Aspiring Triple 'Hoo Takes Teaching Skills Abroad

By Laura Hoxworth

Jimmy Edwards had just begun working toward an Ed.D. at the Curry School — on track to earn his third degree from UVA — when he decided he wanted to teach abroad. Now, with a two-year teaching position at a top international school in Peru and online courses at UVA, he’s doing both.

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Sometimes, plans change.

When he first arrived at UVA as an undergrad in 2010, Jimmy Edwards planned to study marketing. Then, he spent a summer working as a counselor at the Curry School’s Summer Enrichment Program, where he had once been a camper.

“After that first summer when I got to teach a seminar, I was like, oh my goodness, I love this,” he said. “I immediately switched my major.”

In 2015, Edwards graduated from UVA with both a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a Master of Teaching from the Curry School, and began teaching high school math near his hometown of Manassas, Virginia. He also teaches guitar and serves as the vocal director for the spring musicals, continuing a love of music that he nurtured at UVA as a member of the First Year Players.

By choosing to follow his interests, Edwards said, he found a career he is truly passionate about. “You don’t think necessarily that you’ll ever use certain skills again in life,” he said, “but all of these skills have led me to my career. I have had so many opportunities just because I invested in myself early on.”

He continued investing in himself last year by enrolling in the Curry School’s online Ed.D. program in Curriculum and Instruction, with an eventual goal of pursuing school leadership positions. Then, last summer, he heard another calling: teaching abroad. The appeal of learning language skills and cultural competency early in his teaching career made him decide it was a priority. “I just put my mind to it,” he said.

Through a post in the Curry Online Community, Edwards learned about the Association of American Schools in South America, or AASSA. “The most important thing to me was that it was endorsed by UVA. I knew immediately I could trust the program and it was going to be awesome,” he said. While he had initially focused his search on Mexico, he was immediately impressed by AASSA and the job openings he found there.

Edwards said the interview process was intense, but a streamlined and easily searchable online portal helps both schools and applicants find a good match. After a three-day job fair in Atlanta — which included six hour-long interviews in one day — Edwards accepted a two-year position at Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a private international K-12 school in the heart of Lima, Peru.

He will start in the fall, and is looking forward to all the learning opportunities that will come with the experience. “I think it will be really interesting navigating the different pockets of culture that come in an international school,” he said. “I’m also really looking forward to working with some top-notch teachers and seeing what I can learn. It will be really re-energizing to work with new ideas and new people.”

While he’s nervous about his Spanish language skills, Edwards said the opportunity to strengthen those skills will help him be an even better educator when he returns to Northern Virginia, where the Spanish-speaking population continues to grow. “To be able to communicate with my students who are English language learners, I just think would be so useful and a great way to learn about a culture and a great way to continue learning myself.”

The flexibility of an online program also allowed him to pivot his career path. He will continue all his coursework in Lima. “If I was not doing an online program, none of this would be possible,” he said. “When I got accepted to the UVA Ed.D. program, I didn’t have in my head that I was going to teach internationally. I’m just very thankful that this program exists and just the freedom and opportunity that the design of the program gave me.”

By actively pursuing his goals and passions — education, music, teaching abroad — while remaining open to new opportunities along the way, Edwards has built himself a path to a bright future. Now, that future will include both a doctorate and international teaching experience.

Always a teacher, Edwards encourages anyone interested in pursuing or learning more about international teaching positions to reach out to him at [email protected]. He is eager to be a resource and help others navigate the process.

“When I first got to UVA, it just seemed like it would be impossible that anybody could be a triple 'Hoo,” Edwards said. “But now I’m doing it.”