Hannah Taylor always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
But until this year — her senior year — the elementary education major from Fenton, Mich., had no idea she wanted to be a missionary.
“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in someone’s life,” she says. Now, Hannah is going to have the opportunity to do both. She has accepted a two-year position as a fourth grade teacher at West Nairobi School, an American curriculum international school in the Karen area of Nairobi, Kenya.
Hannah’s students will be a diverse group, both culturally and nationally. Besides native Kenyans, her class will also include American and Asian children whose parents reside in the country as missionaries or business people.
An unexpected place
During her senior year at Olivet, Hannah shared an apartment with three women who were raised in Kenya. One of those roommates, Katie Reed, approached Hannah one day and mentioned that the school she had attended while living in Kenya was seeking a music teacher.
Hannah, who also has a minor in music, decided to apply for the position. Numerous interviews later, she was offered a position — not as a music teacher, but rather as a fourth grade teacher.
She has never traveled to Kenya before. Her only opportunity to see her school and classroom has been through photos on the school’s website. “The school has modern amenities, including whiteboards, desks and American curricula,” she says.
Other features, however, are distinctly African. “We eat outside in little huts,” Hannah adds with a smile. “I forget what they’re called, but that’s the cafeteria.”
Response to a change of plans
Hannah’s friends and family have mixed emotions on her decision to teach in Africa. “No one is neutral,” she says. “They’re either very excited or a little nervous.”
Initially, Hannah’s father was the most vocal voice against her decision to teach in Kenya. “My dad said no right away,” she recalls. "I'm his baby girl, and the thought of my moving to a foreign country is scary for him." Hannah’s father eventually agreed to let his daughter teach in Africa and has joined the rest of the family in being supportive of her choice. They are continually laying their fears before the Lord and are reminded of His faithfulness.
Her friends are also supportive. “They think it’s cool,” she says.
Dr. Roxanne Forgrave, professor in Olivet's School of Education and one of Hannah’s mentors, is excited about this opportunity for Hannah. She is not the first of Dr. Forgrave’s students to teach abroad, however. Cassidy Lancaster ’13 is currently teaching third grade in Paraguay, and Katrina Holm ‘13 teaches in South Africa.
Ready, set, go
Hannah credits Olivet’s education program as preparation for this experience. “I cannot say enough positive things about our program,” she says. “All of our professors have been teachers in an actual classroom. And they aren’t just professors in the classroom. They are always there to help, and they are always up to date.”
Dr. Forgrave and Hannah agree that Olivet’s Christian focus strengthens the program. “I once described our program as ‘mission-based’ to a colleague outside of Olivet,” she says. “Everything has a ministry aspect. Education is a mission.” Dr. Forgrave cited examples of student ministry on campus, including tutoring and Kappa Delta Pi’s book drive.
Hannah affirms that Olivet’s program also prepared her spiritually for ministering in Kenya. “It’s very ministry-based,” she says.
“This is the time for Hannah to go,” Dr. Forgrave adds. “This is a wonderful opportunity for her to see the world and experience another culture.”