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Teachers discuss obstacles, joy found in overseas work

Written on November 5th, 2008

[caption id=”attachment_3032” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”]DSC_7591FS Dick and Margaret Seinen with a gift received from the Hillcrest School in Nigeria PTA.[/caption]

Workshop provides opportunity for Q&A with experienced international teachers

Nate Venema and Dick Seinen, former staff members at Hillcrest School in Nigeria, were among a panel who presented about teaching overseas at the recent Ontario Christian School Teachers Association (OCSTA) convention.

Fred Breukelman, Albert Kok and Carol Zwiers were also on the panel at the Share the Treasure: Teach Overseas workshop.

“It turned into a workshop far more fruitful than I could have dreamed,” says Venema, who organized the panel and is currently a teacher at Beacon Christian Schools Secondary School in St. Catharines.

Venema says they were amazed that 60 people signed up for the workshop, and approximately 10 participants had international experience and shared their stories.

“They were so passionate about this that they actually attended a workshop even though they probably knew the answers (because) they wanted to share the joy,” he says. “It was just a beautiful situation where the passion was just so obvious to people and it really stoked the fires for a lot of people I pray.”

The workshop became a question and answer period to address and discuss reasons people feel held back from teaching overseas.

“We assumed that everybody in there had the seeds of interest and passion that all we needed to do was plug them into some practical applications,” says Venema.

Dick Seinen was a teacher, principal and then superintendent during his time at Hillcrest from 1971 to 2007. Seinen and his wife had three children while in Nigeria.

“We had a lifetime there and what an experience and I think in many ways we would do it over again,” he says.

Regardless of where you go overseas “the impact you can have is phenomenal,” he says.

Seinen brought a list of teacher openings at Hillcrest to the workshop and had a handful of people talk with him afterwards. A participant left Seinen a message sharing plans to start at Hillcrest in January.

People who are considering teaching overseas often ask questions about being away from family and security issues, Seinen says.

“I think we make much bigger issues of them in our minds than what they really are once we get to places,” he says, adding new communications such as e-mail helped him to stay in Nigeria longer.

Venema and his wife, Jill, taught at Hillcrest in 2005-2006.

[caption id=”attachment_3031” align=”alignright” width=”150”]NateFS Nate and Jill Venema[/caption]

One of the obstacles people consider when in deciding whether to teach overseas is finances, Venema says. “It just doesn’t make financial sense by the rules of the world (to work overseas),” he says, adding it is a “sad truth” Canadian Christians tend to be fixated on financial security.

But Venema says his overseas experience resulted in being financially ahead. For families another benefit is there is free, high-quality education in Nigeria, he says.

For some participants at the workshop, including Redeemer University College students, it was beneficial to have these challenges normalized by the panellists, says Venema.

“It was a wonderful experience for people who attended,” says Venema.

Venema and Seinen say that teaching overseas is also a practical option for Ontario teachers who may have a hard time finding work in the province.

“There’s a whole fantastic world out there with needs that are getting greater by the day,” says Seinen.

Hillcrest School is a member of Christian Schools International.

To learn more about Hillcrest and view the staff openings, visit www.hillcrestschool.net.

Nigeria is one place of many where there are opportunities to serve internationally. Visit the Christian Reformed World Missions website at www.crcna.org to learn more.