Meet Jaquanda Lee, Chair of ELL at BASIS International & Bilingual School Chengdu. As a founding faculty member at the school, Jaquanda brought her experience teaching in other countries to help build a community at BASIS International & Bilingual School Chengdu. Read on to learn more about her journey to becoming a teacher, living overseas, and the rewarding work of founding a school.

What made you decide to pursue a career in education?

Believe it or not, I was not a model student–I never turned in my assignments, repeated more than one grade, and was rebellious. My parents left every school conference in tears because I refused to ask for help. Despite this, I dreamed of being a teacher since I was a young child. I used to make my younger siblings play at school, and of course, I was the teacher. I had a whiteboard and everything. Now that I have achieved my goal of becoming a teacher, my siblings are not the least bit surprised.

What influenced you to teach abroad? Why in China?

I have been teaching abroad for the past decade and in different countries. Knowing that becoming a great teacher requires experience, I wanted to gain that and thus began my international journey. I always felt that teachers ought to experience different places beyond the boundaries of their state or city. Becoming a better teacher requires exposure to varying environments, which can help broaden perspectives and prevent stagnation due to complacency.

Before moving to China, I taught in the United Arab Emirates. I also taught in Thailand and the United States. I did not expect to teach in China, and the country was not on my list of prospects. Nonetheless, I prayed about it and now I am here. I was surprised because China is a completely different world; however, it is an experience worth having.

When you came to China, what was pleasantly surprising?

I love the metro system, and you can take it anywhere. The government keeps it clean, and it is very handy. Install the metro app on your phone, and you are good to go. I also love the malls and the fact that there are so many.

What type of support did you receive from BASIS International Schools to ease the transition of moving overseas?

At one point in my transition to China, I caught COVID. At that time, you had to quarantine for two weeks before trying again. BASIS was very patient and understood that it was out of my control. They took care of my flights, so I did not need to worry.

What has been most rewarding about being part of the founding faculty at a new BASIS school?

The most rewarding part is that the school is brand new, which means we all help set the pace and atmosphere of the school and establish certain procedures. Yes, it requires a lot of work, but it is worth it. While working at a school in Charlotte, NC, USA, I gained an appreciation for educational culture, which still influences me.

What do you enjoy most about working internationally and at BASIS?

Working overseas requires determination and it is not suitable for everyone. My primary motivation stems from my students–everything I do is for them. Every student deserves an excellent education, and my job is to provide it. Also, now that China is open, we can travel even more, which is great–you can see your loved ones and explore diverse cultures.

How has your teaching practice evolved during your time at BASIS?

Being a founding member of BASIS International & Bilingual School Chengdu has helped my teaching practice evolve. We are constantly stretched in effective ways. I like to customize my approach since there is no single solution that works at every school. I am constantly being flexible so that my school and students can achieve maximum results.

What advice would you give to teachers who are considering working overseas?

Teaching internationally is not for everyone. BASIS offers excellent opportunities, but you need to make sure it is a good fit for you. We take our responsibilities seriously; student education is a priority for us.

Jaquanda Lee
ELL Chair and Teacher
BASIS International & Bilingual School Chengdu

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