The Taylor University Education department’s goal is for its students “to graduate as competent, caring, and reflective teachers—excited about their calling and prepared for world-service.” Alyssa Henrikson, who has taught for the last two years in Ankara, Turkey, is just one of Taylor’s graduates embodying this mission.
The Path to Teaching Abroad
Dr. Cindy Tyner, one of Taylor’s Education professors, has taken groups of senior Education majors to an international school job fair several times over the years.
Henrikson felt called to international teaching since she was just a kid and she was eager for the opportunity to network with international schools. She interviewed with three different schools at the job fair, and by the end of her 20-minute interview with the principal and school director of an international school in Ankara, Turkey, Ankara’s principals, she was offered the job.
While the idea of moving to Turkey shortly after graduation might cause anxiety for some, Henrikson experienced the opposite.
“I felt immediate peace, the kind that doesn’t make any sense and can only come from God, and I knew I would take the job,” Henrikson said.
After taking a couple of days to think about the opportunity, mostly to calm her family’s nerves, Henrikson decided she would be moving to Turkey in August 2018, just a few short months after her graduation in May.
Henrikson taught in Ankara for two years now and is looking forward to returning after the COVID pandemic.
“It’s crazy for me to think that I wouldn’t be here had I not gone to Taylor and had those connections,” she said.
A Day in the Life
Prior to the pandemic, Henrikson started her morning with staff devotions at 7:30 am with the first bell welcoming in students an hour later. Her days were centered around teaching classes and building relationships with her students, some even eating meals in her classroom weekly.
The school day ended at 3 pm, but she typically taught private lessons until around 5 pm.
As the school’s music teacher, her classes include general music for 2nd through 6th graders once a week in addition to instructing the middle school and high school band every day.
Prepared for Classroom Success
Taylor’s Education department strives to help students feel well-prepared for their teaching careers.
“I felt prepared in a very practical way,” Henrikson said. “Whether it was knowing how to write good lesson plans, having plenty of experience in the classroom, and learning from so many good teachers as my professors.”
She gives special thanks to Dr. Ben Hotmire and his Discipline and Classroom Management course, a class she thinks about daily, as well as many other professors who shaped her into the teacher she is today.
However, overseas teaching takes more than just professional preparation. Her experiences outside of the Education department were just as crucial to her career.
“God used things outside of my academic Taylor experience, such as getting plugged into a local church, being a PA and developing leadership skills, small groups, and just having space to really dive deeper into my faith in a place with mentors and good friendships, to prepare me in so many other ways that have helped me in living in another country.”
Who knew that choreographing an Airband act or being a part of Swing Dance Club would be things she would look back on and find useful in her current job as a teacher in Ankara, Turkey?
Letting God Guide Her Footsteps
Planting herself in a foreign country, with no knowledge of the language or what her daily life would look like, gave her a new understanding of God as her provider.
Henrickson is constantly learning what it means to surrender her own plans for her future as God continually strings together something even more beautiful than she expected. She says she most clearly sees the beauty of God through the diversity of her students.
It is evident to her that God is working in Ankara, and she encourages others to “take chances and step out in faith, because the best adventures happen when you let God guide your footsteps.”