School Guide

Teaching at Mont Kiara International School – Interview with An Expat Teacher

Published by SchoolAdvisor on Oct 02, 2019, 08:25 AM

Mont' Kiara International School is one of the very few schools in Malaysia that offers American coupled with the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

With the demand for IB increasing worldwide, there is a marked increase in demand for teachers familiar with this curriculum too. However, there are few teachers who are well versed with IB way of teaching and M’KIS prides itself in employing only the best, from around the world.

One such teacher, Janelle Schmidt, from the United States of America, is presently the middle/high school learning support teacher at M’KIS. And she shares her journey with team SchoolAdvisor, from landing her teaching job at M’KIS to what it is like to teach at the school, to her experiences of being an expat teacher in Malaysia.

SA - How long have you been teaching in Malaysia?

JS - 8 years

SA - Please share your journey from applying for this job to getting it (what were the requirements, what was the application and the selection process etc.)

JS - My husband and I had been teaching overseas for 11 years in China and Egypt. When you are in the international teaching circuit and want to relocate, you generally sign up with an agency which caters to helping teachers find international teaching jobs, such as Search Associates or ISS. The application process takes place by filling out a 'profile' with one of these agencies, who, in turn, try to match you with schools who are looking for teachers with your qualifications. We signed up with Search Associates and subsequently attended a job fair in Bangkok in January where we interviewed with 9 different schools in 2 days. Qualifications and requirements vary depending on the 'grade' of school you are applying to. Top tier international schools (the most reputable) generally require a master’s degree in Education and at least 5 years of teaching experience. Many require previous overseas teaching experience. There are many 'tiers' of international schools. Some provide international education to local students and these schools' requirements are less rigorous.

After interviewing with schools from Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Peru, etc, we were offered and accepted our jobs at Mont Kiara International School on the second day of the job fair. We chose Kuala Lumpur, and the school, because both of these are places where diversity is embraced, the neighbourhood and reputation of the school were fantastic, and because the school offered a satisfactory package which included free tuition for our 3 children (most schools only offer tuition for 2 children). Contracts were signed and we had from January to June to prepare for our move.

SA - How has been your experience so far, teaching in Malaysia?

JS - Our experience teaching in Malaysia has been amazing. We are very happy and so are our 3 boys. The students and staff at M'KIS are exceptional, the quality of education our students receive is world-class, and Malaysia is an easy country to live in. We feel that the quality of life for us here is very high, it is easy to get most things we like, traveling is affordable, communication is easy, and the people are very welcoming and friendly. Although traffic (especially with drivers staring at phones and no regulations on parking on the streets) can be frustrating, and corruption amongst law enforcement can be discouraging, in general, we have had a very positive experience in Kuala Lumpur and plan to stay here for a while.


SA - Has the language and culture barrier had any effect on your profession as a teacher? How? 

JS - Outside of school, I have not found language or culture to be a barrier for us at all. After living in Shanghai for 9 years, I speak decent Mandarin, so I find that if I cannot communicate in English, I can generally communicate in Mandarin. As a teacher at M'KIS, I am in an environment where everyone speaks English, so this is not an issue. We enrol children who do not speak English, but they receive extra help from an EAL teacher, and we try to partner each student up with another student who speaks the same language in his or her class.

SA - What are the challenges you face? And what has been your biggest achievement? 

JS - Challenges I face as a teacher are not having enough time to plan what to teach, stay on top of current best practice through my own research AND deliver our curriculum in the best manner possible. There simply does not seem to be enough time in the day. The job is always very demanding of teachers to be the best, as the parents expect the very best for the tuition they pay, and we deliver. Fortunately for me, with 20 years of international teaching experience, and a very active personality, I have kept up to the best of my abilities, but it is exhausting at time.

My biggest achievements are when I have taken the time to help individual students on a more personal level, outside of just general academics. Last year I took a student (one of the boys I coached) who was about to fail out of school, organized communication with all of his teachers, created a plan with him to meet with me two days a week to work, spent weekends helping him catch up, made sure he attended school each morning, and after 101 days, watched him graduate with his IB diploma and go on to the USA to university. These are the types of accomplishments I am proud of. Taking time and personal interest in my students and players to change their lives.

Another achievement I am proud of is taking the varsity softball program from being a failing entity to being one of the most winning teams at our school. One of the elements that have been a great asset to my coaching has been the close relationship I have developed with the Putrajaya Softball association, and my 'coach', Sazali Husain. We have worked closely as coaches to share ideas and collaborate. I also created the first adult co-ed expat softball team in KL called the KL Heat through relationships with the Malaysian softball league and I even play for his Malaysian women's fastpitch team in my spare time. I am proud of the relationships I have forged with the local teams and know it will continue to benefit my community and my varsity players as long as I coach here in KL.


SA - What would be your advice to expats looking to pursue teaching here?

My advice for expats looking to pursue teaching at M'KIS, in particular, would be to make sure you are willing to work very hard and have a vision of what education in today's society means. Know what meaningful learning experiences consist of and embrace a vision of educating the whole child. Our school runs a PYP, MYP and IB program, so you need to have experience teaching in this system in order to succeed here. Be willing to collaborate and contribute to the growth of not only the students but of the staff and the school in general. Be ready to coach, attend staff and social functions, participate in after school activities, and be an active member of our small and close-knit community. Prepare to throw yourself completely into your work while you are there, but then know how to relax and enjoy the country on your own time outside of work. Malaysia has many amazing sights, sounds, and experiences to absorb.

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