Our Alumni

 

Gia McKenzie

WorldTeach Colombia ’12

What do you do now?

I am a Video Producer at Benefitfocus. I write and produce corporate videos about topics related to human resources.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

Since returning from Cartagena where I learned Spanish, I have taken a lead role in our Media Department’s Spanish language video projects. Many of our clients are now purchasing both English and Spanish versions of their benefits videos. I also work with Spanish-speaking voiceover and on-camera talent for our Talent Reel.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I serve as Media-at-Large for The Colour of Music Festival – a classical musician’s festival founded in my hometown of Charleston, SC (https://www.colourofmusic.org) that features composers, performers, conductors and principals of African descent. I want to arrange for the Festival to take place in Cartagena and create some type of cultural and educational bridge between the cities. Both were the leading ports of entry for enslaved Africans, yet the Afro-Colombians I met in Cartagena were unaware of the similar history the city shared with African-Americans in Charleston and vice versa.

 

Tyler Hensley

WorldTeach Micronesia Kosrae ’09

What do you do now?

I’m currently a math (Algebra I and Algebra II) and accounting teacher at Ocean View High School, a Title I school in Huntington Beach, CA. This past June I also finished two years as a Hollyhock fellow at Stanford University.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

I’ve been following my passion for teaching ever since discovering it in Micronesia. With a background in wealth management (the job I quit to join WorldTeach), I was disturbed by the lack of financial literacy amongst high school students. I became compelled to intervene when I saw many of my students basing important life decisions on incomplete or poor information. I developed a curriculum, titled “The College Project”, to guide students through a personalized, comprehensive journey to understand why and how they can afford college, regardless of their socioeconomic status. It can be found online at www.collegeprojectonline.com.  It’s also available in paperback form on Amazon.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

My dream project is to continue to develop and share The College Project so that every student understands how to afford college.

Morgan Taliaferro

WorldTeach Colombia ’13

What do you do now?

I run a consulting company, Living Language, and offer editing services and grant writing for non-profits. I also teach English to business professionals and their families. I will also offer reading/English/Spanish classes as soon as my border collie puppies finish their therapy certification.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

Being a WT teacher was a new challenge for me.  So far, English teaching has been the most lucrative for my business, and it’s what has given me the idea to teach with therapy dogs which is innovative. I owe being a strong teacher to the amazing training and professional development I received from WT.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I would like to partner with a non-profit and offer a project I piloted in Colombia, GIrlPower!. GIrlPower!’s mission is combat teen pregnancy and dating violence through the teaching of healthy relationships and positive self esteem. This time I would like to train teen educators. Studies show young people get the majority of sexuality information from their peers and unfortunately, much of this information is inaccurate.

Karen Green

WorldTeach Ecuador ’96

What do you do now?

I am currently the Family Literacy Manager at an Austin-based non-profit called El Buen Samaritano, and was formerly Education Coordinator at Manos de Cristo for 8 years. I have worked with thousands of students in: English as a Second Language, Computer Literacy, Citizenship preparation, and Adult Basic Education and Literacy in Spanish.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

I began my career in Adult Education while in Ecuador in 1996 as a volunteer English teacher with WorldTeach and later spent an additional 2 years in Ecuador as a Field Director.  The WorldTeach experience led me directly to the field of international education and inspired my passion for adult education. I now have over a decade of experience working in the field of adult education and completed a Masters degree in International Education from the School for International Training. In 2015, I became a Master Trainer for the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas’ program called Literacy Forward.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

My dream is to grow Spanish literacy programs for adults. It is just as important for an adult to learn how to read, as it is for a child to learn how to read, and it is NEVER too late to learn.

 

Celeste Visser

WorldTeach Micronesia ’09

What do you do now?

I am the the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Director for a non-profit organization called Village Enterprise that aims to end extreme poverty in rural Africa through entrepreneurship and innovation. I’m also a mom and a wife.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

With WorldTeach I was provided the opportunity to teach algebra and geometry to students at an under-resourced rural high school. In addition to teaching math, I got to co-coach a student debate team, tutor, volunteer with a nutrition non-profit, and be one of the advisors for the senior students. Gaining an in-person appreciation for economic, political and social issues affecting the education of the students inspired me to build a career in the field of international development. Additionally, teaching math reignited my passion for economics and led me to complete an MA in Development Economics and move forward as a monitoring and evaluation professional. 

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I would love to develop applied monitoring and evaluation curriculum for tertiary-level instruction.

Joshua Kaufmann

WorldTeach Namibia ’07

What do you do now? 

I work as the Executive Director of Teach Plus Illinois. We work to ensure that teachers have leadership roles in education, so they can impact the policies that affect their profession and improve the quality of teaching that happens in schools.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

I had been a teacher for six years prior to joining World Teach, but I was burnt out on education and seeking to change into international development. My placement in World Teach allowed me to grow as a teacher, by training all the incoming teachers in my cohort, and also re-energized me as an educator because I loved my school, my students, and my colleagues. When I came back from WT, I recommitted to working in education. I found that WT is a good way to grow as a professional if you’ve already got some teaching experience, because the context of teaching is much different from teaching in the US.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I’m also a private pilot, and I’d like to create a high school in the Chicago area with an aviation focus.

Joshua Olatunde

WorldTeach Namibia ’02

What do you do now?

I currently serve as a CEO of Mister Josh Productions, LLC. – a media company that provides standards-based educational content to elementary schools across the globe.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

World Teach provided me my first experience as a Teacher (and traveler) abroad. It inspired me to tap into students’ future success plans by creatively presenting education as the pathway to all success.  In 2003, I began writing educational theatre assemblies and toured the USA teaching Math & Science to K-5 graders.  I was inspired by students’ excitement for these subjects and have dedicated my life to educational entertainment via theatre and television since.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I’d like to establish a strong virtual school where students can experience all of their core subject in the format “The Kool School with Mister Josh” presents it.  Many students with ADD, ADHD and many other “learning disabilities” are seeking alternative ways to learn and I’d love to establish a platform to serve these and other needs.

Sara Cleaver

WorldTeach American Samoa ’12

What do you do now?

I graduated from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment with a Master’s degree in Coastal Environmental Management. I have been working as a fisheries and wildlife technician for the U.S. Forest Service, and am about to begin an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship working as a fishery analyst with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Anchorage, AK.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

It helped me gain a better understand of some of the marine conservation issues that are faced worldwide. Because I was teaching a marine science class, I brought students to the NOAA Ocean Center and the National Park, where we learned more about the local fisheries and marine debris. It confirmed my belief that education should be the first step of conservation efforts. I knew I had been interested in marine conservation and fisheries before I became a WorldTeach volunteer, however my experience solidified my desire to focus on management and developing conservation solutions. 

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I have more interests than I do time, and I would be interested in projects anywhere from helping restore coastal fisheries habitat in island nations, to helping create management solutions that decrease bycatch in large commercial fisheries. In the future I would love to collaborate on projects aimed at reducing global dependence on shark fisheries, as well as working to educate recreational anglers about the discard mortality of sharks that they catch and release, and help increase survivability of physiological fragile shark species.

Alison Heslin

WorldTeach Marshall Islands ’09

What do you do now?

I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, where I research the social consequences of environmental change, including how climate change affects social movements, migration, and conflict. Before IIASA, I was a visiting assistant professor at New York University, where I taught courses on politics, migration, and sustainability.  

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

My experience in the Marshall Islands motivated me to focus my graduate school career exploring the interaction between changes in the natural environment and the societies, which depend on them because of the up close experience with the risks of climate change.  Following my year teaching in the Marshall Islands, I attended Emory University, where I received my PhD in Sociology, focusing on the social consequences of climate change, particularly changes to food access and conflict mobilization.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I plan to continue researching and teaching about climate change with a particular emphasis on its effects on inequality, conflict, and cultural loss.

Travis King

WorldTeach South Africa ’10

What do you do now?

I am currently the Manager of Community Development for Remote Year, after completing a year as a Program Leader for the third ever Remote Year program.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

World Teach South Africa was where I first fell in love with traveling and the World, and more importantly, where I gained that sense that I could make a home anywhere I went. I currently work for the world’s largest digital nomad travel company, helping people to embrace a nomadic lifestyle that blends life, work, community, adventure and everything in between, so I’d say the impact was pretty big.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

For now I’m really happy and busy at Remote Year as we’re still growing rapidly and always trying out new ideas. One thing I consider for the future is to build some type of community somewhere in the world, whether that’s a hostel, or a place people come to make a more intentional life change.

Emily Balls

What do you do now? 

I monitor and evaluate the impact of international development projects. At the moment I’m working on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects in East Africa. The program I work on (SHARE) contributes to achieving universal access to effective, sustainable and equitable WASH by generating evidence to improve policy and practice worldwide.

How did WorldTeach affect your career path?

Volunteering with WorldTeach sparked my interest in international development. I saw first-hand the connections between education, sustainable development and health as well as the challenges. Afterwards, I was inspired to study a MA in Education and International Development before going on to work at various development and humanitarian organisations.

What would be your dream projects for the future?

I’d love to apply my skills to education projects and to focus more on gender – perhaps through a WASH in Schools project or a girls’ education project! I’ve recently been researching menstrual hygiene management (MHM) and how this affects girls around the world – in some contexts preventing girls from attending school – so this is an area I’d like to work on further.

In Celebration of Kristin Skvarla

WorldTeach Namibia ’97

As a WorldTeach volunteer at St. Boniface College in Namibia, Kristin lived in the remote rural village of Sambyu on the banks of the Okavango River. She taught geography, history, math, physical education and art to learners in Grades 8-12.

She noted in her first year, “The weeks are flying by despite the relaxed pace of life…the learners are wonderful. They definitely demand the best I can do, but they’re respectful, disciplined, warm and eager! They make every day different and extraordinary.”

Her love of the students was palpable in her messages home; “The learners of course are the best part of the experience. They will frustrate, exhilarate, make you cry and make you laugh… They are wonderful!! This place will embrace you with open arms and keep you enthralled for the time that you stay.” Her experience was so life changing, she decided to stay another year. “I want to stay for me. The Kavango has gotten under my skin and it will not let me go just now.”

In Kristin’s second year at St. Boniface, to her great satisfaction, the roster of Ministry of Youth and Sport, Kavango Zone 5 Athletics school team managers, listed her as the only Ms. among all team managers and event directors for that February ’99 track meet; a little crack in the “Namibian glass ceiling,” she noted, which she was pleased to leave for her students. She established a community internship program for grade 12 students, served as a volunteer regional program officer for Patty Schmidt Foundation Scholarship recipients and enabled students to participate in regional culture competitions of dance and drumming

Kristin’s family, the Kristin Linnea Skvarla Foundation Board of Directors and their loyal and generous donors who have made possible assistance to Namibia-bound WorldTeach volunteers, are confident that the ROAD you find in Namibia will be as rewarding and life-changing for you as it will be for Namibians with whom you share your days.