Signed, Sealed, Delivered….Where Did You Say?

June 14, 2010 | Featured
By Susan Lugar

Each year, hundreds of educators are recruited to join the NICS/Oasis school teams around the world.  Susan Lugar works as a Nurture and Placement Specialist with the Oasis division of NICS, and as part of her position, she presents directors with potential candidates.  She began her career with NICS as a teacher in the 80’s, became engaged to her husband, Dennis Lugar (who now serves as the Senior Vice President of NICS), and had three sons all while serving in South Korea. Susan holds a Master’s Degree in Guidance Counseling and has taught both gifted students and students who struggle with I.Q. issues—the latter being her favorite.  Of her position as a Nurture and Placement Specialist, Susan says, “When you help a teacher tether an overseas calling to an actual contract to do so, what other educational fulfillment can crescendo louder than that?” Susan is both a gifted artist and creative writer, and the following article explains the work of finding Godly educators to serve overseas from her perspective at the Home Office.

As NICS/ Oasis Home Office employees in the Nurture and Placement area of Human Resources, we’re the ribbons, if you will, that help tether an educator’s dream to a specific place.  We serve to connect their calling and hankering to teach overseas, to real life dirt under their shoes…in foreign lands!

And it just might be the position for which the saying, “I’ve heard it all!” was coined, a hundred or so years earlier- yeah, just for us!  Ideal candidates ebb and flow between such comments as, “I’m called to teach in Africa, but I’m afraid of heights.” While I’m wondering to myself, And just how are you planning to get to Nairobi?  Maybe they think we do cruises over to our schools, now THAT would be nice and would certainly fluff out the applicant pool! Or the person who says, “My degree is in ‘Knitting with Canoe Oars’ but trust me, I’m qualified to teach, Math, Science and a few AP classes in English.” So it’s at that point that you have to deliver the shocking news: “I’m sorry but we are an educational institution and you would need to have a bachelor’s degree in…”

But then there are the calls that perk you straight in your chair when, from a degreed teacher’s mouth you hear about a sense of God’s calling on his/ her life. You learn that this person is experienced in the classroom (loves kids, now that’s a perk!), he’s certified, and has traveled overseas or she’s lived in the hudthrowdums of some country that would make a mapmaker scratch his head!

Coming on board as a teacher with the NICS/ Oasis team is an idea that reaches past the love of adventure.  Exponentially deeper, it surpasses someone’s proclivity to experience a ripple down the Amazon, the adrenaline of dodging piranhas, or in the Orient, the challenge of eating something on your dinner plate that’s staring back at you.  Teachers may find themselves in countries where it’s impolite to eat the last bite but keenly appropriate to burp, and with gusto! But banking on the peculiar is not the thrust of teachers moving overseas.  Yes, teachers may have some time to have the fish nibble off the first three layers their feet in the pools of Singapore, eat pickled squid fetus, or couragelessly “do battle” with oddities in the Amazon, but the move is about… a calling.  That’s first and foremost.  Then it’s about ribboning that calling with the educational background and experience one needs to professionally carry out classroom responsibilities. Surprisingly enough, after the first weeks into the move, instructing greatly mirrors the day to day life of a teacher who serves anywhere. One can only hang on to the exotic so long before it reaches back to snap you with daily tasks that are common to all teachers, no matter where the whiteboard hangs.

So when we get that ideal applicant on the other end of the phone, we begin to unfold the ribbon to start connecting the dots.  We in the HR department do not do the actual hiring but we try and determine if an applicant is a good fit for the organization. The goal is to “present” to the directors a well qualified stack of possibilities, so that they can begin their interviewing process. By December, lots of e-chatting and phoning swell out directors days (and nights!). In time, they offer jobs, positions are accepted, and the ribbon then threads through Member Care with a background check.  The paperwork continues that secures a person’s health insurance needs, their banking issues, and the visa process begins with fervor.

Around August, as teachers move around the world, the ribbon flutters once again as the Home Office tether is not severed, simply extended.  Teachers board the big birds to spread His hope and hone their skills on foreign soil. The Home Office’s hands, now through Member Care, gently hold the ribbon wrapped around the promise of “We care.” With plane engines cooling in the background, the teacher debarks well, somewhere outside of Kansas. Clutching the other end of that sweet silk thread, the new hire soon smiles at a student and says, “Hi, I’ve been waiting a lifetime, or so it seems, to meet you.”

And so the fun, the transitioning, the hard work begins in a land where teachers yet know how to say, “I need a drink of water!” As they land we check on them along the way. For instance, last summer as the new Kabul staff headed over, via a stop in Dubai, I checked in on them.  I hopped onto Facebook hoping to catch a message from some of the team as they touched base with messages to home. I thought I might see something like, “We made it to Dubai…it’s hot…the bathrooms are funky…” Well, it was a bonus read, as I caught the pictorial update of the Kabul team in Dubai.  In living color they were blazing saddles (well at least having a photo op)…on camels! And I said to myself, “They are doing just fine and I guess… I’ve seen it all!”

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