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Teacher Spotlight: Heidi Whitfield

Ms. Heidi grew up in Northern California and then went to school in Southern California. She started teaching in Los Angeles and taught third and fourth grade. Along with her family, she moved to Bulgaria 15 years ago. She has two children – a daughter Grace who is almost 17 and currently in 11th grade at AAS, and a son who just turned 19 and is graduating today. At the time they moved to Bulgaria, they were 2 and 4 years old and studied at Bulgarian schools for 4 years. As a result, they are now both fluent in Bulgarian. Ms. Heidi has been teaching first grade at AAS for 8 years now. She says she never thought she would teach the young ones and she absolutely loves it. Becoming a mother changed her mindset towards working with the little ones and she really, really enjoys it.

Being a teacher and a parent could be overwhelming at times. How do you find the balance?

It’s actually been the best of both worlds, because of my experience raising them I can look back and think of what I wish would have been better at them, or things dad I did do with them that I want to pass on to the kids in the classroom, and the advice for parents maybe regrets that i have, or ways to help their kids, I think that’s been really beneficial.

What do you like about AAS?

The international atmosphere is number one, and they get a broad world view. Kids have a voice here and I think if they’ve been in another educational system they haven’t had that experience, but for me empowering kids to make good choices, so empowering them not just in their academics, to think outside the box, to be creative, but also the interpersonal relationships are huge. Those are life skills that they learn here, how to relate to people that are different from them, that they can take outside of the classroom. The flipside of that is that then our kids don’t always have roots. Especially, living here, living internationally, their roots are not always in one place and then they might feel freer to fly the nest father than one kid might. My son, for example, is going to school in Hong Kong. So, they say, give kids roots, then give them wings but I think in this atmosphere their wings might be a little stronger and they fly farther.

What advice would you give to your graduating son?

Be kind! Especially with world events and what we are seeing. I think one of the keys to being kind is empathy and if you had friends who are of so many different backgrounds when you see something on the news, a world event, that is not just what is happening out there, that person looks like someone that we know or that person acts like someone we know or has the same background of someone we know. Those personal relationships and learning how to be kind and have empathy for people that are different from us is the foundation. That is what I would say to my son. Be kind! The person you are seeing is just like somebody you’ve known from school. And also, I tell him “Reach for the stars!” Sometimes, we see a success and think “I wish it was me!” but instead, think of it as “That could be me! Why not!” The biggest thing is, take that risk, follow your passions because why can’t it be you? It can! So, dream those big dreams!

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