Onto the Stage
Like many of the children within international schools, I grew up in a nomadic household. My father's work with a large US company moved us from state to state, region to region, before my family moved to Italy, Japan, and Thailand. Some times the cultural differences made it challenging to "fit in," but I quickly learned to adapt. Through studying different people, I developed a flair for portraying characters on stage. Theater quickly became my refuge, the one area where I felt most like myself and most alive.
Despite my passion for acting, I decided to pursue a degree in International Relations/Peace and Conflict Studies. A few years and an associates degree later, I realized I was on the wrong course: I had lost my passion. In 1997, I was accepted with a Presidential Merit and Talent scholarship into the competitive University of the Arts. The training was remarkably diverse and extremely well rounded, providing many opportunities to develop new shows with fellow students as well as perform in more traditional ones produced by University directors.
Into the Classroom
Entrance into the classroom as a teacher came in a "round about" way. While in college, I worked as an ESL tutor and culture teacher for political refugees newly entering the US. Many of my students had been through horrible ordeals. They had little motivation, making it clear that I would need to be creative in order to engage them in learning. Soon my innovative teaching methods and commitment to student success made me a top requested mentor and teacher. From me, the students learned about American culture and how to speak English. From my students, I learned how crucial it is for a teacher to know her students and reach them wherever they may be. Together we realized that the relationships and community developed within a classroom can help us to feel we have a family and home, even when we are far from where we wish to be.
Later, as I was trying to find ways to finance my acting degree, I accepted a well paying job that placed artists into inner-city classrooms. When I took the job, it was about a paycheck, but I stayed on for four years because I saw how effective the arts can be in raising the spirits of children and young adults who are down and out, and became invested in helping to make this possible. After 6 months as a Drama specialist circulating amongst six schools, the educational outreach directors asked me to administer the program in the Southeast section of Philadelphia. Working with a highly dedicated team, and managing 40 other specialists, we developed a national pilot Arts Outreach program currently used throughout the US.
After graduating, I left Philly, pursued acting for a while, but could not let go of a nagging feeling: children in the inner-city schools of the US were not getting a fair deal; they deserved equal opportunities in education. Eventually I went on to work with the highly acclaimed Teach For America in the South Bronx of NY.
Teaching at PS 199x, The Shakespeare School, was the hardest two years of my life, but I emerged stronger, feeling as though I could take on any challenge. I returned to work in the theater, but stayed connected to schools by starting a small volunteer program placing NY artists in NY schools and shelters. We called ourselves: Artists as Activists and worked diligently to create opportunities for all to experience arts in the inner-city communities.
Behind the Scenes
In addition to working in front of the lights, I have developed a passion for being a part of the creative team on new projects, especially those that give a platform to express perspectives on issues that can be difficult to discuss. Through the years, I have been fortunate to be a part of many spectacular production teams, including the World Premier of We Got Issues, produced by Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda as well as Rha Goddess,' Meditations: A Trilogy.
Yet again, I was called back to work as a teacher. While working on a tour alongside a group of artists heading to Africa to teach Drama on a refugee camp, I was asked to come along. In the following months, I raised several thousand dollars to finance the trip and went to work on the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, West Africa. I was expected to be there for a month. I stayed for a year.
I worked with Global Volunteer Network managing their two partners on the refugee camp. I was back in the classroom! This time, I was training teachers, managing volunteers, and raising funds while also overseeing the development of three new United Nations sponsored schools. I was also working with a group from New York University's Ghana program who were in the camp to develop a Hip Hop Theater Program. It was a wondrous time, but life in the camp became difficult to maintain due to high rates of disease and crime.
In love with Ghana, I left the camp and began working with the Kokrobitey Institute developing programs. Eventually I was teaching preschool at Lincoln Community School in Accra, Ghana where I partook in training for the Primary Years Program (PYP) of the International Baccalaureate.
Out of Africa
While in Ghana, I started a family and felt the need to leave the malaria and lack of electricity behind. In 2008, I accepted a position with Indianhead International School in South Korea where I was the Drama teacher and Activities/Service Learning Coordinator, a perfect fit for my passions!
Following IIS, I had the great pleasure of serving as a PYP consultant and classroom teacher at the British School of Lomé, in Togo, West Africa. In 2010, I received training and certification to be a trainer for the IB organization, once again enabling me to travel the world to train and develop teachers. In 2011, Bali, Indonesia became home and colleagues at Bali International School became our family. While in Bali, I had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge about wellbeing, extending to ayurvedic principles and exploring new methods for mindfulness and health.
In 2013, the United Nations pulled me away from Bali, and I once again called New York home while working with the United Nations International School. While there, I was lucky to have the opportunity to serve on the Learning and Innovation Leadership team as the Service Learning Coordinator.
Beyond the Walls
I believe we must model Life Long Learning and Social service, and so outside of my education experience, I also work with World Moms Blog and GAVI Global Alliance to raise awareness of issues that impact mothers and children around the globe.
In addition to the arts and education, motherhood, yoga, writing, and travel make up my life. I am a published contributing writer to the Forbes Top 100 site for Women: World Moms Blog as well as The Huffington Post, and Union Station Magazine.