When I made the transition from teaching in the States to teaching in Papua New Guinea, I really didn’t know what to expect. All I remember thinking was that I could do anything for a year. That’s what I planned to do, teach at Numonohi for a year. Four years later, I realized that there was nothing else I would rather do.
I had to become more creative in order help my students truly experience the literature we were studying.
Where in the States I probably would have just ordered some activity or workbooks on a whim or sent students to a local theater to see a play we were studying, in PNG I had to be a bit more creative. While that might sound like just adding to the workload of teaching, I believe it made me a better teacher. It made me really think through what I was teaching and why I was teaching it in the way that I was. It also helped me get to know my students better.
My favorite part of teaching at NCA, though, is the community aspect. I live in a community with the students I teach and the teachers I teach with. This gives me the opportunity to really get to know them as people. My colleagues aren’t just teaching at the school because they have nothing better to do, we all have a common purpose and because of that investment, we enjoy being there and working together. My students aren’t just names on a roster. By getting to know them outside of the classroom, it makes what goes on in the classroom that much more meaningful. I feel more invested in their lives, and I want to see them succeed, not just in high school but in the future as well.
Overall, teaching at NCA has given me purpose. It’s not just a job. I love the people I work with, I love the people I teach, and I love being a part of something bigger, reaching unreached people groups with the Gospel. What could be better than doing something you love that has eternal significance?
My experience included two years of teaching and coaching at a school in the heart of Papua New Guinea from 2005 to 2007. During that time I taught every math subject at the high school level. My classes averaged around 10 students and those were some of the most well behaved and brightest students that I have ever taught. During that time I had 14 calculus students to take the AP exam and all 14 were able to make at least a 3 on the exam with 8 making a 5.
Before teaching at NCA, I had taught for 31 years in public education. The two years at NCA were easily the most memorable of my life.
I remember one night that I was playing basketball with the men at the gym while a few students were working on their calculus homework there in the stands. Each time that I subbed out of the game I would spend that time helping them with some of their questions. Imagine the joy that brought to me that those students were so willing to get help, that they would work under those circumstances.
The school schedule is quite different from the one used in most public schools. The students attend class for around nine weeks and then have a 2-3 week break. There are four of these terms during the year and an extra long break for summer (usually around six weeks). These breaks allow you to have some time to do other things while you are in the country. We were able to fly in to one of the tribal locations and stay with a missionary and get a feel for their life with the people. During another break we flew to the coast and were able to see the beautiful coral reefs and enjoy some time around the water.
You live right around the majority of your students and see them and their parents outside of class on a daily basis. The students in this school are extremely thankful for their teachers, since they and their parents realize that you have given a year of your life and have come to them with great expense and sacrifice. If you are interested in extracurricular activities, there are many of these were you can give some of your extra time. You may be asked to lead a group of boys or girls in a Bible Study or to be a sponsor for one of the classes. I enjoyed coaching boys and girls basketball teams and helping sponsor the freshmen class.
You will also be working with the greatest staff that you have ever known. My fellow teachers at NCA were from all over the USA and from all over the world. A Spanish teacher was from Australia, an art teacher from Ireland, and a soccer coach from Belgium.
If you are looking to give one or more years to NTM at a school in the very center of a third world country, then you are in for the most thrilling part of your life!