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Meet Our Visiting International Faculty, Ms. Christians

Renski Christians, our VIF teacher, talks to the fifth grade classes about life in New Zealand.

This year, Antioch is happy to announce that we have a Visiting International Faculty (VIF)  member, Renski Christians.  Our school is one of 18 elementary schools in the county that has a VIF, and she teaches 5th grade this year.  Ms. Christians was born in South Africa and moved to New Zealand when she was nine years old.  She was a middle school teacher at a Title 1 school in Auckland for four years.  Ms.  Christians recently taught English as a Second Language in Busan, South Korea.

She has an older brother and a 1-year old niece.  Her mum is also a teacher having taught for almost 30 years, and her father works for Air New Zealand.  Ms. Christians has cousins that live in Dallas and Louisiana, so while visiting the states in July of last year, she decided on a whim to live here.  

After returning to New Zealand, she started researching possiblities of making this dream come true.  She found the VIF site and applied last August.  After background checks, interviews, observations of her teaching, and loads of paperwork, she was accepted into the VIF program in December.  Mr. Hoover and Mrs. Dillon, Antioch's administration team at the time, interviewed her through Skype in May.  A week later, Ms. Christians was offered the job and she had two months to prepare for her move.

During those two months, she had to sell her car and possessions and depart with some of her clothes.  Ms. Christians continued working at her school until 2 weeks before her move here.  Then after arriving here, she had to find an apartment, furniture, obtain a car, and get a driver's license.  She says that is when life really turned hectic.  One of the big adjustments was learning how to drive on the right side of the road.

School is much different here than in New Zealand she says.  In New Zealand, school runs from 9-3 and the whole school eats lunch at 11:00.  They have recess twice a day while peer mediators are out with 3 teachers.  They eat lunch in their classroom or outside since they don't have a cafeteria.  They teach everything since they don't have special area teachers.  School sports are soccer, hockey, rugby, touch rugby, tag rugby, volleyball, softball, netball, and basketball.  They compete with other schools during the season they play.

Some things that Ms. Christians has learned about American schools is that we are much more regimented with schedules and routines.  There is less time for play, and one of the hardest things to overcome was the early start of the day.  Although she really misses her family in New Zealand, she finds life here exciting.  She is going to plan lots of road trips!

Ms. Christians loves traveling and is no stranger to moving around, so this seemed like the perfect challenge.  She loved the anticipation of coming to this "land of amazingness".  She also loves meeting new people, is passionate about learning new tools, and always strives to become a better teacher.  "I know that when I return home, I will take with me new experiences and culture that I will learn here," she says.

Some of the things she hopes her students take from this experience is a chance to broaden their own horizons.  It is her hope they learn about New Zealand and its "tikanga" (traditions), while also learning the language.  She also desires to spark their interest in traveling themself, and she wants them to venture out and embrace others walks of life.  "At the end of the day the other side of the world is only a few hours away," she says.

Written by: Kathy Gwinn media specialist
Posted: Sep 21, 2011 by Kathy Gwinn

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