Teachers From Abroad Help EPI Colleagues with Work and Life in the USA
Teachers who choose to join the Educational Partners International (EPI) program take a big leap. They come to a foreign land to teach students who have grown up in a culture and an education system that differs widely from what the teachers are familiar with back home.
To ensure these educators’ success, EPI invests time and resources to guarantee that the program members selected are the candidates best suited to meet and adjust to any challenges encountered in the USA. Once these talented individuals arrive in the country, EPI further prepares them for their new roles via orientation sessions that help the teachers acclimate to their new home.
The support doesn’t end there, however. Throughout the teachers’ time in the USA, they find further help provided by those best suited to give it: other EPI teachers. These experienced professionals form EPI’s Local Liaison program, which contributes tremendously to teachers’ success.
The Local Liaison program provides mentorship to teachers new to the program in a variety of ways. Whether someone needs help moving in, finding a social security office, or obtaining a driver’s license, Local Liaisons provide top-notch support.
The dedicated volunteers who serve as Local Liaisons often express thanks for the help they themselves received when they were new to the program. Participation provides them a way to give back. As a result, bonds form among them – between themselves and the teachers they mentor.
“As an international teacher coming into a new country, it was important to navigate challenges to assist fellow teachers, to make their transition easier,” explains Alika Hendrickson-Colebrooke, an elementary education teacher from Trinidad and Tobago. “Being a Local Liaison means giving back and helping in any small way possible.”
Tamara Green, an elementary education teacher from Jamaica, shared that acting as a Local Liaison is about helping and meeting new people. “The experience of relocation affects people differently,” she notes, “and I am happy I assisted a few people transition without much stress.” Her experience has included helping others by giving advice, showing them around, providing moral support, and assisting with transportation.
Genesis Agcaoili, a science teacher from the Philippines, also appreciates lending a hand as a Local Liaison. He comments, “It gives me the chance to help new teachers settle in and feel comfortable.”
Aid in Action
A pair of examples paints a clear picture of how Local Liaisons help out.
Returning to EPI to teach again in the USA, Sandra Medellin knows the ins and outs of the program. Originally from Mexico, this Local Liaison puts her experience to wonderful use. When COVID-19 upended plans, for example, she communicated with a new teacher via WhatsApp. She also helped set up a classroom for her, and she taught the teacher’s students until the teacher was able to arrive.
The experience of Diana Guerra from Colombia illustrates the fact that Local Liaisons do much more than assist new arrivals or provide professional assistance. Guerra has helped her neighbor and fellow EPI teacher with child care so that he and his wife can get out. She has also regularly checked in on another teacher who underwent surgery. What’s more, Guerra has helped colleagues in the teaching arena, including discussing online classroom management with program members and visiting the classes of other EPI teachers. Asked what she enjoyed most about being a Local Liaison, she replied, “Celebrating birthdays and partying with them!”
Assistance That’s Localized, Quick, and Thorough
As these examples show, Local Liaison support is local. Volunteers find and help teachers within their own counties, using the online forums EPI maintains to do so. For example, when Florencia Cadena was planning a move from Ecuador to teach in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she posted in the “Ask a Local Liaison” section of the North Carolina part of the forum. By the same day, she had heard back. Ultimately, she found housing with another EPI teacher. “Thank you for your help!” she wrote. “I really appreciate it.”
Many volunteers go above and beyond expectations, taking teachers to view housing, helping them complete cross-cultural activities, and sharing strategies when teachers struggle. EPI encourages this sort of high achievement by recognizing standout volunteers as Local Liaison Trailblazers. Local Liaisons are eligible for the designation once they share four separate ways that they have helped other program members. Trailblazers receive a letter of commendation and EPI-branded gifts, in addition to the certificate regular Local Liaisons earn.
A Local Liaison may summarize things best. John Chimbora, a mathematics teacher from Zimbabwe, says his role is all about “helping others who will be coming to town and making their transition much better.”
“It means a lot to me,” he adds. “It’s an opportunity to give hope and assistance to other teachers, especially those seeking help.”