Intentionally international in Henderson at Eaton-Johnson Middle

Jan. 14, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

Students from Eaton-Johnson Middle School in Henderson are getting an education that includes a global perspective from 12 teachers with homes in six different countries.

Many teachers were brought in to the school through a program called Visiting International Faculty, which recruits experienced teachers from other countries, helping them receive a visa while they complete a five-year teaching requirement.

Currently at Eaton-Johnson there are teachers from Jamaica, Philippians, Trinidad and Tobago, Sierra Leone, Romania and Chile.

Principal Larry Webb is in his seventh year at Eaton-Johnson, which was home to just two international teachers when he began. He says the school’s expansion of international teachers was not an accident.

“I’m from a small eastern North Carolina town, Roanoke Rapids,” Webb said. “It’s not very diverse, not only in ethnicities, but it’s not very diverse in ideas and perspectives.

“I didn’t meet folks from other cultures until I was in college, in undergraduate school.

“After meeting them, and getting to know them I felt so much more worldly, open, exposed to new ideas. I felt richer for the experience.”

Webb hopes to enrich his student’s lives by giving them access to a more diverse perspective of cultures than he was exposed to growing up.

Seventh-grade students in Ingrid Forsyth’s math class were recently exposed to Jamaican currency.

“I’ve exposed them to Jamaican money,” said Forsyth. She’s from Kingston in Jamaica, and in her second year at Eaton-Johnson.

“The kids were surprised to know that it cost, we would talk about filling up a tank of gas and I would say $3,000, and they would go ‘what’?

“I would have to go back to the exchange rate, one American dollar is equal to 90 Jamaican dollars, so then when it comes down to that, then it’s more clear to them why it’s costing more.”

For Karla Smith, from the hills of Manchester in Jamaica, working in America has given her an opportunity to help students gain a more accurate portrayal of her hometown.

“The good thing about being here is you can correct a lot of misconceptions about your country,” Smith said. “They only see one part, you know when they go on the Internet or watch a specific movie, so I’m able to say no this is not just Jamaica, go on the smart board, show them different areas and say, this is also Jamaica.”

Michele Owen from Montego Bay in Jamaica has helped create an understanding that people from different countries are not always different.

“I have to tell them, look at the color of my skin, look at the color of your skin. We could be related way down the line,” Owen said. “So that sort of gets them thinking.”

Webb feels while the international teachers in his school are from locations across the globe, their passion for kids makes them the same as the rest of his staff.

“These are teachers who are willing to leave family and friends behind, and come work with our children,” Webb said. “The teachers that we have hired regardless of where they’re from are the ones who are the right fit, and the ones who like children.”


Contact the writer at