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Fly off and sample the American dream

Want to see more of the USA than Disneyland? You could easily live and teach there as a kind of cultural ambassador says Gerald Haigh

The Visiting International Faculty programme (VIF), based in North Carolina, enables teachers from the UK and the USA to live and work in each other's communities and schools for up to three years.

Ned Glascock, of VIF, says: "What sets us apart is that we're truly a cultural exchange programme and not just an agency. We offer a beginning-to-end support service to make sure that it's all successful in the classroom."

There is a rigorous, multi-stage selection process, and after that an equally careful process of matching the teacher to the school. Then comes a professional orientation session designed to introduce the teacher to the challenges and expectations of life in a new country and a new school. The aim is to help teachers bring something of their homeland's culture and outlook to the classroom - VIF calls them "cultural ambassadors".

"Only 20 per cent of Americans have passports. The earlier in life they're exposed to different cultures the better," says Glascock.

There are now more than 1,800 teachers on VIF placements. Previous experience indicates that all but a few are having a successful and enjoyable time, learning about a different country and a different school, and at the same time bringing some new experiences to the children.

So, for example, Jaimee Olivere, from Memphis, Tennessee, who is in her second year teaching Year 2 at Motcombe Community School in Eastbourne, East Sussex, has started a cheerleading club and last November organised a Thanksgiving activity for the whole school. She has also contributed well to the school curriculum.

"We had an Inset day, and I introduced the staff to a spelling programme that I learned about when I was teaching in North Carolina," she says.

"It's gone over well and both Year 1 and Year 2 have adopted it." Such progress has pleased Jaimee's headteacher, Felicity Starkey. "We are very lucky to have Jaimee teaching here. We're hoping to move our language teaching forward by picking up some of her ideas. Hopefully, we'll maintain a link with Jaimee when she goes back home, so we'll have a partner school in the States," she says.

VIF is now recruiting more teachers to work in the United States. The website has full details and an online application form.

Stand No: SN50

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