Home > Member Spotlights > International School Community Member Spotlight #7: Jo Hughson

International School Community Member Spotlight #7: Jo Hughson

Each month International School Community will highlight one of our members.  This month we interviewed Jo Hughson:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?
I am a true blue, dinky-di Aussie. I grew up in a beautiful beach side suburb called Mount Eliza, which is close to the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age, as I was inspired by many of my educators at school. I can remember the names of all of the teachers that taught me from Primary School through to Secondary School! After I finished my last year of school, I studied for 4 years at Deakin University and gained a Bachelor of Education. Following this, I taught in Australia for many years before embarking on a 3 year exploration of the world. During this time, I gained my first experiences as an international teacher and definitely acquired a thirst for life abroad. Upon my return to Australia, I married by boyfriend of 10 years (Ben) and we had 2 beautiful daughters (Eliza and Alexandra). After the birth of our children, we found that our finances were quite tight (because only Ben was able to work) and we started to consider our options….This is when we decided to follow in the footsteps of my husband’s parents and (try to) become teachers at international schools!

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
Ben and I decided to take a risk. We packed up our home in Melbourne and bought 4 return tickets to Shanghai. Luckily, my parents in law were already based in comfortable digs in Shanghai, so we were welcome to stay with them for as long as we needed to. Initially, I did some substitute teaching at Shanghai American School, Rainbow Bridge International School and Shanghai Rego International School. It’s the last school metioned (SRIS) where I finally got my big break! Thankfully (for me!), international schools can sometimes face staffing problems at awkward times of the year, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time! One of the Grade One teachers needed to repatriate to the UK due to personal reasons and they needed an immediate replacement. SRIS very generously offered me an expatriate contract, which included a free education for my daughters and other fantastic benefits. I still consider myself to be very lucky to this day!


Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.
I worked at SRIS for three years. I taught Grade One and Grade Two in the time that I spent there. SRIS had a fantastic and diverse range of teachers that I felt privileged to work with. I learned a lot from them and am very grateful to the people there that made my three years there such positive ones. My background before teaching at SRIS was mainly in the secondary sector, so the learning curve (teaching primary students) was an extremely steep one to stay the least! One of the best things about this school was the unpredictable nature of the job. No day was ever boring! There was always something interesting going on! I also gained enormous satisfaction through the time that I spent with my students and their parents, too! After 3 years at SRIS, I decided to leave for a couple of reasons but the main one was that it was too far from the area where we were living. I was offered a teaching position at Western International School Shanghai (WISS) as a Grade One teacher and this is my second year here. I am currently Head of Year and teach a wonderful class with extremely diverse backgrounds. This school is an IB world school from early years to graduation, so I have now gained invaluable experience as a PYP teacher. I love the PYP system and the fact that it promotes inquiry-based learning.  WISS is very unique in that it is the only school in Shanghai offering this educational programme and I feel privileged, once again, to be part of the solid team here.

Describe your latest cultural encounter in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face. 
Everyday that I spend in this city presents either a hilarious or bizarre cultural encounter….It’s just never ending. I am a huge fan of Chinglish- especially when it comes to clothes. Recently I went on an escalator that read ‘keep your legs, no running’ and I like the ‘deformed man’ toilet signs that I see a lot…. ‘

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
Firstly, it needs to be a country that interests me and that is safe. I am not interested in making a living in a country that is not stable and that doesn’t inspire me. I also like being in a country that is relatively close to Australia and preferably, in the same time zone! I am a bit of a foodie, so the area that I work needs to have an interesting and diverse range of restaurants and cuisine. I also need to mention that I like the cost of living to be low enough to allow me to save some money and finally, there need to be cities and countries nearby that I can explore during my time away from school! 

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Fascinating, exciting, lucrative, wide-ranging and addictive!

Thanks Jo!  If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

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