New International Teachers at Audentes IB
Let`s give a warm welcome to our IB family Agata Marzecova (Biology teacher), Jason Cronbach Van Boom (History and TOK teacher) and Rodrigo Preciado Azcunaga (Student company and entrepreneurship) and see what they think about living and working in Estonia.
What brought you to Estonia and Audentes School?
Agata: I first got here to study lakes. Lakes are natural archives of climate and environmental change and Estonia has more than 2,000 lakes and countless amount of small water-bodies. I became interested in IB curriculum after group of Audentes students visited my university lab.
Jason: I first started teaching in the Baltic in 1994-95. I came to Lithuania and taught English. After I had returned to the United States, I missed the Baltic sky, sea, and landscape. My mother is half-Polish and my stepfather is half-Russian, so I felt a family connection to northeastern Europe. Among other things, the food here is similar to my grandmothers’ cooking. I’ve also always had an interest in linguistics, including Uralic languages. I had felt that someday I might learn Finnish or Estonian.
In 2011, I decided to move to Europe. This was mainly because I had an Anglo-Irish girlfriend. Britain is extremely expensive, but one can easily fly there from almost any part of Europe. Living in Europe would certainly make it easier to see her than in America.
I was also motivated, however, because I’m a professional historian of Europe. I wanted to see the places I have studied all of my life. I like “hands on” experiences with historical sites, not just books. With my European interests, I also felt it might be a good career move.
A friend of a friend of mine was a PR professional in Estonia. I was open to Estonia because of my previous Baltic sojourn. He gave me a tour of Tallinn in November 2011. I loved it. I also liked Estonia’s pro-entrepreneur and pro-American attitudes. Having lived in big cities such as San Francisco and New York City, I also appreciated Estonia’s more compact size. It felt like a more human scale. So, I went back to America, wrapped up my affairs, and moved to Estonia in May 2012.
I found out about Audentes School in early 2016 through an expat group in Tallinn. I had taken IB courses in history and English when I was a high school student. I really loved those IB courses. I thought it would be a great experience “to complete the circle” and teach IB myself. When I heard that Audentes had an opening, I was eager to apply. I was glad I did.
Rodrigo: I moved to Tallinn in February 2009 to work in the development of the NGO Balti Haridus- ja Kultuuriühing. There I met a teacher of economics who some years later invited me to substitute him in one of the schools where he was working. While I was giving the last lesson of the day he went to the director of the school to say he wouldn´t be able to continue next year, then he added „but now there is mexican friend in the classroom, why don´t you ask, maybe he can “. Some days later I had a meeting with the director of Tallinna Arte Gümnaasium where I accepted to start teaching economics in secondary school and high-school. After my first school-year as a teacher I attended a summer seminar for teachers of economics where I met Epp Vodja who has been developing the Junior Achievement programms in Estonia for more than 20 years. I don´t know exactly when Epp and Heidy worked together, the impression I have is that they have worked a lot together. The fact is that thanks to Epp, Heidy contacted me.
How do you feel yourself in here?
Agata: I like the Baltic coast and Soomaa and of course your sauna culture.
Jason: I’ve become very comfortable in Estonia. Audentes has been one of my best experiences here. I think it’s a privilege to teach History and Theory of Knowledge. I have always had a passion for studying philosophy and history. Teaching is the best form of learning. In every lesson, in every class, I learn something from conversations with my students. I also appreciate the friendly atmosphere with my colleagues. The staff is supportive. I like trees and ducks, so I also enjoy the campus grounds.
Rodrigo: Naturally I feel new and wanting to learn a lot. Although I have been only a few months and I only come a couple of hours a week I see I have a lot to learn from my colleagues and students. I would like to have more time at Audentes.
Describe your teaching background?
Agata: I have quite interdisciplinary background but all my teaching projects have been connected to nature and science.
Jason: I have taught in five countries. I got my start by teaching English in Lithuania and South Korea. Later, I also taught English in Estonia and Turkey. In my native California, I taught both introductory courses and graduate seminars in history. I have also given numerous lectures, talks, and presentations in both the United States and Estonia.
Rodrigo: How I ended up teaching economics is already explained in the first question. This is my second year giving five hours a week at Tallinna Arte Gümnaasium and my first year with two hours a week at Audentes. It seems to me it is only the beginning because I really enjoy teaching. Although is not the same as teaching economics it has been useful for me that I have taught basics of guitar, piano and drums and also given talks about human virtues in youth associations for many years.
What are the differences in education culture between your home country and Estonia?
Agata: Difficult to say – I get home to Slovakia only for holidays :).
Jason: Estonia and America are surprisingly similar. That’s probably because “Middle America” was heavily settled by German and Scandinavian immigrants. Students here are also generally speak very good English.
The main difference is that social interactions at an Estonian school can be somewhat more formal. The grading system is also different.
Rodrigo: Although I have experienced some “typicall” cultural difference, between Mexico and Estonia it is funny how these do not necessarily apply in the classroom. Is also truth I have not taught in Mexico, but speaking with my sister who has been a full-time teacher in Monterrey Mexico for ten years is funny how we have very similar situations. She has given me good advices that perfectly apply here and there. My opinion is that in terms of education every teacher faces basically the same challenge wherever he is.
What do you do besides teaching?
Agata: During the last months I have been writing up my dissertation. When I have spare time I like to do mushroom picking and cross-country skiing whenever there is snow.
Jason: I enjoy travelling. I have friends all over the world. When I visit a place, it’s primarily to meet people, having conversations in new settings.
My main hobby is reading and writing poetry. I often attend poetry readings in Tallinn.
I like learning foreign languages. My best ones are Latin, German, and French (at least for reading). I know a smattering of Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, and ancient Greek. I’ve started taking private instruction in Estonian. I can now understand basic texts, such as work and business emails. I hope to improve my pronunciation of Estonian through Estonian poems and songs.
I also enjoy cooking and horseback riding. I haven’t done the latter in some time, although I have ridden horses in California, Virginia, and Mexico.
Rodrigo: I am director at Tatari Students Residence and the youth association Alfa Klubi, both under the NGO I mentioned before.
What do you like about IB?
Agata: The curriculum is ambitious and interesting and the school is welcoming.
Jason: When people ask me about IB, I say it’s a liberal arts program for high school students. A liberal education is not just about training people to be competent workers. It gives a holistic and comprehensive approach to learning. I think IB gives a balanced education in the sciences and the humanities. Having a philosophical course such as Theory of Knowledge at the core can be a great advantage. The syllabus guidance for history courses is excellent. I like how IB has an international scope whilst allowing for regional focus.
Rodrigo: The mission statement and the learner profile, if I understand them correctly I share the optimistic view that students become leaders, persons of character… if they want to.
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