News & Stories
Abigayle Carnill
October 28, 2020

A Berry-minted educator finds adventure abroad

Just two years after graduation, Abby Carnill ’18 is living her childhood dream: teaching school overseas. Her education at Berry prepared her well for the role of kindergarten teacher at Alliance Academy International (AAI) in Quito, Ecuador.

Abby hit the ground running as a freshman at Berry, studying early childhood education and minoring in French. Having lived and studied in Germany while growing up, she developed a passion for language learning early in life. She discovered the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) minor through a class with Eliana Hirano, associate professor of teacher education and coordinator of the TEFL minor. “It seemed like the perfect addition to my tool belt as I strived to teach at an international school one day,” Abby says.

While engaged in the TEFL program, Abby gained three years of paid professional development working at Berry Elementary & Middle School as a teacher’s assistant. For her student teaching experience, she taught a kindergarten class for two semesters. Abby looks back fondly on that time, saying it gave her the desire to create a magical and loving classroom environment of her own.

A trip to Costa Rica with Jacqueline McDowell, dean of the Charter School of Education and Human Sciences, opened Abby’s eyes to the richness of Latin culture. “Even though I didn’t know Spanish and felt very out of my element, I fell in love with the culture: the food, the people, the setting and even the intense rainy season.”

Upon graduating, Abby taught first grade in Rome but still felt the call to live abroad. She applied for and accepted the position with AAI. Soon after, she and her husband Zac (a Berry graduate who grew up in Ecuador) moved to Costa Rica for language school to prepare. However, the COVID-19 pandemic cut short their time, and they returned to the United States in early 2020 to finish their Spanish studies remotely. After much anticipation, they moved to Quito once Ecuador opened its borders in July.

Abby still stays in touch with her former professor. “Dr. Hirano’s mentorship informs my work every day as I teach 10 5-year-old English language learners — virtually!” she says.

Hirano is excited about Abby’s current position: “She gets to apply her TEFL and early childhood education skills at the international school in Quito — the same school that welcomes my students and me every other summer.”

Abby chronicles her life abroad in the blog The Adventure Attitude.

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