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Children from across the globe fill Morgan Warner’s first grade classroom. It is the first day of school and the excitement of little voices fill the hallways of Pinewood International American School in Thessaloniki, Greece. The atmosphere of the school is warm and welcoming. There are no overhead projectors, no smart boards, no clickers and no Apple computers. Each room is colorful and contains one computer and one telephone.
A “Welcome” poster written in the home languages of all of Warner’s students greets visitors. One language was noticeably missing from the poster, a language that was not the home language of any of her students -- English.
Simple questions such as, “What is your favorite color?” or “What did you bring for lunch today?” became very difficult for Warner to ask.
“I felt as though I was playing a game of charades to get the students to do a simple worksheet,” said Warner, who graduated in Fall 2011 after completing a teaching internship abroad.
Warner, an elementary education graduate, said she has always been interested in overseas work. Her decision in teaching abroad became solidified when news of her family’s transfer overseas came. Her father’s company placed him in Doha, Qatar, a ways away from her native home in Houston, Texas.
“Since my parents sold our house in Texas, I thought, why not now go overseas?” she said. “Not being tied down to a particular place helps when traveling opportunities arise.”
Pinewood International American School is a private school in Thessaloniki, Greece, with an American-based curriculum. There are 187 students in grades pre-K through 12. A handful of students are children of famous athletes, while others have parents who work in high-profile settings, including the Consulate. At the elementary level, the students are immersed in English. At the upper level, the school offers a full International Baccalaureate Program.
Warner’s days began at 6 a.m., when she would catch the bus with her students to school. The rides were an hour-long each day, which gave her the opportunity to talk and bond with them. “Initially this sounded very daunting but it was actually a very special part of my day,” she said.
Aiding the non-native English speakers in a 1-on-1 fashion, large group instruction and oral discussion were a few responsibilities she had. One surprising task she was given was in regard to music. Due to budget cuts, the school had to get rid of its music program. Being the only teacher who had any experience working with music, she began working with students on the school’s semester play, “A Peter Pan Christmas,” which included various Christmas carols and songs from the original Peter Pan. Having been a piccolo player in Auburn’s marching band and having completed a music education course, she felt prepared to teach students in the subject area.
“It was a blast and the students seemed to really enjoy the music. I was asked ‘What is figgy pudding?’ and ‘What is a one-horse open sleigh?’ It was priceless,” she said.
When not busy with school, Warner explored Greece by traveling to various cities, including Athens, Vergina and even Rome, Italy.
Warner summed up life in Greece in one word -- relaxing. She was quick to discover the accuracy in the stereotype that Greeks never miss a coffee break. Her experience immersed her deep into the Greek lifestyle and allowed her to interact with students from different cultures on a daily basis.
After completing her time in Greece, she decided to continue her overseas experience in Qatar. She found herself missing her family and wanting to be as close to them as possible. She loves working overseas but hopes to return to American soil in a few years.
“Looking back at this experience, I have taken away a different set of eyes I see the world through. My philosophy and faith have remained sturdy but my ability to connect and relate to other people has grown tremendously,” she said.
Warner is currently a substitute teacher at The American School of Doha and is continuing to learn about the culture in Qatar. She is also working on her master’s degree in children’s literature via an online program.
“These experiences remind me how precious people and relationships are, and how we must use the time we are given to enjoy every opportunity,” Warner said. “We must consider Dr. Seuss and his comment in my favorite children’s book, `Oh the Places You’ll Go’ -- `Your mountain is waiting so get on your way.’”
Contributed by Brooke Bonner
Last Updated: Jan 30, 2012