here and teaching in the U.K. are the structure of the day and the travel. School starts at 9 a.m. in England and is done by 3:30 p.m. Here, she has to be at school by 7 a.m., often arriving before the sun rises.
While early-to-rise isn’t necessarily a change White loves, she enjoys the drive to and from work much more than in London, where she would be traveling less than half the distance but in a greater amount of time, due to the traffic.
“I actually quite like the drive,” White said. “It’s much nicer than driving in London. It’s very different. You’re kind of keeping your eye out for deer instead of watching crazy people pushing in front of you or dodging buses. It’s quite pretty, too.”
Another aspect of American schools that White enjoys is having breaks while the students are at special classes, such as art, music and P.E. In England, there are no instructors for these classes, so each teacher must incorporate these subjects into the classroom curriculum.
Like other VIF teachers before her, White’s favorite thing about teaching in America is the opportunity to travel to different places, especially New Orleans, an “amazing city” that has been her favorite place since the first time she visited it in 2009.
But, of course, she misses her friends and family back home more than anything. “And maybe English