Meet Shane Van Devender, a Biology Teacher and Science Department Chair at BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen. The rigorous international curriculum, plentiful resources, supportive colleagues, and highly motivated students make BASIS a dream job for Shane. Read on to learn more about his experience teaching in China.
What made you decide to pursue a career in education?
One thing I love about meeting other teachers abroad is that we all have different journeys in education–some started teaching in their home country; some started in other fields and fell into teaching. Originally, I wanted to work in the medical or science field, so I got my degree in human physiology. I planned on working in China for a year and then returning to the United States to pursue medicine.
I, like many teachers in China, came intending to stay abroad for one to two years before returning to our home country. I found an English teaching position at a top-tier local school. Fortunately, I fell in love with teaching and with living overseas. That one year abroad has turned into ten years of teaching in China.
I started my journey teaching English, as many do here, until another bilingual school needed me to cover for a biology teacher for a few months. I enjoy teaching English, but teaching content that I was interested in, spurred me to keep teaching. In my years abroad, I have taught at public, bilingual, and international schools.
What brought you to BASIS International Schools?
BASIS International Schools has had a strong reputation in Shenzhen and China for years, particularly with its Advanced Placement courses and the sciences–biology, chemistry, and physics. A career at BASIS was my ideal job. For science educators, BASIS is a dream. The curriculum is well-structured and rigorous, the labs and facilities are well-stocked and managed, and the students are driven and enthusiastic about learning.
I spent the next few years refining my teaching practice, getting my PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education) and Masters in International Education, and taking on extra administrative roles. BASIS seeks hard-working, qualified, and experienced teachers. I wanted my teaching experience and expertise to reflect the standards and qualities of a BASIS teacher.
I’m proud to say that my years of learning and practice paid off, as they equipped me with the tools I need to be a BASIS teacher.
What influenced you to teach abroad? Why in China? When you came to China, what was pleasantly surprising?
I’ve had a lot of close people in my life push me to learn Chinese. I found the language and culture very intriguing. I ended up studying Chinese at university alongside my major. So, I came to China to teach, learn the language, and experience the culture.
Reading about modern China, specifically Shenzhen, fascinated me–a farm town turned metropolis in 30 years. Life here is efficient, convenient, and, most importantly, safe. I’m from a small town in Oregon, USA, with less than 200,000 people. Coming to China, where cities easily have 10 million people, felt like a whole new world. I loved the ease of public transport, the convenience of online shopping, and the ever-constant change. Shenzhen is so lively and constantly evolving; it’s much different from my small town.
Another driving factor for many to teach overseas is the financial opportunities abroad. BASIS provides a comfortable and stable life for its teaching staff. I can live comfortably, pay off student loan debt, and save for the future.
What type of support did you receive from BASIS International Schools to ease the transition of moving overseas?
I was already in Shenzhen for several years when I transitioned to BASIS. Beyond the financial support of moving within China, BASIS has an amazing administrative team. I can’t express how grateful I am for the BASIS admin team. They work HARD; the staff sacrifice so much time and effort to support the staff here. I’ve taught at a few different schools in China, and the BASIS administrative team is the most organized, nicest, and most helpful. The admin team makes sure the transitions within and to China are as smooth as possible.
How has your teaching practice improved during your time at BASIS?
The teaching teams at BASIS share a like-minded need to grow their pedagogical skills through collaborative meetings and meaningful reflections. The leadership team at BASIS integrates this mentality into meetings, observations, Summer Institute, and professional development days. The standards at BASIS really push me to make every minute of my lessons meaningful.
Thankfully, with the support of my colleagues within the science department, I have the means and resources to do so. Department Chairs, course advisors, and a handy lab tech help me to refine my practice. Whether giving ideas for teaching abstract topics, providing materials to make my time more efficient, reviewing material content, or collaborating on helping low-level learners, BASIS is where I can become my best self for my students.
What advice would you give to teachers who are considering working overseas?
At times, it will be challenging. Yet, you will have an amazing administrative team and experienced colleagues to support you at each step.
China is a stunning country with a vast culture. From the rural villages to the metropolises, from the ancient cultural heritage sites to the natural landscapes, China has much to offer everyone. And if you need a short break, China is just a hop, skip, and a jump to several nearby countries. I can’t count the number of times I’ve visited Japan and the Philippines since living abroad. Come to Asia, and experience the culture, the cuisine, and the adventure of a new environment.
Shane Van Devender
Department Chair for Science and Biology Teacher
BASIS Bilingual School Shenzhen