Curious about teaching abroad? Learn from a top job placement and teaching fair agency about how!
Teaching Traveling: Let’s welcome Jessica Magagna, CEO of Search Associates! Jessica, what is Search Associates, and how does it work?
Jessica: Hello! The company was founded in 1990 by my father, John Magagna, who has been an educator for over fifty years. It comprises a team of experts in international education who have independent offices around the globe.
The offices are coordinated centrally by an executive team. In addition to hosting annual and semi-annual job fairs in various regions, Senior Associates and their staff help SEARCH-member administrators and teachers connect with international schools. Likewise, SEARCH helps member schools find perfect candidates for vacancies.
We also have our Senior Consultants who assist schools with new Head of School appointments, travel to international schools to support and/or train Heads and Boards in governance, strategic planning, financial management, and conflict resolution, to name a few.
SEARCH works with over 800 carefully-vetted, active member schools in 125 countries through a network of 20+ global offices. This reach gives us the ability to quickly identify and support our school recruiters in finding outstanding teachers and leaders at all levels, with experience in different school systems and curricula, different nationalities, and from all backgrounds.
Our “clients” are well taken care of! Our database/website searchassociates.com houses all registered candidates and school profile details.
Candidates can conduct customized searches and receive daily updates about vacancies matching their needs and our Senior Associates provide invaluable personal support to both schools and candidates. Before being accepted by SEARCH, all candidates and schools undergo a rigorous vetting and application process that ensures quality on both sides.
TT: Wow! What are the main factors that have contributed to the growth and success of Search Associates for over 30 years?
J: There are so many. When he initially began the enterprise, my father invited former colleagues with two to three decades of experience in teaching and administration as well as roles in school accreditation to become Senior Associates.
Next, his focus from the start was on the quality of teachers, something he was never willing to compromise on. And from the start, he made it a priority that Associates visit member schools abroad regularly and attend as many regional educational conferences as possible in order to remain abreast of the latest in education and news in the regions and at our schools.
He knew that without keeping current with things we were not in a strong position to advise our candidates. At the same time, my father believed strongly in the Personal Touch. Those are the pillars of our success. Leaving one’s country to work overseas deserves 360 degrees of support; that’s what we have always believed.
TT: The year 2020 certainly was a challenging time globally and in the U.S.—where you’re headquartered—in every aspect of life. How did SEARCH help its customers during this difficult time?
J: First and foremost, our Personal Touch has never changed. Each member of the Senior Associate team is available to answer all questions and seek information for anxious candidates ranging from providing information about a school, advising on job fairs, brainstorming job offers, and much more.
Like many agencies in the world of international education, we tried our best to be a hub of reliable information. Another important endeavor, after the events of 2020, was to launch our SEARCH Virtual Job Fairs. In 2020-2021, we hosted six Virtual Fairs, most of which were Global, with one focused on China and one on Latin America.
The global Black Lives Matter Movement compelled us to begin our journey of improvement in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). One action we wanted to take was to provide a safe space for our Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) candidates to share their stories.
We hosted six listening circles to provide a forum for people across the globe to express their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives about their experience with Search Associates, with their schools, and with the broader international school community. The talks prompted our outline of strategic goals for change within our agency and as influencers in the world of international education. For more on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals, please read here.
TT: So important. How has the international education landscape changed over the past ten years and where is it going?
J: The past ten years have seen many more international schools open which serve to educate host country nationals. Bilingual education has also become very popular. The fastest growth of such types of schools has occurred in Asia, China in particular.
Asia now contributes to over half of our international school hires, and we anticipate that this trend will only grow. All this means is that there are many more opportunities for overseas teachers and administrators. In reflection of this change, about two years ago, SEARCH invited Ms. Xiaohang Sumner to join the team as Senior Associate. She hosts job fairs in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Additionally, in the past five years, recruiters and school administrators alike have tightened protocols for the screening and hiring of international educators with a sharp focus on child safety. Search Associates, together with other recruitment agencies and leading international schools, served on the International Task Force for Child Protection that released a rigorous set of guidelines for schools and recruitment agencies to adopt.
The last 15 months have, of course, been challenging as schools and teachers around the world have grappled with the changed circumstances, but we are confident that in the next 18 months or so, the positive trend of the growth in international schools and the need for teachers will resume.
TT: What changes and improvements have you been focusing on in recent years?
J: Our SEARCH family has expanded to include a multi-national team of Associates, Consultants, and support staff with global experience. Many of my colleagues have a tremendous breadth of knowledge of international education, having served as educators and heads of school for many years. They have a range of experience in both non-profit and for-profit educational settings around the world, with a variety of specialty areas, knowledge, and geographic expertise.
In addition, we are constantly upgrading our website to make school and candidate searches more efficient and for each to find the perfect match with the other. The footprint of our job fairs has also expanded, and we now run 14 fairs around the world (with some modifications created by the pandemic) which are highly sought after by both teachers and schools and known as the gold standard in the international community.
TT: This year so much of the world’s work—including teaching—was done remotely and digitally. Do you anticipate that this will significantly change the landscape of the international school industry and how you work in the future?
J: While we realize just how much can be accomplished digitally, we know, more than ever, the profound need for in-person, human connection. Sure, candidates can seek and land jobs strictly by solely using searchassociates.com, Zoom, Skype, and emails or calls to their Associates, but time and again, our candidates and schools have told us that attending job fairs has been invaluable.
These affirming, exhilarating, enriching experiences allowed candidates to meet their Senior Associate and staff in person as well as many schools and new friends and colleagues, in just a few days. We also know from candidate testimonies how deeply our teachers miss being with their students and how much their students suffered from separation from their peers.
The same goes for regional educational conferences: teachers and administrators need the rejuvenation and enrichment of gathering with their compadres in-person for professional development and social events. If the question is 100% virtual moving forward? We say no way!
That being said, the world of education is now well-prepared to face similar crises should they happen down the road. In the crucible, we upgraded our technical skills and school infrastructures for health and safety tenfold. Teachers have said that they have added wonderful things to their technical toolbox, which will continue to serve them.
TT: As a leading recruitment agency, what has been your response to the recent emphasis on inclusion and social justice in all professions and walks of life?
J: In 2020, Search Associates engaged diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultants who helped us identify, address, and challenge attitudes, behaviors, policies, and structures within our organization that perpetuate and contribute to systemic racism and bias. Search Associates is excited about ongoing and meaningful change within our organization and with our partner schools around the world.
Search Associates’ comprehensive and strategic commitment to DEI means that outstanding teachers of every profile will not only be seen but also heard and supported.
We have outlined three strategic goals and plans to reach each one within the next three years, 2021-2024. The first is to demonstrate DEI leadership, commitment, and accountability in cultivating an anti-racist and anti-bias organization within Search Associates. The second is to enhance the experience of Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) and other marginalized candidates who encounter bias through an equitable and inclusive support model.
Finally, we intend to enhance the effectiveness of school leaders and recruiters in order to nurture an equitable and inclusive community for educators. You can read more about our DEI strategic goals in our latest update here.
TT: What advice do you have for teachers seeking positions in international education at this time?
If you have the qualities of an international educator, and if you have a dream of exploring the world outside of your country, you should absolutely make the leap. Candidates going overseas for the first time often don’t come back and make international teaching their long-time career.
So, what are the qualities of thriving overseas educators? Aside from loving to work with children of all ages, successful international teachers are risk takers, highly adaptable to completely new environments, and highly accepting of the diverse cultural norms and language of the students.
They are role-models of good citizenship, in addition to possessing an enthusiasm about their subject and an open mindedness to new learning. What sets thriving international educators apart is the spirit of adventure and commitment to student learning.
Sure, there is much more advice I can give, very many details, but that’s what Search Associates is there for, to answer all your questions and connect candidates to some of the best international schools abroad.
TT: Thank you so much, Jessica! Readers, what comments or questions do you have about Search Associates and teaching abroad?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational art. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!