Woodland has a wide variety of educators, ranging from skydivers to marathon-runners. The school is embellished with hundreds of teachers, each with their own experiences and perspectives used to better their students’ education. This year Woodland has added to its diverse staff with the addition of Jennifer Carvalho, a well-traveled teacher with experience in international schools in Peru, Portugal, and Poland.
Carvalho says she has always been fond of math, but when she graduated from Drew University she had no intention of using her math degree to become an educator. While working in the tourism industry, an ex-boyfriend advised her to go into the teaching field. On a whim, Carvalho went with the idea, received a degree in teaching, and began her new career.
She began teaching at Wilbur Cross Annex in New Haven for half a year. Through friends, she heard of a teacher working at an international school in Italy. This was the point in Carvalho’s teaching career when she realized she could use education to explore new nations. She then attended a job fair and interviewed alongside hundreds of other teachers before being offered a position. After a lifelong dream of traveling to South America, she decided to teach at Colegio FDR, an international school in Lima, Peru.
“Everyone thinks it sounds so romantic. ‘Wow, you’re so cultured!’ You go in with a whole community of people who speak English and are American so you aren’t as immersed as it might sound,” Carvalho shares.
However, she did make an effort to expose herself to the culture and activities of Peru. In Lima, Carvalho went so far as to take guitar lessons to practice speaking Spanish and interact with Peruvians. She shares that although living in Lima, Peru had its obstacles such as difficult climate, she admired the people’s love of children and says that professionally the school gave her several opportunities that advanced her career. While at this school Carvalho attended four conferences for teachers from all around the globe to share what they have collected from other international schools. These three day training conventions allowed her to share more internationally and allowed her to learn about teaching other subjects. Carvalho expresses her appreciation for the opportunities she received at the school and credits it for giving her more experience in teaching other courses besides math.
After becoming pregnant with her son, Carvalho chose to take a job from a friend in Portugal to raise him. She taught at Carlucci American International School of Lisbon, an international private school for wealthier students. Carvalho comments it was much different than teaching in Peru, where teachers were revered. She notes that Peruvian parents felt great concern for their children’s education and the students held a high level of respect for their educators. Carvalho explains that although Peruvian students showed more concern for their education compared Portuguese students, this is not a reflection of the culture as a whole as each school is different. Soon after she left Portugal, Carvalho began her next teaching journey in Poland.
She shares that the people and culture in Poland were the most friendly and inviting compared to the other countries she was exposed to. The Polish family that neighbored Carvalho took her and her son through the different areas and helped them become more immersed in the community. She describes the people of Poland as exceedingly fond of children, and that having her son with her made the experience much more enjoyable.
Carvalho explains that the most valuable part of teaching in these nations was the ability to share with other international teachers. She recalls receiving notes from a teacher in Peru who had passed them on from a teacher in Asia. Sharing internationally not only helped Carvalho grow as a teacher, but she was able to pass on to others what she gathered from different teachers worldwide.
“All of these experiences have definitely shaped who I am, and I like that I have that under my belt. It gives me a more global view as a teacher,” says Carvalho. “Getting a new perspective on things is definitely a valuable lesson.”
Although English is an international language, Carvalho at times struggled with some students who spoke English as a second language or not at all. She shares that since math is a universal language, these barriers were less of an issue in her field compared to other subjects.
When asked if she would recommend other teachers to travel, Carvalho explains: “You can share anywhere. I think it’s important to interact with people outside of your district or teach a new course,” she states. “I think you just need to get out of your comfort zone.”
Carvalho will be sharing and utilizing the techniques she has learned through her travels while teaching math courses at Woodland, focusing on Algebra and Trigonometry. She hopes to continue growing from her educating peers and help bring others out of their own comfort zone.