Math teacher tallies win-win sabbatical year abroad

BY IAN GEERTSAN

Connor, Clark and Dawn Hatch enjoy an amazing view while visiting Germany. Photo by CLARK HATCH

During the 2018-19 school year, Carmel High statistics teacher Dawn Hatch will defy the odds by becoming one of few district teachers to go on sabbatical, temporarily living abroad in order to teach or study in another country.

 

The AP Statistics and Integrated Math II teacher will be leaving her home and her school to go on an educational and recreational year-long trip in Frankfurt, Germany.

 

Hatch wants to spend a year with her husband, Clark, who has been living in Germany for the last two years. While doing so, she will also have the opportunity to travel across Germany and learn about the country’s school systems before returning home to Carmel High.

 

Clark is a diplomatic courier for the state, so he handles many important packages and information coming to Germany from the U.S. government. This also means he is constantly traveling, moving from Virginia to Thailand to Germany over the last six years.

 

“I’m definitely going to travel and enjoy being with my husband,” Hatch says. “For the district, I’m going to be investigating different schools and their structure.”

 

The math teacher will be visiting schools, including Goethe University in Frankfurt and Freie University in Berlin, to specifically observe instruction of mathematics.

 

“I’m curious to know more about those students’ math skills,” she notes, “and if they’re coming from a vocational high school or a college high school…because Europe has a little different approach than we do.”

 

At other institutions, though, Hatch will be focusing more on comparing the United States’ current integrated curriculum to European curricula, obtaining better teaching practices through observing different methods of instruction and unique school-week structures.

 

“There’s an American school in Stuttgart that doesn’t start till 8:30 and gets out at 3,” she says. “We always talk about the later start time, so I would like to see how that works and interview the teachers to see how they like it.”

 

The schools she plans on visiting will be college prep, vocational and university, and are located all across Germany.

 

According to the math teacher, the process of applying for a sabbatical was not too hard either.

 

“You just have to justify that what you’re doing is educationally relevant and that the district could benefit from it,” Hatch explains. “I had to actually look up the schools I’m going to see and when I’m going to see them.”

 

Although she is guaranteed a job at Carmel once she returns, Hatch will not receive a full year’s pay, as she will actually receive the differential of her regular salary and the salary of the temporary teacher who will replace her. This process is normal for teachers going on sabbatical, although procedures can vary by district.

 

Mrs. Hatch will not be doing any teaching herself, although some teachers have gone to other countries to teach full-time, such as English teacher Dale DePalatis, who once lived in Ningbo, China, with his wife and three children. DePalatis and his wife, Caroline, both taught at the University of Ningbo, Dale instructing English literature and Caroline teaching English conversation.

 

“It was an interesting experience for me because the kids there were used to pure lecture classes,” DePalatis says. “I would have them do projects and different things so they thought I was a little crazy, but they had a lot of fun I think.”

 

DePalatis’ experience also shows how going on sabbatical can be a valuable learning experience for instructors to improve their teaching.

 

“It was also a different experience for me because I was teaching 50 to 60 kids in a class, so they were much bigger classes then here. It taught me how to manage classrooms better, things like that.”

 

Aside from teaching many Chinese students, DePalatis had many memorable non-academic experiences, including running a half-marathon with his son Justin on the Great Wall of China.

 

Carmel Middle School art teacher Jason Fosler also had some incredible experiences when he went on sabbatical to London during the 2016-17 school year.

 

Fosler saw the birthplace of The Beatles, the possible burial grounds of King Arthur, Stonehenge and many other amazing sights in addition to the countless breathtaking pieces of art.

 

“Seeing work with your own eyes is like the difference between seeing pictures of food and tasting it,” Fosler explains. “As an artist, I was inspired to record my impressions of places and filled a sketchbook.”

 

Like DePalatis, Fosler also taught full-time for a year, but was still able to soak in the many wonders his trip had to offer.

 

“The newness of everything, the sights, and the traveling was incredibly invigorating and mentally stimulating,” Fosler describes. “Travel really makes you feel alive.”