APTF Testimonies

Justin Goff, 2007 & 2008 Asia Pacific Teaching Fellow
B.A. Yale University

For me, the Asia Pacific Teaching Fellowship has been an incredible learning opportunity. Through the course of this year, my baptism by fire as a rookie teacher has jump-started communication and leadership skills that I know will apply to whatever professional field I end up in. I have had the chance to work with fascinating students in a fascinating country: I have been surprised both by how much genuine love develops between students and teachers in a classroom and also the degree to which Korea has begun to feel like home.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Fellowship, however, is the role Fellows play as ambassadors, not only for the English language and American culture, but for the overall ethos of curiosity, of internationalism, and of Western-style liberal arts. Watching students become enthusiastic lifelong learners and concerned young citizens of the world has been the most rewarding aspect of the job. In this sense, the Asia Pacific Teaching Fellowship gives Fellows the opportunity to be part of something remarkable: the fashioning, through lots of hard work and lots of trial-and-error, of a unique brand of education rooted in local culture but striving to produce the next generation of leaders for an ever-smaller world. Even in the short time since APIS was founded, the school has developed a reputation for success and for innovation–and it will be the responsibility of the next class of Fellows to help the school’s reputation grow.

Sara Goldblatt, 2007 Asia Pacific Teaching Fellow
B.A. Yale University

As a recent college graduate in political science, most of the positions offered at various international teaching job fairs consisted of part-time teaching assistantships, or internships. At APIS, however, we fellows—most of us with little or no teaching experience—received the opportunity to teach our own classroom full-time. This was obviously a challenging and daunting task. Yet upon our arrival in early August, we fellows found ourselves working with an incredibly supportive and experienced community of teachers, mentors and administrators, who were not only available to help, but also to listen and incorporate many of our suggestions.

This is the aspect that I truly appreciated most about my experience at APIS; due to that fact that it is a very new school, its founders truly place a great deal of trust in every faculty member’s input. Each one of us fellows truly felt empowered to impact and shape the school based on its main founding pillars. There is a great deal of energy behind such a project, something that would not easily be found in an older school, more rooted in its ‘traditions.’

In conclusion, the opportunity to teach my own classroom of talented and motivated bilingual students in Seoul—what a fascinating and dizzyingly complex city!—has been extremely enriching, to say the least. I have yet to process everything this year brought me; but one thing is for sure—it was life-changing!

Colleen M. Kinneen, 2007 Asia Pacific Teaching Fellow
B.A. Dartmouth College

Working at Asia Pacific International School has been an incredible challenge that has also been amazingly rewarding. I can think of few other schools that would allow a teaching fellow to have the opportunity to teach a full set of classes. This past year, I taught 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science. I enjoyed getting to know the entire middle school, and found the A.P.I.S. students to motivated, hardworking, well-behaved, and respectful individuals. In their laboratory work, science fair projects, tests, and other reports, students often far exceeded my expectations. I also had the opportunity to interact with students as the student council advisor. I found that students are just as motivated outside of the classroom as they are inside the classroom. This enabled us to host a spirit week, talent show, ice cream social day, class unity day, fundraisers, and other events.

The administration and office staff of of A.P.I.S. was supportive in providing resources for the classroom and in helping fellows adjust to life in Korea. Whenever I needed special science supplies for the laboratory, the office staff did a wonderful job in helping me to find and purchase what I needed. In addition, the office staff was very supportive in helping us to adjust to life in Korea, assisting us in shopping trips, helping to set up our internet connection, aiding us in calling repair men to the apartment, and helping us to translate documents.

Another very positive aspect of my experience here has been the accommodations for the teaching fellows. This past year, I shared an apartment with two other fellows that was located 7 minutes from the school. This apartment was one of the most spacious apartments I have seen during my time in Korea, and had never been lived in previously.

As a whole, my experience at A.P.I.S. has been a wonderful opportunity for me to grow as a teacher and as an individual, and I am very thankful for the time that I have spent here.

Caroline Massie, 2007 & 2008 Asia Pacific Teaching Fellow
B.A. Yale University

It is hard to count the number of amazing experiences I’ve had as a result of the Asia Pacific International School Teaching Fellowship. To begin with, I’ve had the opportunity to experience Korea. APIS has made special efforts to help teachers experience Korea to the fullest, providing opportunities for school-sponsored trips, guest lectures on Korean history and culture, Korean language classes, and more. In keeping with APIS’s “Asia-Pacific” focus, I also had the chance to travel outside of Korea, to a teaching conference in Malaysia and as a chaperone on a class trip to Japan. Thanks to the Teaching Fellowship, I’m better acquainted with the East Asian region as a whole and with Korea, a nation at the heart of it.

My teaching experience here has been fascinating. Many of our students came to us from a lecture-driven national curriculum which can leave students unprepared for Western liberal-arts style college courses. I have encouraged my students to become active participants in the classroom and to value the questions as much as the (sometimes mythical) “right answer.” It has been a delight to watch them come alive.

The Asia Pacific Teaching Fellowship is a unique and special opportunity to learn more about teaching and more about Korea. Teaching Fellows will be touched and changed by their experience here and can leave with the satisfaction of having made a difference to the students and country in return.

Heidi Shubert, 2007 Asia Pacific Teaching Fellow
B.A. Wellesley College

It has been an incredible experience teaching at APIS this year. The challenges that came with learning to lesson plan effectively and with learning how to work with a class that had varying levels of knowledge of English and of the American schooling style really helped me to grow personally and professionally. It has been so rewarding to see the successes of students who in the beginning of the year did not speak much English or who could not seem to do well on tests and who now get some of the highest grades in the class. Throughout the year, APIS has provided great resources and materials for me as a teacher which allowed me the freedom to explore different types of lessons with the students that will help to achieve the goals of the school.

Everyone at the school has developed a passion for the mission of the school and we all believe in its importance. It is incredibly rewarding to think that our students may one day grow up to be true global leaders whose critical thinking skills and whose knowledge of other cultures and languages will allow them to work for positive change in the world.

Joshua Silverman, 2007 Asia Pacific Teaching Fellow
B.A. University of Pennsylvania

Just over a year ago, I graduated from college. As I contemplated my post-university life, I was both overwhelmed and excited. I was overwhelmed because I was confronted by so many different paths and could hear so many voices suggesting which to take. And, I was excited because I knew my first stop: Asia Pacific International School in Seoul. My closest friends were excited for me, and my parents admired my initiative; however, I could feel their reserve. After all, Seoul is halfway around the world; APIS was an infant school; my teaching experience was limited to evening computer classes and tutoring. Of course these concerns were all prudent and thoughtful but, the benefits had captured me: I would live in a bustling East Asian capital; I would make friends with people devoted to an international career in education; and most importantly, I would be surrounded by many of Korea’s brightest and most eager youths. Now that this year has gone from anticipation to memory, I can say without hesitation: there is no place I would have rather been than here in Seoul at APIS.

As I prepare to turn in my classroom keys, I can’t help but run through the year in my head. I am shocked that it is over. It seems like I arrived yesterday and yet, so much has happened that I feel as though I graduated from college a lifetime ago. From the frenetic preparations in the first days, to the heart-warming goodbyes, I have made a thousand touching memories over the past year. On the first day, I remember the kids nervously walking into class with their crisp uniforms and their shy first hellos. I remember their early reassuring successes and the proud smiles that accompanied. I remember their growing sense of confidence and their occasional regressions. Perhaps most of all, I remember the sense of family that grows within a class over the course of a year.

Helping to show children a path towards kindness and success has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever engaged in. Undergoing a similarly important period of growth myself has made this year in Korea one of my most powerful experiences. With the support and positivity of a generous and caring faculty and administration, I have washed away any doubts I might have held about such an adventurous and challenging task. I will always remember this year with a nostalgic warmth and a satisfied smile. I wish upon all future APIS Fellows, the courage and strength to come to Asia Pacific International School and thrive.