Last episode of life swap
Aussie, American teachers trading back jobs
After a year of bonding with students, hiking throughout Colorado and Utah’s national parks, and making lifelong friends, teacher Candice Huntly is headed back to Australia.
Huntly and Nisley teacher Theresa Drewer swapped jobs for 2013 through The Colorado International Teacher Exchange League program, which allows American and Australian teachers to switch jobs and homes for a calendar year, in accordance with the Australian school calendar. Drewer will return to her fourth-grade class at Nisley after winter break ends Jan. 7. Huntly’s last day with Nisley fourth-graders is Friday and she will return to her fifth-graders in the southeastern Australian town of Korumburra after their school break ends in late January.
Despite sharing a common language with her students, Huntly said her first couple of months of teaching at Nisley involved explaining at least one word in nearly every sentence she spoke. She called halls corridors, trash rubbish, trash cans bins. Eventually, she began a “word wall” in the back of the classroom with Australian to U.S. English translations. Whenever she let an Aussie term slip, kids would look at her, puzzled, then crane their necks to the back of the classroom to find the corresponding term and nod.
Huntly also introduced her students to Australian rules football and Australian animals. In return, Huntly learned from her students and colleagues about U.S. traditions like Halloween, Broncos football and plentiful snowfalls. She also experienced differences in testing and curricula — state testing is shorter in Australia and teachers there teach using “a framework of skills” rather than following a syllabus, she said — and experienced her first three-month summer break. Her school in Australia has a six-week summer break and two-week breaks throughout the school year.
“It’s great to have a long summer break because that’s when I did most of my traveling,” she said. Adventures included trips to Alaska, California, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, and a stretch from Florida to Boston.
While the U.S. school system was pretty much what Huntly expected, she said her fellow teachers at Nisley surpassed expectations.
“They work so hard. They go above and beyond and the conversations we have about kids are amazing,” she said.
Huntly said she didn’t expect to make strong friendships here, but she has. The feeling is mutual among Nisley staff. Nisley secretary Tanya Jones said staff have enjoyed introducing Huntly to American traditions and trying the words and food she has shared with them.
“I know the kids are sad to see her go; we’re sad to see her go,” Jones said. “We’re definitely not sad to have Theresa back but we’re sad to see Candice go.”
Huntly said she isn’t likely to return soon to the U.S. to teach due to visa regulations but she hopes to teach in the United Kingdom or Canada within the next 10 years.
“All teachers should do this,” she said.