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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?

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Prashantt Mhatre

Friday 13th of May 2016

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.

Mitzi

Saturday 18th of July 2015

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.

Jill Dobbe

Monday 20th of July 2015

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.

Jen Crowe

Wednesday 4th of March 2015

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

Jill Dobbe

Monday 9th of March 2015

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

Diana

Friday 30th of January 2015

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?!

Diana

Jill

Saturday 31st of January 2015

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.

Jill

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.

Amber

Thursday 22nd of January 2015

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!

Jill Dobbe

Friday 23rd of January 2015

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: www.tieonline.com, www.searchassociates, www.uni.edu, www.iss.edu.

Keep looking and best of luck!

Jill

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