TCU special education graduate student Kat Deichler signed a two-year contract last month to teach first grade special needs students at an international school in Qatar.
However, she said if someone had told her a year ago that in September 2011 she would begin teaching full-time in another country, she would not have believed them.
“I was a Texas girl,” Deichler said. “I was not going anywhere. I was going to stay here and teach forever.”
But she said her experience student teaching math in the Netherlands in February 2010 through the College of Education inspired her to find a permanent teaching position abroad. When her contract in Qatar ends, she said she planned to return to the Netherlands.
Deichler said her parents encouraged her to participate in TCU’s student teaching abroad program and were excited for her to continue working abroad.
“They moved overseas when I was a baby, so it’s kind of in our family to get up and go,” she said.
Dale Young, the director of student teaching at TCU, said the university’s relationship with the European Teacher Education Network has made student teaching abroad an option for senior education majors. The network is made up of more than 40 institutions and has partnered with TCU for more than a decade, he said.
Young described the relationship with ETEN as a bilateral agreement which allowed participating universities to exchange students for a month.
For example, TCU hosted nine students from partnering European universities last semester, he said. Young said 18 students from the College of Education student taught in European schools in February.
Deichler said the connection with ETEN helped her establish a relationship with the school at which she student taught. This positive relationship gave her several opportunities to continue working with the school in the Netherlands.
“I really stayed in touch, and I am in good contact with everyone at that school,” she said.
Young said one of the advantages of ETEN was the great local contacts it provided students while they spend time overseas. Each university participating in ETEN appoints an ETEN coordinator to help the students while they are abroad, he said.
Deichler said her coordinator in the Netherlands, named Sigurd, helped make the experience a positive one.
“He was fabulous, absolutely fabulous,” she said. “He took great care of us, and I’m still in contact with him. I see him every time I go back.”
When Deichler’s student teaching program ended last year, she came back to the U.S. and quickly made plans to return to the Netherlands, she said. After finishing up her bachelor’s degree in May, she returned to the Netherlands to substitute teach at the same school.
Deichler said she found teaching in Europe to be comparable to teaching in the United States, but the style of teaching at her school in the Netherlands was more laid back.
“Their system of education is much less high-stakes testing-driven than ours, so [teachers] have a lot more freedom,” she said.
Deichler said she liked teaching in this relaxed atmosphere, which is one reason she wanted to continue teaching outside the U.S. She said she also planned to return to the Netherlands this May to chaperone a school camping trip.