International Teaching

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International teachers share the Bellarmine spirit

Fall 2021

 


 

By Harry Rothgerber ’69 

Stacy Shipman ’15 Ph.D., Evelyn Trejo ’15, and Meredith Kimmel Lissegårdh ’15 live in three different countries, but they have a lot in common besides their Bellarmine degrees in Education. They are adventurous, incredibly flexible in their teaching positions, sensitive to diverse cultural norms, and willing to organize new households in unfamiliar countries.  

Dr. Elizabeth Dinkins, dean of Bellarmine’s Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education, taught each of these three educators and is quite proud of them as they teach and lead in diverse international settings. 

“I think it’s indicative of our mission and Mertonian spirit,” she said. “Bellarmine prepares individuals for meaningful lives, rewarding careers, ethical leadership, and service to improve the human condition, and I think teaching is emblematic of all four parts of this mission.” 

International teaching "brings Bellarmine to the world, which I love, but it also demonstrates how we are preparing graduates to step into a global community.” -- Dean Elizabeth Dinkins

Bellarmine offers opportunities for students to study and travel abroad across the university and within the School of Education. “We know that international travel supports teacher development,” Dinkins said. “I think it’s important that each of these graduates had international experiences prior to teaching internationally. Perhaps a seed was planted through that.”  

No specific certification is required to teach overseas. However, BU prepares teachers to earn their standard Kentucky teaching and counseling certificates, which qualify them to teach internationally. 

“International teaching speaks directly to the connectedness of humanity and the transcendence of the human spirit,” Dinkins said. “It brings Bellarmine to the world, which I love, but it also demonstrates how we are preparing graduates to step into a global community.” 

Of her former students, Dinkins observed: “All three are incredibly dedicated to their students and their profession and are incredibly joyful educators. They clearly have a sense of adventure, but their capacity for joy is the biggest trait they share.” 

Stacy Shipman ’15 Ph.D. 

Stacy Shipman

Drawn to Africa since childhood, Stacy Shipman taught in Tanzania and several other African countries before taking a teaching position at The International School of Uganda in Kampala.  

Her most unusual experience in Uganda involved taking high school students on a field trip to a forest to study black-and-white colobus monkeys. They ended up running into a family of eight chimpanzees that surrounded them. “I was pretty frightened and beyond nervous that something would happen to the students,” she recounted. “Once I became convinced that they meant us no harm, we simply enjoyed watching them.” 

Shipman also assisted a student with a major school art project to raise awareness about child sacrifice in Uganda. “The First Lady of Uganda heard about it and invited the student to have tea with her, and I accompanied her.” 

At the urging of two former Bellarmine professors who recognized her focus on social justice issues related to education, she left Uganda to become the first doctoral student in the Education and Social Change program at Bellarmine. “It looked like someone had taken all of my interest areas and crafted a Ph.D. program just for me,” she said. “It was a perfect fit.” After successfully defending her dissertation, she was presented with a small glass statue with the number “1” on it, representing her status as the first doctoral student to complete the program. 


“Stacy started her doctoral program with extensive experience teaching and traveling overseas,” Dinkins stated. “She is a constant learner and questioner—inquiry is at her heart—and she taps into this academic trait to help her students. She has a passion for understanding how individuals cultivate global competence and is a fierce advocate for students with special education needs.” 

As an adjunct faculty member at Bellarmine for six years, Shipman taught a variety of classes, including one that she created from scratch called Global Competence. “We explored global issues impacting the world and investigated what it means to be a global citizen,” she said. She eventually took a position in Ethiopia and worked at the International Community School of Addis Ababa for three years before moving to Nigeria. 

 Currently, Shipman is the community support director of the American International School of Lagos, Nigeria, a private school with 450 students from early childhood to grade 12. She is involved with services and programs for special education, English as an additional language, and counseling and coordinates a wide variety of support services.   

 She appreciates that her husband, James Odong, an elementary PE teacher and tennis coach, travels the world with her.

Evelyn Trejo ’15  evelyn trejo

Operating in uncharted territory is routine for Evelyn Trejo, whose parents emigrated from Mexico to the United States when they were teens. “I am so thankful to them for sacrificing everything to come to the USA in search of the ‘American Dream’ and give my siblings and me a better life,” said Trejo, who was born and raised in Chicago before moving to Louisville for college.   

 Trejo, who had wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten, recalled, “Many of my favorite teachers and mentors from high school recommended Bellarmine because they were alumni and thought I would benefit from the small class sizes and close-knit community.”  

 She was the first person in her family to attend college and the only one from her high school to attend Bellarmine. As a commuter student, it was difficult for her to build relationships with her new classmates. “It wasn’t until I started in the Pioneer Scholars program (for first-generation students) that I felt I had a home,” she said. “It was there that I made some of my closest friends.” 

 Taking a full course load at Bellarmine with a double major in elementary education and special education, Trejo worked two jobs and completed her time-intensive student teaching. Not only did she graduate early and with honors, but she also finished debt-free. “As a graduation present to myself, I was able to purchase my first home at the young age of 21,” she said. “All of this was thanks to my parents deciding to come across a border for a better life—my accomplishments are their accomplishments.” 

 “Evelyn has been the consummate traveler since I’ve known her,” Dinkins said. “She took advantage of study-abroad programs, but she didn’t student-teach abroad or started her career internationally. She started off teaching at Hawthorne Elementary in a dual-language program. She is full of incredible energy and doesn’t get deterred by anything.” 

 Trejo’s original destination was Colombia, a safe introduction to international teaching since she spoke the language, but the pandemic disrupted that plan. She then considered offers from Rome, Italy, and Cairo, Egypt, choosing the latter.  

 She acknowledged that moving abroad during a global pandemic to teach a grade she had never taught before and finishing an online master’s degree was challenging. “Leaving your own country, friends, family, language, and comfort zone are scary…but it was the best decision I made in my life.”  

 In her second year there, Trejo serves as primary school dean at the American International School in Egypt, located in New Cairo, with 1,148 students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. It is a private, tuition-funded school, where English is spoken all day, and students attend one Arabic class for 50 minutes. 

 “My most unusual experience abroad was finding my soulmate,” Trejo said. “He is a dean for our high school department. When I first met him, we showed up in matching Colombia soccer jerseys! He is the only other American with a Hispanic background that I have met while in Egypt. Everyone who has met him says he is the male version of me.” 

 Professionally, Trejo aspires to be a college professor one day and start her international school. “I can’t figure out why more people aren’t doing this,” she said. “Teaching abroad is the world’s best-kept secret.” 

Meredith Kimmel Lissegårdh ’15

  Meredith headshotMeredith Kimmel (now Lissegårdh) aspired to be a skilled teacher like her advisor, Dr. Dinkins but was late for a few morning classes due to heavy traffic.

“She taught me the importance of professionalism, which I believe still stays with me today,” said Lissegårdh. “She pulled me aside after class and said something along the lines of, ‘What will you do when you have a class of 25 students waiting for you?’ That was a pivotal moment in my time at Bellarmine, where I stopped thinking of myself as a student and started thinking of myself as a teacher.” 

Several of Lissegårdh’s secondary teachers in Greenville, Indiana, had recommended Bellarmine’s School of Education to her, and she enjoyed the smaller classes, “where my professors knew my name,” she said. While earning a degree in Education, Lissegårdh also was a member of the Bellarmine dance team for two years, dancing at basketball games and traveling to Florida each spring for nationals.  

 During her final year at Bellarmine, she received the opportunity to student teach in a fourth-grade English class at a small public school in Linköping, Sweden, as part of an exchange program. She recalled a field trip to a forest and farm: “I was amazed at the amount of freedom our 60 10-year-old students were given… to explore with instructions to meet back at a certain area for lunch and to review the work they were given. The students ran around freely and even swam on their own in the lake if they preferred… how much trust was given to these kids and how our host teachers were so relaxed.”  

"I remember that Meredith was eager to study abroad and wanted to student teach in Sweden,” Dinkins said. “She set that goal and was motivated by it. I was thrilled when she shared that she wanted to teach there after graduation. Meredith is incredibly diligent and hardworking.” 

Lissegårdh has advanced in the profession at a brisk pace. Initially, she worked at a school in Lund, Sweden, teaching English, Math, and Science for Year 4 students. She taught and took on two leadership roles as head of Year 4 and junior curriculum coordinator the following year.  

 In 2017, she moved to the capital city of Stockholm for a position at  Internationella Engelska Skolan Årsta, a school with 768 students between the fourth and ninth grades.  Meredith

 “The company of schools I work for is considered a ‘free school,’ which we might compare to a private school in the US,” she said. “The students have to actively choose our school as opposed to attending their local public school. However, tuition is free since the country offers free access to education, including the university level.” The students are taught in Swedish half the time and in English the other half. 

 At IES Årsta, she taught Math and worked as head of the Junior School. In 2021, at the age of 27, she became an assistant principal. “I now lead our student care team made up of nurses, counselors, behavior support, and heads of school,” she said. “Additionally, I support the wider school body, promoting a positive and respectful school environment.”   

 While aspiring to be a principal in Sweden or the United States, Lissegårdh said she also enjoys the idea of being a professor someday, “where I could help future teachers receive the same quality education I got from Bellarmine.” She summarized, “I now have a job that I love, an amazing husband, a sweet 5-month-old daughter, and Swedish citizenship, which allows me all the benefits of living in the EU.”

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