Kaitlyn Leach, Head of English Department at ACI

Kaitlyn Leach, Head of English Department at ACIIn my nine years of international teaching, I have taught in Brazil and South Africa before moving to Izmir, Turkey to work as an IB teacher at ACI. While normally in our search process my husband and I avoid national schools, ACI posed an intriguing opportunity – the ability to work at one of the best and oldest high schools in Turkey. Now it is four years later and we are not disappointed. I have found that my ACI students are some of the best students that I have ever taught. They are eager to push themselves to achieve more by listening to feedback and trying again. In Chicago, I would say about 20% of students were this motivated to learn, at ACI that number is more like 80%.

I also realize that with such motivated students the expectations for teachers is also very high. At ACI I have pushed myself to learn new methods of teaching, as well as, integrate technology purposefully in my lessons. I have been given many opportunities to learn, grow, and teach among a strong community of educators. This being said I feel that the administration also sees the importance in making teachers feel appreciated. The celebrations for Teacher’s Day are unlike any other I have seen where students and administrators alike share their appreciation for teachers in a meaningful way. This Teacher’s Day I was almost brought to tears as the whole student body surprised teachers in the amphitheater by spontaneously breaking out in song to show their love for ACI teachers.

Outside of school living in Izmir is a special treat. I often say that it is the hidden gem of Turkey, in the sense that it is usually off the tourist’s path, but it is definitely one of the most progressive and livable cities in Turkey. As each year passes more and more improvements come to this city, for example, in my short time here the metro (subway) has added ten new spots and plans for even more. Currently there is a new tram system being developed that will take travelers all the way around the bay. Between the bus, subway, ferry, and tram system in Izmir we can get anywhere we would like in town easily for less than $1. The public transit system doesn’t only compare well against the systems all over Europe, but usually beats others in its cleanliness and timeliness. One of the best parts about being in Turkey is that it is really center to most places in the world; we are just a quick two-hour flight to Germany, three hours to London, 10 hours to New Delhi, Nine hours to Chicago, and the prices for these flights are more than reasonable. Another perk is that while Izmir feels very European in many ways, the cost of living in Turkey is much less. Teacher apartments are all in the same neighborhood as the school, which is about three blocks from the Izmir bay and a 20 minute drive to the airport. In this neighborhood, I have a local butcher, fresh fish stand, grocer, and many fruit and vegetable stands. Fresh ingredients are usually sold seasonally here, and a cartful of these beautiful farm fresh ingredients will cost less than $10.

A few months after my husband and I arrived in Turkey, we discovered I was pregnant. The school was so supportive in helping me, even though it was my first year on our contract. We subsequently had another daughter last year. The medical care for my girls and I has been nothing short of top notch. So getting back to the cost of living as a family of four on two teaching salaries at ACI, with a full-time nanny, weekly cleaning women, and constant travel around the world, we are still able to save one salary. Overall between working at a fulfilling job and living in a beautiful city, it is no surprise why we have felt so comfortable making Izmir our home.