Teacher and School Administrator Abroad WITH a Family

Jill's book about working in schools abroad with a family.
Jill’s book on working in schools abroad.

Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Jill Dobbe, a mother who is running a school in Honduras.

Jill, tell us about your background and how you got into teaching and school administration overseas with your family.

Jill: When I first began teaching overseas I took along my husband and two children. My husband and I were both teachers at the time and were both excited and interested in teaching overseas.

Our first experience abroad ended up to be Guam, which we had barely ever heard of before. We ended up packing up our things, including our children (a one and two year old), and from there, began a decade worth of teaching overseas in four countries: Guam, Singapore, Ghana, and Mexico.

Our children grew up overseas, completing all of their elementary years in different American and international overseas schools.

We hopped around a lot usually staying 2-3 years in one school. However, we did teach in Accra, Ghana, for five years and it was one of the best times for our family. I guess we wanted to see as much of the world and the different cultures as we could while we were abroad.

We actually never knew how long it would all last, and after 10 years of life overseas we did move back to Wisconsin, USA, for seven years. During that time, my husband and I taught in the Wisconsin public schools, while earning our Masters’ in Educational Leadership with the intent of going back overseas again one day, but as administrators. Enrolling and obtaining this Master’s degree allowed us to get back to traveling sooner than anticipated.

Jill's family at the Taj Majal in India in 2009.
Jill’s family at the Taj Majal in India in 2009.

TT: Fascinating! I had a wonderful time teaching in Ghana, too. Where in the world are you working now?

J: Since earning our Masters’, we have worked in Egypt, India, and presently Honduras, as school administrators.

Our children have also since completed college and our daughter will be returning to Honduras with us and will begin her overseas teaching career as a high school Biology/Health teacher at the American School of Tegucigalpa.

It will be exciting for us to have her as a colleague after all of her years as a student abroad. Our daughter has actually gone full circle!

In addition, this past year I wrote and published my first memoir on teaching and traveling overseas entitled, HERE WE ARE & THERE WE GO: Teaching and Traveling With Kids in Tow. After living and working in seven different countries I felt that I had a lot of good stories to tell others who were teaching overseas or thinking about it, especially those who wanted to take their kids along. I wanted to let them know that it can be done and it is truly amazing at how much one can learn through children’s eyes!

A dramatic statue seen in Jill's travels.
Jill and a statue in Egypt.

My book details stories of almost losing my children in the Plaka in Athens, Greece, my husband and son having guns pointed directly at them outside the presidential palace in Accra, Ghana, but also the happy times as we went on safari in South Africa, visited the night zoo in Singapore, and went diving in the Red Sea in Egypt.

TT: Wow! What impacted you the most while teaching overseas?

J: For me the most exciting parts of all of our travels was learning about and experiencing the different cultures we lived with.

The Chamorros of Guam was our first real experience living among another culture.

We learned all about the Chinese culture and their beliefs and superstitions in Singapore.

In Ghana we made everlasting friendships with our fellow Ghanaian teachers and travelled all over Ghana immersing ourselves in the Ghanaian way of life.

In Egypt, where we lived in the Middle East for the first time, we learned to respect the ways of the Muslim culture while we worked at a school that was predominately Muslim.

Also, as a result of becoming “citizens of the world,” our children learned to respect diversity and enjoyed friends from all parts of the world.

Today, with Facebook, they still continue to connect with their friends that they knew in elementary school in Ghana!

With an elephant friend in Rajasthan travel.
With an elephant friend in Rajasthan travel.

TT: Love it! How has all your traveling influenced your teaching?

J: During our seven year stint in Wisconsin between teaching abroad and becoming overseas administrators, I made sure that I brought back what I learned from all the cultures that I lived with in order to teach my students, school, and community about what I learned.

As a result, with the encouragement of the school and my colleagues, I developed and organized a school and community-wide multicultural fair that was held in the local community hall. During the day, classes were transformed into various “countries” and students visited the “countries” carrying their handmade passports.

Jill with colleagues in Honduras, where she leads a school.
Jill with colleagues in Honduras, where she leads a school.

In the evening the whole town came together and celebrated different cultures with international foods, crafts, regalia, and entertainment. It was an exciting opportunity for me to teach my students, the parents, and the community about the world around them.

TT: What are some of your most memorable moments during all your world travels?

J: In my memoir, I have written about many of our experiences that occurred while we lived abroad.

We experienced so many unique travel adventures that I have a hard time pinpointing which ones were the “best.”

I can say however, that they ran the gamut of feelings and emotions resulting in adventures that were scary, sad, downright crazy, and even quite hilarious at times (my memoir tells it all), especially the time my husband forced himself to eat a fat, white, squiggly grub, in order not to offend the villagers who offered it to him.

Would you like to see the world by teaching as Jill has?
Would you like to see the world by teaching as Jill has?

TT: Yikes! That’s dedication to cross-cultural understanding. So, what advice do you have for teachers who dream of travel, or travelers who dream of teaching?

J: Teachers who work overseas today have it so much easier than when my husband and I first went abroad.

I am giving my age away, but when we first went overseas there were no cell phones, no iPods, and no computers with internet access. There was just good old overseas snail mail and landlines with long distance service (that is, if the electricity was on and your phone was working).

Today with Skype and Facebook the world has become so much smaller and new teachers can keep in close contact with their families at home. Being far away isn’t so scary anymore!

Jill's life has been as colorful as this mosaic!
Jill’s life has been as colorful as this mosaic!

That is just one of the reasons that I always encourage teachers to try the overseas life and teaching abroad, even if it is for just one contract.

The experiences that you will have, the people you will meet, and the things that you will learn will last a lifetime and you will never regret it.

My advice is to DO IT!

TT: Thanks so much, Jill!

Stay tuned to her publisher, Orange Hat Publishing, about the release of Jill’s book.

Readers, what questions do you have for this world-traveling teacher and school administrator?

41 thoughts on “Teacher and School Administrator Abroad WITH a Family”

  1. hi Jilli,

    Your experience of teaching in various countries is worth to publish a book. you have got exposure to diversified cultures. Fantastic.

    I am Mr. Prashantt Mhatre from India, I have done Graduation in science, Post-graduation in science, Post-graduation in Business Administration.

    I am with exp. of Administration and Marketing and Branding in Education sector for 10 yr plus. To capitalize it’s best leverage, which place is ideal for me to look for job?

    I am veg. by diet.

  2. Hi Jill my name is Mitzi and Im from Chile, I teach English to teenagers but I have experience teaching kids and adults too. I want to teach in another country I want my kids to have the opportunity to travel, learn about different cultures and languages they are 1 and 5. Here in Chile it is very difficult to travel we dont earn enough money to do that, everything is expensive. I wanted to apply to VIF but they told me that i had a little boy who is not going to school and a nanny it is too expensive so they told me that it’s better to Wait. My husband is a driver instructor and he doesn’t speak english so I know that i can be difficult for us. But i know that he can learn, it will be very difficult but we can do it. When i read your story it was very motivating for me, but the advantage is that you both are teachers. Thanks Jill for sharing your experience as a teacher abroad. I hope one day I can move with my family and teach in USA. thanks again and God bless you.

    • Thank you Mitzi.!Chile is a place that I hope to visit someday. All the best to you and I hope that someday you will get to teach in the U.S. or somewhere else. Follow your dream whatever it takes.

  3. HI JIll!

    I’ve just come across your site and am even more excited. My husband is a middle/high school English teacher in the states. He has worked at an IB school in CO before we moved to WI for me to finish grad school. I am a nurse working on my nurse practitioner degree. We have one child and I am pregnant with our second. We are planning on pursuing an international school experience in the next two years. My husband has always wanted to do this and we are almost in a place where the dream can be a reality. I am just wondering about opportunity for families and such? I know it seems as though teaching spouses or singles are preferred but I think as a nurse and a teacher we would be able to figure things out and have a great deal to offer.
    Just wanted to get an opinion from an expert. Thanks so much.
    Jen and Matt Crowe

    • Hi Jen-

      Thanks for connecting. I am sure that there are teaching jobs out there for your husband and he will have to find out if it is affordable to bring along a non-teaching spouse. Every country is different and sometimes work visas for non-teaching spouses are hard to get. Usually child care in your home is easy to find and schools will often give free tuition to one child per teacher. The best times to look for overseas jobs is December-February and there are many recruiting fairs held during those months.

      Best of luck to you both and I hope you are able to pursue the life of working internationally.

      Jill Dobbe

  4. Hi Jill,

    What great experiences you have had! My daughter just graduated from UWEC and is at an international hiring fair as we speak. She is considering an offer from a bilingual elementary school in Tegucigalpa. I am a parent who has not traveled in Central America and am trying not to worry too much about safety issues for my daughter. Any helpful thoughts?!


    • Hi Diana:
      If your daughter is interviewing with the American School of Tegucigalpa then she will be perfectly safe. That is the school that my husband, my daughter and I are all at. My husband and I have been here for four years now and plan to stay a while longer. Is your daughter an elementary teacher? I am the elementary assistant principal and I know that we are hiring two positions. My husband is the high school assistant principal and I know they are hiring also.

      If your daughter wants to email me with questions I will be happy to answer any. If she is applying for a school in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, then I would worry.


      P.S. Sorry Diana, I just read your email again. If she is interviewing with our school then she will love it. We have a lot of young single female teachers who will take her under their wing and our elementary is awesome.

  5. Hi Jill. Your page here was/is very inspiring for me. I am currently on the search for a job overseas myself. Preferably somewhere in a spanish speaking country, as I am well versed in the language. I am finding it quite difficult to locate a position in a school having a two year old son. His father passed away last year and now that I have finished my schooling, (bachelors in TESL) I am eager and excited to take my son to a new culture. Do you have any tips on how to even go about locating a job overseas with a child? Every time I send off an email with my CV and explain that I have a child, I seem to get no feedback or feedback saying that it is nearly impossible to find a job with my circumstances. It was my partners and my dream to travel and teach as a family, now that he is no longer with us, I am fulfilling this goal by myself, for the both of us… all three of us. I appreciate any advice on this matter. Thank you so much!

    • Hi Amber-
      Thanks for getting in touch. First off, I am surprised to hear that you are not getting any responses, but then again different schools have different expectations. I am at an American school in Honduras and we often hire teachers with children. What may be holding you back is that a lot of schools (ours included) hire TESL teachers locally and they tend to not get paid a whole lot. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t jobs out there for you on the overseas circuit. As far as your son goes, some schools have their own daycares where teachers bring their children and oftentimes it is easy to hire maids and nannies.

      Here are some good websites that you can try: http://www.tieonline.com, http://www.searchassociates, http://www.uni.edu, http://www.iss.edu.

      Keep looking and best of luck!


  6. Hi Jill,
    I am looking at your post from 2012, so I don’t know if you are still responding or if you are up-to-date on how to best get jobs abroad these days. My husband and I are teachers in the US for over 10 years. He is Math and I am Elementary. We are looking for a life changing experience for us and for our 3 children. (9, 12, 14) They have been immersed in this video game ridden, disrespectful television society long enough. We would like to take them abroad to a safe place, with housing and healthcare, but with a (not so technological) culture so that they can appreciate that there is more in life. We also love teaching, but need a fresh challenge. Are these things what you experienced? Is there a place you recommend or a recruiter/website? Maybe we are in for more technology, more disrespectful kids, and less positive, growing experiences. Hoping you might know:)

    • Hi Sherylann:

      You and your husband are a good match for teaching overseas. There always seem to be math and elementary positions open. In fact, my supt. is heading for the overseas fair in Iowa in a couple of weeks and we have openings next year for both! My husband and I are in our 4th year at the American School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We love it here despite the media giving it a bad rap. The school has lots of activities (clubs, sports, music) for kids, there are places to hike, and we are learning Spanish. The downfall might be the salaries, which won’t be as high as the U.S, however we have been able to save a lot of money while working here. Let me know if you are interested and I can pass your resumes on to my supt.

      Also, there are good overseas websites out there that you can check out and join. They hold fairs all over the world and the good ones are just starting now: http://www.searchassociates.com, http://www.iss.edu, http://www.uni.edu.

      Best of luck! We have been overseas for 20 years now and can’t even think about working in the U.S. again. In fact, my daughter is now an overseas teacher and teaching at our school.


    • Thank you Jill. Would we need to get our TEFL or TESOL? Is that something we should be working on. Is your country a safe place, accepting of Americans?

      • Sherylann, yes, they love Americans in Honduras! It is an American school and all English, however most students are Hondurans and also speak Spanish. There is no need for TEFL or TESOL. We have a lot of teachers coming with no Spanish (my husband and me included) and we take classes or learn on our own. Also, FYI, there is a large American embassy here and our foreign hire teachers come from Canada and the U.S.

        Hope this helps!


          • Yes, your kids would be enrolled in our school and they would get special Spanish classes. All other classes are taught in Spanish. We have pre-K up to grade five in the elementary.

            What grades are your kids in?

  7. Hi there Jill,

    I read your story and find you very inspirational. I am a primary school teacher and a mother of two small girls and am currently in the process of trying to find a position teaching abroad. I had a conversation with an online recruitment firm this morning who said that because I want to bring my husband and children with me that I am unlikely to get offered many opportunities. I was feeling very disheartened until I read your story. I will keep going until I achieve my dream of teaching abroad.

    • Hi Annie:

      I am glad that my story helped you feel better. There are opportunities out there for you even with a husband and kids. For one thing, if you teach in a field that is more sought after you will find positions. Also, in places like Latin and South America and the Middle East you might have a better chance. Most schools give free tuition for one school-aged child per teacher. A lot of times there are opportunities to tutor, also.

      Keep trying and don’t give up hope. All the best to you.


      • Thanks so much for the advice. Since I posted this comment I have been notified that I have been short listed for 3 jobs in South East Asia so fingers crossed the recruitment firm I spoke to we’re wrong!

        Best wishes

        • Annie~ my fingers and toes are crossed! I know how it feels to want something so badly. Being short-listed for THREE positions sounds very lucky. Please let me know where you end up going (a chapter in my book is about living in Singapore); you will love SE Asia!

  8. Jill,
    Thank you for sharing your family adventures. I just received your book today and have been enjoying your Guam adventure immensely. I have a family with two girls ages 2 and 4 yrs. I am finishing up my Liberal Studies degree with a TESOL concentration and I am writing my senior TESOL paper on the possibilities of teaching English abroad with a family. I have been searching for a TEFL, TESOL family abroad to interview and was happy to find this site as it has lots of great interviews. If you feel up-to-it, I’d appreciate it if you could answer any of my interview questions or share anything related. Thank you very much and have a pleasant day.
    – Briefly describe your abroad experience
    o Location? How did you select the location?
    o Duration
    o Occupation abroad
    – What was your motivation for moving abroad? Personal? Professional?
    – Did you move alone? If you did not move with a family, did you meet anyone in your program that had moved with a family?
    – What were the main logistical challenges you experienced before and during your trip?
    o Housing? Healthcare? Finding a job? Finding a place to live? Others
    o How did you address them?
    – From your perspective, what would be the greatest challenge of doing a TEFL, TESOL, ESL “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” program with a family?
    o Are these challenges surmountable?
    – Looking back on the experience, what are some things you know now that you wish you would have known going into it?
    – Would you do this experience with a family? What do you see as the pros and cons

    • Hi David~
      Thanks so much for buying my book. You should be able to relate well to some of my kids’ antics in the book since yours now are the same age as mine were then. Since you bought my book I am more than happy to help you out (just kidding, I would have done it anyway).
      I am now living and working in my 7th country. I have been working at an American school in Honduras as an elementary administrator for three years now. My husband and I came here when our two children were still in college in Wisconsin. Prior to Honduras we were in Egypt and then India, but wanted to be closer to them, at least in the same hemisphere.
      We first moved abroad in 1991 when our two children were still babies. My husband and I were both teachers and enjoyed travel. I started looking into teaching overseas and we ended up at a hiring fair and that’s where we interviewed with administrators from Guam. We first moved overseas during the years before technology. There were no computers, internet, cell phones, etc. so it was a challenge to communicate with our families back in Wisconsin, mail things home, settle banking issues, etc.
      Overseas contracts most often provide furnished housing, flights to and from home, resigning bonuses, and free tuition for children. If only one spouse is an educator it can be difficult living on one salary. Also, building a retirement savings is usually all on your own as most schools do not have retirement.
      I am very thankful that we took our children overseas when they were young. They experienced so much and continue to travel now that they are adults. My daughter is now an overseas teacher with us and my son is in medical school. They both speak Spanish and continue to travel extensively.

      Best of luck with your certification David. Let me know if you need any more information. I highly recommend the lifestyle of overseas teaching.

      Jill Dobbe

  9. Hi everyone…I stumbled across your website and am hoping you can point me in the right direction. I retired from the US Air Force four years ago and went into teaching. I have a degree and certification in Elementary Education with some endorsements for middle school math and English. I am starting my Master’s and will have it finish in May 2014. I have a daughter who is 14 and will be starting her Sophmore year this fall. I would really love to teach overseas and my daughter wants to come. Where do I start looking for organizations/companies which will accept my daughter while I teach? Also, what other certifications do you recommend? I would love any advice on how to get started. Thank you.

    • Hi Roxanne,
      I recommend going to one of the overseas hiring fairs and the best ones usually take place in Jan/Feb. Check out these websites: http://www.iss.edu and http://www.searchassociates.com.

      All schools need elementary teachers and since you are getting your Master’s you won’t have any problems finding jobs. Also, overseas schools usually pay tuition for one dependent per teacher. Just focus on what part of the world you want to go to.

      Have you tried the Dept. of Defense Schools, yet? Since you were in the Air Force I believe that you would be hired right away.

      Best of luck to you and your daughter!

      Jill Dobbe

  10. Hi! I am just now completing my TESOL certification online but I have ZERO teaching experience. I do have a Bachelor of Arts but it is in Media Studies with a concentration in Media Writing and a minor in dance. I would really like to teach abroad (and my husband would too, but he does not have a college degree), preferably in Europe but wouldn’t mind South America, Asia or a few other places. I’m very open! I have a 10 month old son and that seems to be the hardest part. We would have to be able to afford to put him in daycare or have my husband stay home with him. Could you email me some suggestions of companies to look into? Any information on where to look or how to get the process started would be greatly appreciated! I love to travel and my goal is to go to every continent and TRY to make it to every country at least once. I know teaching abroad would be the perfect life for me and I’d love my son to experience multiple cultures and grow up very open minded. My email is kkarambelas@gmail.com. Thanks in advance!!

  11. Hi Whitney, your advice to Julia is right on. As far as educating our children, we always had them with us and I actually taught both of them when we were in Ghana. As you look around for other overseas teaching positions you will see that most schools allow one child’s tuition per teacher. Our two children were enrolled for free in each school we were at because both my husband and I taught. In Singapore actually, they were both to young for our school so we enrolled them in a local daycare and it was fantastic for them. They even learned to sing songs in Mandarin Chinese. Also, after teaching for 10 years Dan and I went back to the U.S. and got our MA’s in Educational Leadership and experience as principals. We then went back overseas as principals. That worked for us, but many schools also have professional development opportunities and will even pay for your schooling. It is also more acceptable now to earn a Master’s online if your husband wants to go that route. Schools love couples and you both sound like you have enough experience and varied educational interests that will work in a lot of schools.

    I hope that I helped a little. There are so many schools out there. Maybe pick an area where you want to go then look at their schools to see what their openings are.

    Best of luck! I hope you enjoy the book and it was great hearing from you!

  12. Jill, thank you so much for your story and your life. This is awesome. I, too, am living abroad with a young child; my son was born in Taiwan in 2010. My husband and I are both English teachers, and somehow we make it work. We’re getting to the point where we will have to start thinking about schooling for our son in the next couple of years, as well as what comes next for us career-wise. How did you manage to keep your children educated while you moved to several different countries? Was it difficult to get them registered? Aren’t American and international schools abroad expensive? I’m sure your book will be full of advice and stories on that subject, but I’d be grateful for some input. I would also be grateful for input regarding what direction to go in after such experiences. My husband is probably more interested in leadership and education law, politics, etc., while I am still interested in teaching, librarianship, writing and development.

    To Julia in Brazil, you are not alone with your concerns. I will echo what Jill said and check out international job fairs. I would also suggest talking to your school about possible opportunities, and maybe doing a “test-run” with your son and volunteering abroad for the summer, to see if this is something you both want to do together. Keep in mind, some countries are more open to hiring teachers with dependents than others. We found in our experience that Taiwan was such a place. Just get out there, ask questions, don’t be afraid to continue looking at this as a great opportunity for you and your son. Good luck to you, and we’re all here for you! :)

    • HI , Whitney!!

      Thank you very much as well for your warm words!! I would like so much to live in another country teaching and in peace with my son. I have a very good career in Brazil. I have my own place, job and a good wage as a private teacher. It´s not cause of money …since I ´m without my parents and now with just my son, I try to find in life reasons to go on. It was very hard to me to learn how to live without them, now, I´m fine about it, but sometimes or to be true, almost everyday I pray to God wishing something very good could happen to me. As they were alived I could not live abroad because i was the onle one who had taken care of them. Now, I can go, I can move, but i´m not so young anymore. I´m 36. Life is not an adventure anymore and I ´m responsible for my son. I can´t move without a certain wage to get montly…it´s much more difficult to live abroad than before, but it´s somehow possible now. I´ll keeping searching about. If it´s to be mine, mine it will be.
      kisses from Brazil

  13. Hi!!!

    I´m an English teacher in Brazil. I graduated in Languages by Itaúna University in the state of Minas Gerais in my country in 1998. Since then I have taught English to children, teenagers and adults. I have divorced for 4 years and I have a son. he´s 8. As my parents have died for over 6 years, my son is all I have. We live alone in our own apartament in a small city in Minas Gerais state in Brazil. For many years I have thought about living abroad. But as a single mother now with no one to support me I don´t know if it´s possible and secure for us to move abroad to work.
    Please, maybe this site could be the answer why I turned on my computer today. It´s almost midnight here, and i could not sleep cause i was trying to figure out a different and exciting experience for my son and me!!!
    Please, help me!!


  14. thank you so much for giving me hope on finding a teaching experience for our family! we want to teach abroad but feel lost when trying to find teaching situations that accept families. we have 2 young boys and i dream of living the life you have lived! my husband has a masters in adaptive special ed and and undergrad in history & education. he has been teaching for 7 years in the us public school system. here in the us he is in high demand as a teacher but we would need to be supported as a family overseas. i too have a bachelors degree in business administration but would be find staying home caring for the kids and/or homeschooling. do you have any suggestions as to where to start, how to find resources, etc? please feel free to email me info lkmorford@embarqmail.com


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