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Go For It

International Education: Stories From the Field
By Katherine Benson
Go For It

In this collection of stories, international educators share their unique experiences, insights, and perspectives. These accounts include how some began their international school career, things to consider if you’re curious about the international teaching landscape, what they’ve learned along the way, and the unparalleled journeys on this career path.

Join us as we delve into the stories of these inspiring educators and gain a deeper understanding of the transformative power of education across borders.


My name is Kate Benson. I'm the primary school Principal and PYP [Primary Years Program] coordinator at Vilmas International School. I've been there about, well, I've been there six years. Next year is going to be my seventh year and that is my fourth international school. Prior to being in Lithuania, I was working as a… actually grade four teacher. I went back into the classroom and was in Bogota and then I was in Azerbaijan for a while as a PYP coordinator at the International School of Azerbaijan and I started my overseas journey in Shanghai, China at a little school in the Shanghai Zoo called Rainbow Bridge International School. Now it's a bigger school no longer in the zoo called Hong Chao International School but that was a really lovely place to start.

What made you get into international education?

Well, when I was about 25 or so I started really wanting to move overseas because I thought it would be really interesting to have an international experience. And then one summer, I went to- well, winter there- one summer for me, I went to Buenos Aires to study Spanish. And when I was there, I met a few people that I had mutual contacts with. They were living in Buenos Aires. And I just thought, wow, this is so cool to just live someplace outside of your home country. So, I went back to California and started thinking about what could I do to make the leap into international living. And I actually became a teacher. I wasn't a teacher yet. I worked in publishing, and I was a journalist basically. And I got my teaching credential, worked in the states for about six years, got some experience, figured out what I was doing, and then made the leap into international education.

What impact do you have teaching in an international school?

One of the things that I think is such an advantage to working overseas is the fact that you get to work with practitioners, educators from all over the world. So just now in my school in Lithuania, not only is it amazing working with the children and so gratified and so rewarding, but also, I have colleagues from all over the world: South Africa, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Spain. We really are an international staff as well. And I think the things that I've learned from my colleagues, just being able to get best practice from around the world has been invaluable and made me a better teacher.

In what way did it make you a better teacher?

I think sometimes when you stay in your home country or you stay in your national curriculum, you don't have the opportunities to learn different ways of doing things as much as you would if you are in an international setting. I mean it doesn't matter about the curriculum, even if you're at a Canadian school or American school or a German school, you're still with colleagues from around the world. So now I know more about teacher training in Australia, for example, how they do it in New Zealand, what's it like in Belgium. and just kind of getting all of those best practices and being able to, you know, take things and put it in your own toolkit has made me a lot stronger.

What is your advice to teachers who have not taught internationally?

I would say yes if you're ready for adventure, but also it can be lonely and isolating. I always forget before I move countries that when you land in a new place you don't know anybody; you don't know how things work; you don’t know the language many times; you're not familiar with where to get this, how to do that, which can be both exciting and terrifying. So, my advice would be, if you're interested, go for it. Have the experience, but go in with a positive attitude, an open mind, a sense of humor, and a lot of flexibility and adaptability.

Kate Benson is the Head of School at Trinity School in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has more than 20 years of leadership and teaching experience in a variety of settings and contexts. Kate is passionate about supporting educators in developing and nurturing student agency so that children are able to find personal relevance in their work and are motivated to become active participants in their learning. Kate has previously served in leadership roles in schools in China, Azerbaijan, Colombia, and Lithuania. Most recently she was the Primary School Principal and PYP Coordinator at Vilnius International School. Kate holds a master’s degree in cross-cultural education and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.

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