Learning Commons Specialist –DP English Language and Literature and MYP I&S Teacher and MYP English Language and Literature Teacher and MYP MUN CoordinatorMiddle and Upper School
Ireland, France, Czech Republic, China, Thailand, Netherlands, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sweden. The geographical catalogue of Emma McCluskey’s teaching career would be a weighty volume. Add to those locations a couple of formative years spent in New York, and you have someone who wholeheartedly embodies the spirit of internationalism that we celebrate at SIS. Little wonder that Emma has been drawn to the Model UN programme for much of her teaching career.
Yet Emma did not start out to become a teacher. It sort of found her.
‘I worked for a summer in New York doing a not very glamorous job working as a cleaner in an old people’s home. However, I enjoyed the excitement of the city, and returned three years later to share an apartment with my sister, work in real estate and IT and generally have a good time for two years’ In 1996 she discovered that back in her native Ireland a programme was being launched to recruit teachers with some life experience to share, rather than being straight out of teacher training college. Emma applied, and her teaching career was underway.
When she and her husband started their relationship (having known each other as friends for some time) he was working at Eurodisney, doing another of those just-graduated jobs that aren’t meant to be careers but are fun to do. It prompted Emma to supplement her teaching degree with a qualification in TEFL teaching (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) reasoning that it would enhance her work opportunities outside Ireland.
It was the start of her international adventures. In time her husband moved into a career in International Development and they began to follow each other around the globe as opportunities dictated.
For all the countries she has visited and worked in, Emma’s path has been characterised by a number of sustained stays in certain parts of the world, including a long stay in both Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, and eight years in The Hague. She has embraced many cultures – often at the same time – as when she taught History in English, in a German school, located in China!
Emma had always been attracted to the Model UN programme in the schools that she taught in. ‘I think it is a wonderful programme for students to be involved in. As a teacher, it’s also satisfying to see them grow in confidence, to trust their own research, and to feel comfortable challenging each other irrespective of age.’ In The Hague, where her acquaintance with MUN began, she ran a 3-day conference, where 5-600 students were involved. They also participated in many large international MUN gatherings. ‘It’s exciting to see a student of yours stand up and present before an audience of 3500 of their peers’ she recalls.
The immediate years before SIS were spent in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, when a career opportunity opened up for her husband in Sweden, Emma decided to take the plunge into Nordic teaching waters, which would also bring her closer to her family in Ireland.
‘I recall coming across the possibility of a 60% teaching place at SIS and I applied. I was still teaching online classes in Ethiopia during the pandemic, so I recall a frenetic day – the day after arriving in Sweden – where I went from a class online, to an interview, back to an IBDP online graduation ceremony in Ethiopia! I must have coped though as I got the job.’
GREAT AFFECTION FOR SIS
She remembers her early days at SIS with great affection. ‘I was so appreciative of how supportive everyone was when I arrived. Sharing schemes of work, lesson ideas, and helping me adjust to the new environment and digital culture in the School. It really made it easier for me to adapt. I think it’s a wonderful part of the character of the School. I love how our students are so supportive of each other in their lessons and how accepting they are of the different learning styles of their peers How kind they are. And how they challenge each other in very positive ways.’
Over four years into her role, has her perception changed? ‘I still love working here. I think it’s great now that the Middle School and Upper School are all in one building. I can see it building responsibility in the older students to have the younger Middle School years around them.’
Emma herself is excited by the possibilities the new campus offers the School. ‘I think it would be great to bring in more outside speakers, more influences from the wider world. We’ll have the space to do that now once the auditorium opens up. And it gives SIS the chance to reach out to the local community as well as bringing those influences into our midst.’