Let’s start at the very beginning…

Even though we are not leaving for Tirana until next week, I decided to go ahead and write my first blog post now.  I want to make sure it all works okay plus I may not have much time to figure it out when we arrive in Albania.

Several people have asked how this international teaching position came about so I thought I would start by giving some background.  Many years ago when I first started teaching at Dudley School in Fairport, there was a kindergarten teacher from London teaching at our school for the year while the Dudley School teacher was teaching in London.  I remember thinking that some day I wanted to do something similiar.

The first person I ran the idea by was Randy.  He said he would be up for a temporary move especially since he is now retired. He also said that 25 years ago I was willing to move to Rochester for his job so he was now up to move with me.  Sweet husband!  After that I met with the FCSD director of human resources and asked if taking some time off from Fairport to teach internationally would be a possibility.  She said I could take a one year leave of absence and then come back and ask for another year, if I wanted to do so.

Last summer the search was on to find a job.  I ended up working with an organization called International Schools Services.  I chose them because they have been helping teachers find international jobs for 50 years and they were very responsive when I emailed them with questions.  They maintain a database of teachers looking for international jobs and another database for international schools looking for teachers.  I filled out a very detailed and time consuming electronic portfolio including my resume, references, transcripts, etc. and submitted it.

In November, 2017 Albanian College  contacted me for a Skype interview.  I had no idea where Albania was and was not sure I wanted to do the interview.  I decided the interview would be good experience so I went ahead and talked to the principal (who happened to be from Australia) of the primary school.  After talking to her, I felt much more enthused about the possibility of teaching in Albania.  She described Albania as safe, cheap, beautiful and it was satisfying to help a country blossom after communist rule.

Originally, I had hoped to teach in a Western European country however I have no experience teaching in an International Baccalaureate school which made those positions too competitive for me.  Also, many of these schools do not provide the perks that Albanian College provides i.e. a housing allowance, a settling in stipend, airfare to and from Albania, etc.

In February, 2018 I attended a four day long international job fair in NYC.  This time I interviewed face-to-face with an administrator from Albanian College (AC).  They offered me a contract to teach first grade and I accepted.   AC is a new school that was established four years ago.  Almost all of my teaching career has been in special education but AC have not yet established a special education program.   Although I will be teaching 1st grade they did express interest in having me consult regarding children with special needs.  The school has about 450 students with a staff of 60.  All of their teachers are hired from English speaking countries (i.e. Australia, the UK, Canada, the USA, etc.) I will be teaching 15 first graders who primarily speak Albanian.  An Albanian assistant will be in the classroom to translate as needed.  It is an International Baccalaureate curriculum that will be taught in English so that the children will pick up on English as the school year progresses.

Randy and I are flying out of Rochester on Tuesday, August 14th to JFK.  We then have a 10 hour flight to Istanbul followed 7 hours later by a 1 1/2 hour flight to Tirana.  New teacher training starts on August 20th.  School starts on September 3rd.  I can’t wait to get started!

Some of you have already seen these links but in case you have not, I want to share them here.

This link is a 7 minute video about the country of Albania in general.  https://www.facebook.com/UneJetoj/videos/1132636080086042/

This link is to Albanian College where I will be teaching.  http://actirana.edu.al/index.php

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The pictures above were taken right after I signed my Albanian teaching contract at the international job fair in NYC last February.

If you are still reading I want you to know that I promise that most of my blog posts will not be nearly this long.  I just wanted to give you some background about how all of this came about.

My next post will be coming from Albania!  Thanks so much for your interest in this adventure!

16 thoughts on “Let’s start at the very beginning…

  1. You are amazing, Sarah! The school is so lucky to have you; you will change their world in the most wonderful way! Can’t wait to experience your new life through your blog. Safe travels:)


    1. Kim, thanks for your encouraging comments! Good luck in your new setting this year. Although it is not exactly where you want to be teaching I am sure you will have a great year!


  2. Sarah, I love this blog so much already & am looking forward to your updates! Best wishes, as you embark on your exciting new adventure. Your future students and their families don’t know how lucky they are (yet). Ann P.


  3. Sarah, I’m so thrilled you’re taking on this exciting adventure! Those children and that entire school will definitely benefit from your presence. I can’t wait to follow all of this! I so admire both you and Randy for following this desire of yours!


  4. I love this blog so much already & am looking forward to following along with your adventures. Your future students & families don’t know how lucky they are (yet). I eagerly await your next post from Albania!


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