Cati Vanden Breul, former teacher

2nd year testimonial

Hello! My name is Cati, and I have been teaching at STIS for two years now. I taught the Rabbits class for Pre-K last year, and followed them up to K1 this year! It has been a really fulfilling experience to spend two years with my wonderful students in an environment where I felt really in control of their educational progress. It has been such a pleasure to watch my students grow and develop, and be a part of the process.

One of the things I appreciate most about working at STIS is being the lead classroom teacher for one class, as opposed to rotating between many sets of students. I’ve worked in language schools abroad before where you see students just once or twice a week, teaching short lessons and not really getting to know them as well as you can when you have one set group of students that you teach every day. (In fact, this is very often the type of job you’ll find teaching abroad in Thailand and other places). At STIS, the class sizes are small, and most of us foreign teachers are in charge of our own class.

At first I was a little nervous to take on all that responsibility, but it ended up really giving me a sense of purpose within the school, and definitely made me a better teacher! As teachers at STIS, we are pretty much able to design our own classroom routine, and use our own preferred practices to teach, providing we cover the curriculum material. Every class and every teacher has their own personality, and it shows! Just as students learn differently, many teachers naturally default to different styles of teaching, and that’s okay too!  It was nice to work at a school where these differences were appreciated and valued. It also meant I had the opportunity to try new things and develop a routine over time. I never felt boxed into one way of doing things in my own classroom.

Having stellar Thai teachers in each Pre-K and kindergarten class was a huge help as well, and it really allowed me to focus on teaching and running the classroom more effectively and with more of an academic focus. I worked briefly at a preschool in the US, and it was much more difficult as a lead teacher to be in charge of not only planning activities and developing early learning skills, but also all of the general care as well. Here, though I would help out if needed, I was often able to focus on leading the lessons, while my wonderful Thai teachers could help with any other issues the children were having. I started out my first year with one Thai teacher, but when it became clear one more set of hands would free up more time for me to give each child some more individual attention, Peter hired a second teacher, which I really appreciated! Now, the majority of the younger classrooms have two Thai teachers to help out! It really makes a difference in the level of education you can provide!

In addition to developing a real connection with my students I’ll always cherish (which you can read about more in other posts I’ve written… I’m absolutely in love with my little Rabbits), I’ve also made some really great friendships with other teachers. As the school continues to grow and add a grade each year, the office becomes more lively too! Most of us have the same lunch and planning break so there’s always someone to eat and share stories about your students with. Many of us also hang out outside of school and go on weekend trips together. It’s not hard to meet people in Surat! There are often community events organized, and a Facebook page where information is shared and updated pretty consistently.

Peter also organizes dinners and events for the STIS staff, which sometimes include the Super English teachers as well, who work at another school in town. This could mean a nice dinner out, a trip to a beach resort in nearby Khanom, or a sightseeing excursion to check out some temples. Peter likes to bring the staff together outside of school to wind down and show appreciation for all of our hard work! He often says, “Teachers make the school”, and you can see he puts time and effort into cultivating a Super English/STIS community in Surat.

As far as life in Surat goes, it’s a great base for weekend trips to all over southern Thailand! A personal favorite getaway of mine is Khanom, a sleepy beach town about an hour away. It costs 100 baht to get a van there, and it’s a beautiful beach without all the busyness of the islands! However, three of the most popular islands in Thailand are just a few hours away by ferry as well! On weekends you stay in town, there’s a variety of restaurants and cafes to check out, and there’s always a group of foreign teachers hanging out doing something.

It was a difficult decision to leave after two years, and I will really miss my kids! Though it’s time for me to move on to the next experience, my time with the Rabbits has definitely left an imprint on my heart and I’ll always regard this experience at STIS as a very special one!