Thursday, February 4, 2016

Returning to Education

My husband and I overlooking an ever
present lake and mountains in Switzerland
I've been absent for quite a while on my blog because of many life changes. After leaving my position as a Technology Facilitator for the International School of Zug and Luzern in Switzerland, I returned to Texas with my husband to pursue opening our own business. This business was a nano beer brewery. We worked tirelessly for 3 years on this goal, and I'm proud to say that we did indeed build a brand, and made a product that I am very proud to stand behind. We closed the doors to our brewery on December 31. This decision did not come easily, but at this time, I do feel ready to move on. This is where Education comes back into the picture.

Our brewery logo 
This is a difficult shift. As a business owner, my mind was always occupied with the business. I couldn't get away from it, and I didn't want to. The brewery was our baby, and letting go is hard. I also know that my routine will change dramatically, though not working 120 hours a week is a definite plus. I actually think I'm looking forward to the return of a school routine. I have maintained my skills in technology over the past couple of years in numerous ways with our business, but I've also stayed in the Education Technology loop. I have friends and family in the industry and it's never been that far away. I am working on re-building an Ed Tech Twitter account (@TxpatEd) and I feel ready for the challenge.

This is where the hard part comes. I am currently on the search for an international teaching job in Instructional Technology. I'm anxious to return to the role and build upon my experience as a Teacher, Instructional Technology Specialist, Brewer, and Business Owner. You see, I'm convinced that all of these experiences have made me an even better educator. I'm anxious to see where we might be going, and what the next big change in our lives will be, but through my experience with our brewery, I know we will adapt and learn more about ourselves in the process.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Holidays and Christmas Customs in Europe

In honor of my Holiday break beginning today at exactly 12:00 noon today, I thought I'd mention a cool resource I learned about from @Larryferlazzo.

The German Embassy in London published an advent calendar that presents 27 Days of European Christmas Customs. The calendar is available in English and Deutsch. Just click any day that has passed to view a Christmas custom from various European countries, or click to open all windows if you want to spoil the fun and view them all :)

Look at December 4th for one of my new favorite Christmas events, Christmas Markets! I've gone to my fair share of them here in Switzerland this season.

Check out the advent calendar here.

Fröhliche Weihnachten & Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

iPad Apps - A few for Language & Literacy

In my job, one of my responsibilities is an iPad Pilot with a cart of 21 iPads. My mission is to get the iPads into as many classes/grade levels (middle school 6-8)/subjects as possible. In preparation, I researched and loaded apps onto the iPads in all of the subject areas that covered some core ideas or concepts. More recently I focused specifically on Literacy apps for our learning support teachers. The following are a few of the apps we are using in this area.

Create your own story by animating your selected characters while speaking. This app walks you through the story arch and each necessary step in creating your story.

Grammar Up (FreeGrammar): Free Edition
Select the parts of speech you would like to work on, begin the test, and then select the proper word to complete a sentence. At the end of the test you can choose to email your scores. We have since updated to full paid version of the app, see here.

Make as many words as you can from the letters that you are given. There are clues that will help your out, and you can reveal all words when time is up or you are done.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Keep your Mac awake with Caffeine

Caffeine... I can't do without out on any given morning, so why should my computer? I used Caffeine on my Mac computer before, but this year is the first time that I've worked off of a Mac full-time for my job. I recently remembered the app, and it has been a huge help. The concept is simple, click to give your computer some coffee to keep the screen awake, click again to remove the coffee for it to sleep or dim as normal.

=  Screen will go to sleep or dim as normal.

=  Screen will stay awake. 

If you right-click on the coffee cup, you will see more options, like activating Caffeine for a specific amount of time on your computer. 

Back to the Blogging

So I've taken quite a long break from my blog since the last time I've posted. In that time, I've moved to a different country, started a new job, learned quite a few new things, and seen some new places. See my last post for more details on why we made the move. Things are going good, and I think we're figuring it all out. We still learn new things daily (who doesn't love that?!) and have made some great friends along the way! So now that things have settled a bit I'm going to get back to the blogging. Look for some new posts very soon!

Friday, May 25, 2012

We're Moving to Switzerland!

Zug, Switzerland
Zug, Switzerland - Flickr

As this year comes to a close I am excited, saddened, and at a very large transition in my life. My husband and I will be moving to Switzerland in July. We are doing this because we have both obtained positions to teach at the International School of Zug & Luzern (ISZL) at the middle school on their Zug campus. I will be their Technology Facilitator and my husband will be teaching 6th grade Math. To say that we are excited is an understatement, but I am also overwhelmed with the mixture of emotions as this school year comes to a close.

I have been an educator in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD for all of my 8 years I have been an educator. This district has been a home to me not only as a teacher, but also as a student. I came back to teach here because I loved it as a student. It is a district that I believe in and value. So...why am I leaving??

(I have been asked by co-workers how this change came about, so for those of you that would like to know this is our story...)
*This is not super short, and goes against my typical brevity in a post, but the story is not a short one to tell, so be prepared :)

About a year ago, my husband and I began entertaining the idea of teaching abroad. It was one of those thoughts that we would have and think, "yeah no...that's not gonna happen". We would say "We have ______ and _______ and all of our family and could we leave?" but then, a couple of weeks later, one of us would say "What if we did?"

You see, I'm a pretty sheltered girl. I was born and raised in Texas (and quite proud of it :) My husband is from Oklahoma but considers himself more a Texan (lived here the longest, I consider him a Texan only sometimes ;) We started traveling more a few years ago, and found that we love exploring a new place. This combined with our increasing desire for something different in our daily lives made us begin to entertain the idea of teaching abroad more often. In the summer of 2011 we gave ourselves a deadline, by the end of July we would decide if we REALLY wanted to teach abroad.

If you know me much at all you know I am not one to make any decision lightly. I will analyze and research, make my pros and cons list, and then decide if I can really put myself into it. If at the end of all this it still seems like a good idea, I'm in all the way. My husband works a little different, but dedication is one of the traits about him that I admire the most. If he decides to do something, there's no backing out. So together we're about solid as you get. When we make decision to go after something, we go for it full strength.

You've probably figured out that at the end of our deadline, we decided we were in. I believe the conversation ended something like..."Just think...if we could go somewhere like Switzerland what sights could we see, and how many places would we be able to travel?? Plus how cool would it be to work with students that are from all over the world? How much would we be able to learn from them and our environment?"

We decided to go through an organization called Search Associates. I would recommend them in a heartbeat to anyone wanting to pursue teaching abroad. There are a couple of other very reputable organizations that will help you with this, but Search Associates is who we decided to use. I should also mention that you don't have to use any organization and there are A LOT of sites out there that provide you with a ton of information about international schools and openings, but since this was our first go at it, we felt like we needed a little more help.

We had all of documentation and paperwork in with Search by the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, and we immediately begin receiving emails with updates on job postings. At this point we were still VERY much in the "if we're teaching abroad next year", "we probably won't get anything this first try at it" and "this will be a great experience for us regardless" phase of things. We set out thinking that we wanted somewhere in Europe, but then our minds began to open a lot and warm to the idea of teaching somewhere in South America, or the UAE.

We began researching many different parts of the world and finding out information about the culture and international schools in the area. We did some Skype interviews, but still were really trying to take everything step by step to see what would happen. We then went to the Search Associates job fair in Boston at the beginning of February.

I have said to several friends that attending the job fair was one of the greatest experiences that I have had. There were so many people there, some who had taught abroad before, but more who had not. There was almost an immediate camaraderie among many of us "candidates". We had some great conversations with them and shared our concerns, excitement, and stresses. There were representatives from schools all over the world. We caught on pretty quickly that the representatives from the schools had done their homework as well, because many of them knew who we were and what our educational backgrounds are, and they decided if they wanted to pursue us based on this knowledge (they could get this information from the Search Associates site and it was all information that we had provided to them).

We interviewed with several different schools while at the job fair that were from all around the world. One of the most interesting things to us was that all of these interviews were conducted with both me and my husband together. We hadn't ever experienced anything like this before, but figured out pretty quick that it was quite cool because we could play of each other, get feedback from each other after, and share our thoughts. With that being said I should also let you know that there was a very good mix at the fair of married couples who both teach ( some without children like my husband and me, and some with children), married couples in which one of them teaches (the other spouse was called a "trailing spouse" (we found that term kind of funny, and some of these couples had children and some did not), and singles (also some with children and some without). We had done quite a bit of research on the majority of the schools we interviewed with, but also went on some interviews with schools in places we knew next to nothing about. We found this all incredibly interesting and quite exciting. Like all interviews, some we felt like we really clicked with the people, and others we did not.

One of the interviews that really appealed to us was with ISZL. We had Skyped with other representatives of this school prior to the Boston job fair and knew that we really liked all of the info that we could find about it. So naturally, when the job offers came from them, we fought the urge to accept on the spot, but rather slept on it for a night because that seemed like the grown up thing to do :) During the course of that evening though we received offers from 2 others schools, and we narrowed down our choice to ISZL and one other school very easily, and to be honest ISZL was always our first choice, but we did our homework to be sure we were solid in our decision. We accepted the job offers from ISZL the following morning, and have been on a roller coaster whirlwind ever since :)

Since I'm pretty sure I should stop typing now as this article is already ridiculously long. I am going to leave you with a link to our new blog (though I will continue to contribute to this blog as well) in order to document our journey to Switzerland and our experiences along the way. The address is and my husband and I will both be contributing to it so check it out if you want to be updated with our journey!