Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

Student Experiences: Queen's TORF Launched my International Career

December 12, 2018
By: Sarah Taylor

My name is Sarah Taylor and I am a former Queen's Concurrent Education grad who grew up in the charming city of Kingston, Ontario. Having attended university in my hometown, I was always itching to experience the world of international education and haven't looked back since.

The Abundance of Opportunities Abroad

For the past seven years, I have been living in Brussels, Belgium teaching Middle School English at the International School of Brussels. One of my favourite aspects of working alongside my grade 7s, 8s, and 9s is watching them develop their own voices as writers as they learn to borrow author’s craft inspiration from the varied voices we read and analyze. Our school has a visiting authors and artists program, which has afforded us many opportunities for students and teachers to work alongside experienced authors. This has led to meaningful professional development for me, as it allows me to continuously reflect on my practice and pedagogy and look for ways to make student learning more authentic and meaningful.

Maasai Mara, Kenya April 2017
Inveraray Castle, Scotland (Oct. 30, 2018)

I am also very humbled by fact that I am teaching in a school community that is home to 70+ different nationalities, all with their own rich history and culture. Since 2013, I have also been fortunate enough to take on a leadership role as coordinator for our Personal Learning advisory program. The program focuses on: (1) the social-emotional development of our middle school students (2) service learning and our responsibility to recognize our privilege and act as engaged and empowered global citizens (3) giving time for students to develop passions or build off of existing skills and interests by participating in modules led by both teachers and students. My roles in the classroom, as an advisor, program coordinator, and JV girls coach have been instrumental in my professional growth and passion for learning.

Building your International Network

I am currently pursuing my M.Ed by correspondence and when I'm not reading student essays or writing my own, you'll find me globetrotting through Europe, Africa, or Asia. The international teaching scene is an established network of professionals and you’ll find the more time you spend in it or venture to conferences and workshops, the smaller it becomes and the more connections you are able to make with teachers from schools on a variety of continents with a shared passion for education. Though the leap into international education seemed a bit intimidating when I took my first stride in 2012, on the other side of the pond you will find a plethora of people with similar stories. Life post Faculty of Education days has been good to me and I'm looking forward to many more adventures to come.

Sarah and friend at the International School of Brussels Library
Cape Town, South Africa-- Hoops4Hope service learning trip with 16 9th-12th graders

Utilizing Queen's TORF and Career Services

Of course, my pathway might have looked a lot different if it weren’t for Queen's Career Services at Duncan McArthur. In particular, the professional guidance and experience of Elspeth Morgan and the late Alan Travers were instrumental in my leap into international teaching. In preparation for Teachers' Overseas Recruiting Fair (TORF) 2012, I did my research. I knew which schools would consider hiring novice teachers and researched their mission statements, curriculum, and demographics to see if I would be a good fit. In preparation, I attended the information sessions Elspeth held in advance of TORF weekend at the end of January. Elspeth and Alan, along with other members of staff, were there to offer their expertise and advice when it came to discussing the interview process and contractual agreements. Little did I know at the time, the keynote speaker who opened the fair on Friday evening would later become my boss of seven years and counting. Truthfully, it is about finding the right fit for yourself and Brussels has been it for me, so at the end of the TORF weekend in January of 2012, I found myself in the land of chocolate, waffles, and frites and haven’t looked back since. I sincerely wish all future TORF participants a very meaningful professional experience and advise you to be open-minded about where your best fit could be. It could be at TORF 2019 that your adventures abroad begin...