This week’s spotlight is on alumna Sarah Martin who is currently abroad in South Korea teaching middle school English.
A Budlong Woods resident and Northside College Prep Alum, Sarah received her degree for UIUC in Global Studies concentrating on East Asian Cultures. Additionally, she completed minors in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Linguistics, and East Asian Languages and Cultures, which inspired her decision to pursue a Guest Teacher position in South Korea.
Prior to moving Sarah became very familiar with the language and culture in South Korea. She tells us that she’s been consuming Korean media since her young teenage years, and she took Korean language courses every semester in college. She says “Ironically, the only time I did not take Korean language courses was in 2017, when I studied abroad in Seoul for six months.”
Currently, Sarah is supplementing middle school English as a Foreign Language curriculum at two different public schools where she can teach anywhere between three to six classes a day. In addition to teaching, Sarah runs after school clubs for students, and has been designing summer English camps.
While working with students may be her priority, Sarah makes sure to continually immerse herself in Korean culture. In her free time she’s traveled, gone to musicals, attended concerts, eaten so much delicious food, and met some wonderful friends to share these adventures with. These days however, she says that she is doing much less of all of the aforementioned and much more of her introspective hobbies which include reading, writing, and expanding her music palette.
We asked Sarah what it has been like teaching during COVID, and she had a lot to tell us! She told us that students are now back in the classroom and the only time people are not masked is when they are eating or drinking. Students have about two periods for lunch where they send the kids through the now-distanced lunchroom seating more gradually. Before Covid, she says she had her own English classroom, but has since had to downsize to visiting the homerooms of her students. She told us that she really misses having her own classroom because, “it was an English exclusive space where kids could visit me between classes to just say hi or to ask about something or to show me something they were interested in or even try to teach me some Korean!” However, she still finds a way to enjoy her work. She still has her after school programs and clubs where sometimes she takes her kids out to the playground or gardens for activities if they’re not disrupting anyone else.
With almost three years of teaching behind her, Sarah has learned so much from her experience in South Korea! She tells us that she’s had her tolerance and patience tested. Also, she’s discovered some unexpected limits for what exactly she can grin and bear—whether from work or living situations or public institutions in a foreign country.
After returning home to Chicago this fall, Sarah says her main goal is to set down some roots of her own and hopefully find some friendly connections to lay a foundation for a long term future. However, first and foremost, she’s aiming for a solid rest! Sarah says that she would love to continue working with students of all ages, and may venture into speech pathology later down the line.
We at the Wentcher Foundation are so proud of Sarah and all of her accomplishments!