Now a teacher, BIS Alumni Elena Anello has taken some time out of her hectic life to come back and talk with BIS. Her budding teaching career has brought her to places like Guatemala, Singapore and now Vietnam. Let’s learn about her story, including her experience related to teaching during Covid-19.
- Please tell me a little about yourself, such as where you come from, interests, current life and anything interesting or unique.
I grew up in Bali, specifically in Peliatan, Ubud. I attended local school up until Junior high, after which I transferred to BIS and completed the IB Diploma program. I attended college in the US, and after college joined Teach for America. That is how I ended up in the classroom. Nine years later I am still an early childhood educator, and I have taught in three different countries (USA, Guatemala, and Singapore). I have just moved to my fourth – Vietnam! My interests include exercising, exploring nature, hiking, going to the beach, snorkeling, diving, dancing, and traveling. I grew up doing Balinese dance and would perform at hotels as part of a Gamelan group. I speak English, Indonesian, Balinese, a bit of Spanish, and am currently trying to learn Vietnamese – it is hard!
- What made you want to become a teacher especially, (especially for Kindergarten)?
Education has always been something that has interested me, having experienced many different types of schooling growing up (aside from attending different local schools in Bali, I was also home schooled in English by my mother). I have also always enjoyed working with children. Throughout college I worked at a summer camp program for middle school students. My interest in children and education led me to apply for Teach for America after college. I personally love working with young children because they are so curious about the world around them and naturally excited to learn and play. I am a huge advocate for play and believe that so much learning and development happen when children are allowed to play. Five year olds are also hilarious!
- What has been an interesting or inspiring moment thus far in your teaching career?
The end of every school year is always an inspirational time. I get to reflect on how much my students have grown from when they first started kindergarten. Some students come in speaking and understanding zero English and are rattling off full sentences and asking a million questions by the end of the year. Some come in not knowing how to write their name and are writing their own books by the end of the year. Growth can be measured in so many different ways and in Kindergarten so much growth happens, it’s amazing!
- What does it take to be a quality teacher, according to you?
I think the most important thing a teacher can do is instil in their students a sense of curiosity, a love of learning, and a growth mindset. A great teacher should be able to foster meaningful relationships with their students and create a safe space where these characteristics can grow and flourish.
- What will be the biggest challenge for educators/classroom teachers during this pandemic regarding distance learning?
Going back to the idea that great teaching revolves around relationship building, I think the hardest thing with distance learning is maintaining close relationships with students, as well as trying to maintain a sense of community for the whole class online. This is something that everyone is still currently navigating and figuring out. I think that especially for young children, so much learning happens when they are in a class with their peers, and this gets lost when school is moved online and children are prevented from socializing and interacting with their friends.
- What do you miss the most about Bali and Indonesia?
I definitely miss Balinese food the most – all that sambal!
- What was BIS like on a daily basis when you were here? Do you recall specific memories that stand out? Is there anything you learned at BIS that you still carry with you today or made an impact on your life?
I think there were probably a lot less students back when I was at BIS. As a twelfth grader, there were only three of us participating in the Diploma program, and six students in my year group in total. My friend Maitri was in charge of the student-run “warung” on campus and we had most amazing giant soft chocolate chip cookies there. I remember waiting (almost) every morning for the cookies to be delivered so that we could have first dibs! Probably not the healthiest life choice I’ve made, looking back.
I remember loving my English Literature class at BIS. It was the first time I had ever been in a class where you just talked about literature and its themes, meanings, and implications. There is so much to be said about the author’s craft as well. I feel like this class taught me so much about reading and understanding texts, which I carry with me to this day.