7 October 2020
One might need Google Maps when taking a look at the often extensive resumes of Cayman International School faculty.
Being a part of the International School Services network opens a plethora of doors for teaching and learning support opportunities around the globe, from countries such as Abu Dhabi to Brazil and everything in between.
Despite many options to chose from, teaching at Cayman International School in the Cayman Islands remains a desirable post for a number of reasons.
Middle School humanities teacher Andrea Jarr, who made the move from Augsburg, Germany, to join Cayman International School this summer, says it was the complete package that finalised her decision.
“I was ready to try something new and I saw the advertisement for CIS,” she says. “I’ll admit: At first I saw the beautiful pictures of the island and the sunny weather — this was during the middle of winter in Germany — and I said to myself, ‘OK, living near a beach could be cool.'” But then when I read more about the school, especially its paradigms document, which gives a clear understanding of the learning and teaching that happens at CIS, I knew this was a place I wanted to be a part of.”
Based on her experiences thus far, Jarr is convinced the school is exactly what it positions itself to be.
“It was like a lock and key," she says. "It resonates with who I am as a person and an educator."
Grade one teacher Rochelle Slachta accepted a teaching position alongside her husband, high school English teacher Ron Slachta. She says she and her husband welcomed the opportunity to support the school during its ongoing expansion.
“We were excited about the possibility of working with colleagues to help a school in a stage of growth and development," says Slachta. “CIS is growing, and these transitional periods are not new to us, as our most recent school [in Latvia] had grown much in the way CIS has.”
Friendships the Slachtas formed during their teaching career played a role in their decision as well.
“We are fortunate to have two sets of friends here that we taught with at another fabulous school — The American School of The Hague — several years ago," says Slachta. "We knew that if they were happy here, we most likely would be, too. Of course, the idea of living in an idyllic, fairytale-like environment was not off-putting, either!”
A unique transition
Changing jobs and moving to another country can have its own set of challenges, but even more so when amplified by a global pandemic. However, the new faculty members received continuous guidance and support from the school’s administration and community, which made the transition more manageable.
During the months leading up to their arrival, the administration facilitated monthly meetings to ensure new teachers would be well acclimated to the school and familiar with their then soon-to-be colleagues.
“We actually had Zoom new hire meetings with the incoming director, Jim Urquhart, and other administrators, which was very helpful in feeling connected and supported through the transition,” says Slachta. “They were truly supportive and positive, and the school, especially Julie Marr our HR director, worked with us at every turn.” Jarr echoes this sentiment.
“They are superheroes," she says. "Their communication with the new teachers was constant, kind and helpful. For the entire time, I felt that I was in good hands.”
Additionally, Jarr found the COVID-19 travel requirements for the Cayman Islands surprisingly easy.
“Travel Time did a great job of getting us on the island," she says. "The communication was good and the care I received while in quarantine at Palm Heights was amazing.”
As educational institutions the world over grapple with the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the new teachers are grateful for the ability to resume classes with minimal impact to the learning environment here on Grand Cayman.
“We feel blessed beyond belief,” says Slachta. “It is priceless as a grade one teacher, to be able to be face-to-face with my little ones so they can see my expressions and have better overall understanding in the classroom that is unhindered by mask-wearing.”
Jarr says teachers around the world can only hope for the education situation the Cayman Islands has now.
“I have been able to talk with friends at other schools and it’s a point of inspiration," she says. "I show them pictures of my classroom with students interacting with one another, interacting with me, and I tell them, 'This will be you soon; just have hope and faith because it’s coming.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline "New teachers glad to be in Cayman."
About the Author
Ariel Thompson is a Senior Marketing Communications Coordinator at Dart, having joined the company in 2017. A lifelong writer, Ariel was born and raised in the Cayman Islands before studying abroad at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, for her degree in public relations and film and television. With eight years of experience in communications, Ariel joined Dart after working as Cayman International School’s first marketing communications officer. As her name would suggest, Ariel is a Disney fan and has a singing voice to rival The Little Mermaid’s. She loves to conceptualise TV and movie scripts and hopes one day to be a director. When in Camana Bay, Ariel can be found enjoying Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar’s Pad Thai, or shopping with friends and a scoop of gelato in hand.