The world of education is an ever-evolving landscape, where passionate educators leave indelible marks on both the minds and hearts of students. At Concordia International School Shanghai, we know our faculty play an essential role in the success of our entire community. That’s why we seek out faculty who aspire to excellence in all aspects of teaching.
We spoke with one such teacher, Corinne, a seasoned educator with nearly two decades of teaching experience, and followed her journey that began in Minneapolis to the vibrant international community at Concordia Shanghai. Corinne shared her insights into the transformative power of teaching, the unique ethos of Concordia and the profound impact of holistic education from the perspective of a faculty member and as a parent herself. Corinne shared her experiences and reflections, offering a glimpse into the vibrant world of teaching at Concordia, providing a guide to teaching in Shanghai for interested international teachers.
From Minneapolis to Shanghai: Navigating Uncharted Territories
Corinne's journey into the world of teaching began nearly 20 years ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Interestingly, Corinne did not initially aspire to be a teacher, but as is a common thread among teachers at Concordia Shanghai, Corinne felt drawn to the career path by something greater than herself.
"It was Special Education that got me. I was never going to be a teacher, and then I found this amazing, challenging, wonderful world that I loved."
Her deep-rooted passion for education propelled her to pursue a degree in Learning Support and Emotional Behavior Disorders, alongside a Master's degree.
Corinne’s transition from Minneapolis to Shanghai began with an encounter with a fellow student - a man who would eventually become her husband - who planted the idea of international teaching in Corinne's mind. The notion of teaching overseas resonated deeply, and before long, Corinne and her husband Jared, a fellow educator, found themselves on a journey abroad where they began teaching at a school in Qatar before moving on to a school in China.
A Different Kind of Calling: The Concordia Experience
Corinne's path eventually led her to consider Concordia Shanghai, a place that resonated deeply with her values and aspirations as an educator. Delving into the distinctive aspects of Concordia, Corinne emphasized the school's profound commitment to pastoral care and holistic student development, something she and Jared sought for their own children.
"We wanted that experience for our kids. We liked the Common Core standards-based teaching and we liked the focused emphasis on their spiritual and emotional growth. That was huge for us."
This emphasis on values and growth not only spoke to her as an educator but also as a parent, solidifying her connection to the school's ethos. Her first experience on campus confirmed her decision that Concordia was the right school for her entire family.
“I remember walking in and it feeling like a college campus, beautiful resources, beautiful buildings, very large scale, a lovely theater, the tennis courts and the field. It just felt like I was walking into a private Christian college in the U.S. That's how nice it felt. There's so many beautiful playgrounds, and everything was state-of-the-art.” She added with a laugh that her children spotted the play spaces immediately.
Things took an even more wonderful turn when she walked into what would be her own classroom. She felt the spaces were perfectly tailored for learning and for allowing young minds to grow and thrive.
“I remember just walking into my classroom and they were so big and beautiful and open and bright and just automatically visualizing what I was going to do with the space.”
Now that she’s been a member of the Concordia Shanghai community for two years, Corinne has personally experienced how incredible the community can be, and expresses her thanks not only as a passionate educator, but as a loving parent.
“Concordia has world-class teachers who are patient and knowledgeable and just read children well. I really think that the people that they hire here are truly wonderful educators from a pedagogy point of view, but also kind, wonderful humans who are in it not just for their own opportunity but because they really care about children. And they really show up every day and they prove that. We've been really blessed as a family by that.”
Life in Shanghai: Teaching and Thriving
Having lived in Shanghai for over six years, Corinne can confidently say Shanghai has been a wonderful experience for her entire family. They found themselves enamored by the city’s rich cultural history and were somewhat shocked by the relative safety of their new home. As obvious foreigners they’ve had some interesting experiences when walking the streets of Shanghai.
"Our kids are both very blonde and blue-eyed, and people will stop and try to take pictures of them. And it's all very safe and innocent and nice."
Not only has Shanghai been a safe environment for her family, but her children are even learning Mandarin, in part due to their access to an ayi (nanny), who provided her children with some unforgettable authentic Chinese experiences.
“When we arrived in Shanghai, my son was still too young for school so he spent his first year at home with our ayi. He got a lot of language and a lot of cool cultural experiences like going to the wet market and buying a live fish and taking it home and preparing it and eating it. He's had way more cool experiences than I think even I have. Half the time my children are translating for me because they have way more language skills than I do.”
Now that her children are older, they are able to engage in family activities together, participating in experiences unlike anything she could ever imagine.
“We'll often go out to just brunches or we will walk the French concession. And how do you compare a city like Shanghai with any other place? It's so rich in history. It's such a blend of so many cultures. It's just an incredible place, really, to live. We hope to be here for a very long time.”
When it comes to her experiences inside the classroom, teaching second graders at Concordia is a testament to Corinne’s passion for fostering literacy and critical thinking. Her enthusiasm for read-alouds reflects the depth of connections she forges with her students, creating a classroom environment where learning transcends textbooks.
"We read for meaning, we read for understanding and for joy and fun. My students would ask, ‘When's the next book coming and when can we read again?’ It’s just a delight, that age group. I think I'll be teaching second grade forever.”
Some books Corinne has read to her classroom include “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” “The Wild Robot,” and “A Boy Called Bat.”
Adventures Abound: Finding Fun On and Off Campus
Being in Shanghai has opened the doors wide open for Corinne and her family to explore new opportunities and find adventure. The city's cultural openness and the availability of extracurricular activities provide her children with a unique learning environment that extends beyond the classroom.
“Their experience is just amazing, the opportunities they have, both in school and just outside of school with extracurricular activities. My son's taking a wilderness survival extracurricular right now, and soccer and other sports and art classes. I wouldn't trade it for anything.”
Empowering Wellness: Impact Beyond the Classroom
Corinne's role extended beyond her classroom walls, encompassing a commitment to wellness within the Concordia community. Leading fitness initiatives, she recognized the transformative power of physical activity and her role in supporting the community that welcomed her with open arms.
"I think it's really important for teachers and parents and everyone to take care of themselves so that they can do better in the rest of their lives."
Corinne's endeavor to foster a culture of well-being has not only strengthened faculty bonds but also enriched the broader school community.
A Guiding Hand: Transition and Growth
Navigating transitions is a universal experience, and Corinne's integration into Concordia was marked by exceptional support and mentorship. Recounting her early days at the school, she acknowledged the instrumental role of mentors and colleagues.
"My partner teacher would just come to me and be like, 'Here, you need this for the first week,' and have all the copies made. She would come to me and be like, 'Oh, do you know how to do this?' And I'd be like, 'No, I don't know how to do that.' And she'd sit there and walk through it with me."
The emphasis on collaboration, mentorship and community care at Concordia set the school apart for Corinne. This supportive atmosphere not only eased her transition but also provided a fertile ground for professional and personal growth.
"The community, as I've experienced at Concordia, has been very open, very giving. There's not a lot of ego. It's just a lot of humility and kindness and sharing."
A Glimpse of the Future: Concordia's Renewal
During this transformative phase of Concordia Shanghai’s journey, the theme of renewal is a powerful message reflecting the institution's commitment to continuous improvement.
Corinne shared her excitement for the future of Concordia Shanghai and to be a part of the journey of change. Her optimism for Concordia's evolution reflects the vibrant spirit of the school and its educators.
"I see a lot of renewal happening in our school, in our community. There's an energy about growth and renewal. I'm really excited about it. The energy of teachers on campus is palpable. Having parents back on campus and involved has been such a joy in this first week, parents dropping off right at the door of the classroom so we can have that mini conversation with so-and-so. The community is rebuilding and it feels so good.”
An Invitation to Aspiring Educators
Corinne's story is an invitation to educators worldwide to consider the unique and nurturing environment of Concordia Shanghai. Aspiring educators are invited to join a community where students and teachers alike are cherished, and personal and professional growth are intertwined.
"I would encourage them to consider Concordia, especially now, with the renewal and the growth that's happening. It's an exciting time to be here."
Corinne's journey from Minneapolis to Shanghai, her transformative experiences at Concordia, and her deep passion for education collectively form a narrative that resonates with the soul of teaching. Her insights reflect the heart of Concordia's commitment to holistic education and teacher well-being, encapsulating the spirit of international education at its finest.