Samantha Vell ’16 with students at Berkeley International School (Image provided by Thea Yurkewecz).
SUNY Geneseo alumnae Hannah Hunter Chhan ’14 and Samantha Vell ’16 find it deeply rewarding to teach at the Berkeley International School in Bangkok, Thailand. The school provides a culturally diverse environment where values of global citizenship are fostered, they say.
Chhan and Vell wanted to bring that international student teaching experience to Geneseo students. In 2016 the alumnae fostered a partnership between the Berkeley International School and Geneseo’s Ella Cline Shear School of Education to build a student teaching abroad experience.
“Teaching abroad allows you to experience many new cultures—as our classrooms are very diverse—while using what we've learned at Geneseo in a different context,” said Chhan.
Geneseo’s student teaching program at the international school has recently finished a successful second year, with the number of applicants growing each year. The program is a seven-week student teaching placement that includes opportunities for cultural experiences within Thailand.
“Few people are aware of the opportunities that exist throughout the world of teaching abroad,” said Vell, “so I thought it would be powerful to have student teachers come directly to Berkeley.”
Chhan also appreciates the many benefits of teaching abroad. “International teaching is truly another world, and once you're in it, you don't want to leave,” said Chhan. “There are networks, room to grow as educators, benefits, and diversity in both staff and students.”
Thea Yurkewecz, assistant professor of reading and literacy in the School of Education and coordinator of the Thailand student teaching experience, praises the alumnae’s initiative.
“We should recognize alumni who take a leadership role in connecting our current Geneseo students with global opportunities,” said Yurkewecz. “Without their Geneseo connection, we would not have a student teaching experience abroad in Thailand.”
The two alumnae knew each other from the Royal Lady Knights sorority at Geneseo, and they are looking forward to new possibilities in teaching and travel. “I'm so excited about the future of the program at Berkeley and possibly expanding student teaching abroad opportunities,” said Vell.
After teaching two years at the Berkeley International School, Chhan is currently teaching first grade at NIST International School in Bangkok. Vell will be moving to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates this fall to teach second grade at an international school. Both hope to continue developing Geneseo connections to other international schools around the world.