Hinsdale Central teacher shares time in Bulgaria
Andy Jones and Erin Kahle, who would become his wife, with one of the Seven Rila Lakes in the background, during their teaching sojourn in Bulgaria.
The Jones file
Education: Downers Grove North High School and University of Illinois
Married: Erin Kahle, an American biology teacher he met in Bulgaria, who had arrived on the same flight he did to teach in the same school
After Sofia: Taught in Quito, Ecuador from 2008 to 2009.
Currently: Hinsdale Central English teacher, assistant boys basketball coach, and author
His book: Two Seasons in the Bubble: Living and Coaching Basketball in Bulgaria, published in December can be ordered from www.createspace.com/4029596.
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:04AM
HINSDALE — Andrew Jones had been teaching English at Hinsdale Central High School for five years when he wanted an adventure and decided to teach internationally. He wrote a book, Two Seasons in the Bubble: Living and Coaching Basketball in Bulgaria, about the experience.
Q. How did the opportunity to teach in Bulgaria come up?
A. I went to an international teaching recruiting fair in Boston in February 2007 and I talked to schools from all over the world. I interviewed with 12 different schools and I got five offers (from schools in) Aruba, Beijing, Berlin, Namibia in Africa, and Sofia, Bulgaria.
Q. Why did you choose the school in Bulgaria?
A. I liked the job (teaching English literature). They needed a basketball coach. . . . I wanted to go some place where I would be pushed. Aruba (for example) wouldn’t be that far from home and it wouldn’t be that different.
Q. What foreign languages did you know?
A. I had had some high school and college French. In Bulgaria, they use the Cyrillic alphabet. I learned the alphabet before I left. When I got there, I dove in (learning Bulgarian) pretty heavily and I took lessons twice a week. I got pretty good.
Q. What school did you teach at?
A. The American College of Sofia. It was widely seen as the best school in the country. Enrollment was about 750 (grades six through 12). To go to the school, they had to pass a proficiency test in English. I taught in English, but sometimes they would tell me, “You are speaking so fast.” Or when I used idiomatic expressions they would not understand them. The teaching staff was two-thirds Bulgarian and one-third foreigners.
Q. How were your teaching methods different?
A. Those four years, I was challenged more than I ever had been before. I couldn’t fall back on familiar references, like the Cubs or the Sox or the Bears. I learned there are so many ways to engage kids. You have to be flexible and adapt. There’s a way to get to every kid.
Q. When did you decide to write a book?
A. I had been writing a blog that people in the states were reading. Being overseas, I thought I would have more time and motivation to write, which definitely happened. As my time in Bulgaria was coming to an end, I realized one of my most memorable experiences was coaching. I was coaching 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds on the varsity basketball team. I had coached six to seven years in the states, but the work ethic and the strategy (of the Bulgarian teenagers) was different. They liked playing, but they liked winning and we weren’t winning. Each player was like an island, where in the states, it’s so much more about the team.