We’re turning 10 this year and as part of our celebrations, we’ll be introducing you to 10 of our Pamoja teachers from around the world.

This month we’d like you to meet Ruth West, a Business Management HL teacher, a member of the Pamoja Community Team and Course Advisor for the Extended Essay. Ruth adapts to teaching and supporting students online while adventuring across Australia in her camper van.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Ruth West and I started teaching Economics, Business, Law and Information Technology in London in 1991. Since then I have held a variety of teaching and leadership positions in schools in the UK, India and Australia, including IB Coordinator, Head of Faculty and Deputy Principal. I have taught A-Levels, GCSEs, iGCSEs and the Queensland curriculum as well as the International Baccalaureate.

I started teaching with Pamoja before it was even Pamoja! During my first year in 2009 I shared a Business Management class with Brad Opfer. Over the past 10 years with Pamoja I have taught SL and HL Business Management and HL Economics, been an Extended Essay supervisor, assistant HOD for Business Management and a Faculty Advisor. Currently I have a Year 2 HL Business Management class (so I still get to work with Brad!), and I am a member of the Community Team and Course Advisor for Extended Essay.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

To be honest I never had any intention of being a teacher. I did my degree in Law and Economics and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do other than see the world. Having been given the opportunity to complete a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) I decided this might give me the opportunity to develop a skill I could employ anywhere in the world while I figured out what I really wanted to do. After the first day of practical placement in the classroom I realised I loved being an educator and supporting students to achieve their goals and have never looked back. Now I can’t imagine having any other career so I’m lucky that a whim turned out to be a great life decision.

How does online teaching facilitate a good work/life balance for you?

Working online for Pamoja has always been something I have done in addition to teaching at a face to face school until this year. It has allowed me to work in different countries, complete post-graduate study, keep teaching the IB even when in a school that does not offer it, keep abreast with education-related technology and network with a wide range of talented and experienced educators from around the world.

At the start of 2018 I took leave from my face to face school and my husband (who works online in the airline industry) started our travels around Australia. Working with Pamoja has allowed me to pursue my travel dreams without compromising my career and love of teaching. I have had Zoom conferences with students in a desert, meetings with the Community Team from the beach and marked students’ work overlooking a waterfall – not things that have ever happened in my face to face schools! We are hoping that we can make it work long term as our dream is to spend 10 years driving back to the UK and this wouldn’t be possible without the flexibility of online working.

What kind of flexibility do you think online learning gives your students?

Students who study online can be more flexible about when and how they study. Many of my students over the years have been talented sportspeople, aspiring artists, from families who are required to relocate regularly or students studying away from their home country. For these students Pamoja has allowed them to manage the demands of school and life more easily as they can work online while on a bus to a match, waiting in rehearsals, travelling between locations and has provided continuity when other aspects of their lives have been more transient.

Being able to contact a teacher at the weekend, during the evening or even during the night for those who never seem to sleep is a real comfort to many students – as one of my M2019 students said to me “it’s like having a teacher who lives in my computer”!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

The best aspect of working with Pamoja is being able to learn from and with amazingly gifted, dedicated, funny and innovative colleagues.

Ruth West Banner


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