Kansas State University


College of Education

In the Classroom: Sarah Marek

Sarah Marek, standing in the back, teaches her 7th form, which is approximately the equivalent of juniors.

Name: Sarah Marek

Location: Austria

After reading issues of Before the Bell, Sarah decided to share her experiences teaching abroad:

I’ve been reading the newsletter for new teachers every time it comes out, and I’d like to add my own contribution! I am teaching in Austria, at a Gymnasium (a high school equivalent that tracks students to university).

I’m teaching in Austria because I received the Fulbright Award to teach English abroad for a year. Although I had the option to renew for a second year, I plan on returning to the US at the end the the school year (in summer). I have accepted a position in Nebraska as a Spanish teacher with the plan to add German next year. I didn’t want too many preps my first year of teaching!

One of Sarah Marek’s classrooms.

Teaching here has been quite the experience, as our school systems are very different. Around the age of 10, students have to decide what kind of secondary school they will attend – a technical school, a business/tourism school, or one that gets you to university.

Classrooms are considered the property of the students, and each grade can decorate their classroom how they want. Teachers are the ones changing classes each passing period, while the students stay put! That means every teacher is basically a cart teacher! They are more old school than the typical American classroom. It is the norm here to have tables, not desks, arranged in rows, and whiteboards are almost unheard of.

At my Gymnasium, students are very focused on their schoolwork, as in order to go to university, they have to pass what is called the “Matura”- a rigorous test for each subject they want to count for their university admissions. Most have studied English (the subject I teach) since around the age of 7 and are fairly fluent by the time I get to them. I even mistook some for Americans when I first met them because of their lack of accent!

Students focus on a lesson.

Things are fairly interesting here right now – due to Coronavirus and the proximity to Italy, the government is thinking about closing schools for the near future. Universities are already shut down.

It has been a great experience teaching here, and I will be sad to leave it behind and return to the US after this school year.