Bijou teacher, Aussie counterpart stay in each other’s houses
Two teachers have temporarily traded places across the world, but “kids are kids everywhere,” said Kerrie Shearer of Australia, who started a one-year span as a
math and science instructor at the Westside's Bijou alternative high school in January.
At the same time, Barbara Bullock left Bijou to take over for Shearer at Vermont College (grades 7-12) in Victoria, Australia (near Melbourne).
They're even living in each other's houses. “We have cockatoos soaring overhead and rainbow lorikeets in the trees,” Bullock reports in an e-mail. “Parrots are seen all over. To us, that is the most interesting thing. You wake every morning to a tropical bird choir.”
As for Shearer, in addition to enjoying Mexican food, “I've fallen in love with Pikes Peak,” she said. “And I'm amazed at the blue skies and sunshine.”
It was the first time in Colorado for the 24-year teacher (20 years at Vermont). She had visited California, Washington and New York in 1990. The exchange, which ends in December, was worked out through the Colorado International Teachers' Exchange League (CITEL). She had met another teacher who had done an exchange through CITEL and enjoyed it, so Shearer applied with the hope of seeing America again in conjunction with her career. As she put it, “there are not a lot of loorks and perks in teaching.” (Loorks: Aus-tralian slang for a “fun thing.”)
All the same, such a one-year relocation “is a real effort,” Shearer said. There are bills to pay, other financial aspects to be organized, and “getting your house ready for someone else.”
From Australia, Bullock said she's enjoying herself. “It is called the lucky country. I feel lucky to live here for one year.” She is there with her husband Chuck. At 1,500 students, the school is much larger than Bijou. She has also noticed that swimming and trivia competitions are popular (she has joined a trivia team).
With Shearer is David, her “partner.” Her 17-year-old son Ryhs, who was just starting an apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker when she left, may come at a later date, Shearer said.
Bijou has some academic differences from her Australian school. As an alternative school, it's where students in District 11 can go if they don't like - or have trouble coping with - “normal” high schools. “Some are tough cases,” Shearer said. “If they weren't here, they'd be in jail or dead.”
But she's also found her students to be “very polite.” One example is when she hears swearing in her classroom. She tells them to stop, she recounted, and they tell her, “Sorry, Kerrie.”
As for her teaching method, she laughed, “I'm hard on them. I make them think.”
She's been sad about her homeland while away. The massive bushfires are in the area of Victoria. “I know some of the people” who have been affected, she said. “I'm proud that the Aussies rallied” (including Vermont College) to raise money for the fire victims.
Bullock has seen the fires. They got to within 15 miles of Victoria. “We smelled smoke and had ash in the air for a couple of days,” she writes. “The school cancelled the field trip to the wildlife sanctuary because the fires were too close.”
Shearer hopes to travel this summer and take in such places as Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone and New Orleans.
Westside Pioneer article