Women of the Northwest

Julie Gaetano-Teaching & Deli Tales: Adventures Overseas and Beyond

June 15, 2023 Julie Hoffman Episode 71
Women of the Northwest
Julie Gaetano-Teaching & Deli Tales: Adventures Overseas and Beyond
Show Notes Transcript

International Schools

Teaching & Deli Tales: Adventures Overseas and Beyond

Ever wondered what it would be like to teach overseas? This podcast will satisfy your curiosity.

Join guest Julie Hoffman as she takes you on a captivating journey through her and her husband's experiences teaching abroad and beyond. 

Julie and Matthew, a dynamic couple with a passion for education, have traversed the globe, imparting knowledge and discovering new cultures along the way. From the picturesque streets of Italy to the vibrant classrooms of Haiti, the bustling cities of Indonesia to the serene landscapes of Taiwan and Mauritania, they have left their mark as educators and adventurers.

But their journey didn't stop there. After their time overseas, Julie and Matthew decided to take a break and settle down in Astoria, Oregon. Here, they embarked on a different kind of venture, opening Gaetano's, an Italian Deli that brings the flavors of their international travels to the local community.

In this episode, Julie shares their personal stories, lessons learned, and insights gained from teaching in diverse environments. She delves into the challenges they faced, the triumphs they celebrated, and the unforgettable moments that shaped their teaching careers. 

Whether you're an aspiring teacher, a seasoned educator, or simply curious about life overseas, this episode will provide a unique and inspiring perspective.

Subscribe to the Women of the Northwest podcast for inspiring stories and adventures.
Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

[00:00] Jan: You. Are you looking for an inspiring listen, something to motivate you? You've come to the right place. I'm Jan Johnson, your host. Welcome to Women of the Northwest, where we have conversations with ordinary women leading extraordinary lives. Women telling their stories and sharing their passions. Motivating, inspiring, compelling you. Um, Julie. Welcome to women in the Northwest.

[00:32]  Julie: Thank you.

[00:33] Jan: Yeah. Nice to have you here. You taught overseas. Why don't you tell me about that? Where was the first place you went and how did you decide to get there?

[00:45]  Julie: Well, the first place I went was Italy, and I was teaching in California, and the.com was booming, and things were starting to cost a lot more money. And teachers, firefighters, policemen, a lot of people couldn't really afford to live in the city.

[01:09] Jan: The people that everybody needs.

[01:10]  Julie: Yeah. So they were all leaving and living outside of the city and community in and it was just really expensive. And we had friends who were teaching overseas in South America and loving it, and we thought, why don't we give this a try? And we were interviewed for a few different places, and we ended up taking a job in Genoa, Italy, for two years. After that, taxes start kicking in and you get paid just barely enough to survive in Italy, but for two years, you're tax free as an American in Italy. And yeah, we just learned Italian culture and met a lot of fun people and families.

[02:02] Jan: What kind of school was it that you taught in?

[02:04]  Julie: It was called the American International School. And it was mostly Italians. Actually, it was started by the American and British consulate in Genoa, but by the time we were there, it was mostly Italians who couldn't afford private, private school.

[02:29] Jan: How big was the school?

[02:32]  Julie: Jeez, I think there was probably maybe 80 kids. Nice small ten.

[02:40] Jan: Yeah.

[02:41]  Julie: It wasn't even really a school. It was more of a mansion, really, that was split up into classroom classrooms.

[02:50] Jan: Interesting. Yeah. But you taught in English? Yeah.

[02:55]  Julie: So from there, where did you go after Italy? We went to Taiwan. We were in Gao Shang, which is the opposite south side of Taiwan. Bigger school. Mostly Taiwanese students. Oh, really?

[03:13] Jan: Speaking English again, or no or you had to brush up on your Taiwanese?

[03:17]  Julie: No, I taught fourth grade again. It was like there were consulate children there from different NGOs, but for the most part it was Taiwanese.

[03:29] Jan: What kind of cultural things did you.

[03:31]  Julie: Have to learn about in Taiwan? In Asia, there are definitely things that you just kind of learn through making the mistake. So, like, one thing that I remember from Taiwan was padding like a student on the head. And that's really bad because that's like, what you would do with an animal pet. And also like, writing kids names in red is something you should never do. A lot of things that you just did, and then people would bring it up to you and say, that's not how we do.

[04:20] Jan: When I taught on the Navajo reservation and I was fresh out of college, I was young and the kids are first graders running around wild and something, and I started to say, you guys are just acting like a bunch of wild Indian kids. Yeah. Okay. And that was before things were culturally appropriate or not.

[04:52]  Julie: I think it's by making mistakes that you really learn. Right?

[04:56] Jan: Yeah. And hopefully they're very forgiven and not something that's going to be harming anybody permanently or whatever. Yeah. So you were in Taiwan for a while?

[05:09]  Julie: Years.

[05:10] Jan: What were you teaching there?

[05:11]  Julie: I taught fourth no, fifth grade in Taiwan.

[05:15] Jan: What's your favorite grade?

[05:17]  Julie: 5Th.

[05:17] Jan: 5Th? Yeah. Why do you like that?

[05:20]  Julie: I like the age. I think they're like eleven year olds to twelve year olds. They're just very independent and kind of already really have unique personalities and know what they really like or are interested in.

[05:43] Jan: They're more capable to do.

[05:45]  Julie: Yeah. Independent. And so you can really work to on their strengths that they already have to drive them in different ways and provide them with different resources they can take and go on their own.

[06:05] Jan: I think they're starting to think about outside of themselves a little bit too, like, what can we do to help our environment or things in the world that they see that aren't fair or whatever. Maybe they start thinking that way a little bit too.

[06:24]  Julie: And then after Taiwan, we went to Jamaica.

[06:30] Jan: Jamaica, okay. That was different.

[06:32]  Julie: Yeah. So we were there for two years before we had our oldest daughter, and then two years after she was born.

[06:41] Jan: What was that one like?

[06:42]  Julie: It was really fun.

[06:44] Jan: We learned a little different dialect.

[06:48]  Julie: We could understand a lot of the patois that people use, but speaking it, they would just laugh at us. Yeah, I'm sure, but yeah, we could understand a lot of patwa. But it was a really great place to be pregnant and to have young children. Actually. They're very children oriented culture. And when I was pregnant, I mean, there were always people I think I had a flat tire one time by myself, very pregnant, the side of the road, and I must have had three or four different people stop and come over and make sure everything is okay. They're just a very loving culture and there's a lot of fights within gangs and stuff in Kingston, where we lived. But as a foreigner, you're pretty much removed from it, but you read about it and hear about it on the radio.

[07:53] Jan: Yeah. So you felt safe.

[07:55]  Julie: Yeah.

[07:57] Jan: When you've gone to the different schools, is it the curriculum pretty much the same, or are there specific things to the specific areas?

[08:05]  Julie: So a lot of the schools that we were in, not all of them, but a lot of them have the International Baccalaureate program, and in elementary school it's called the Primary Years program. So there is a lot of similarities in just the way that units are structured and how they're designed and how they're reassessed and reworked. And there was a lot of commonality there.

[08:33] Jan: Do you have to do benchmarks, like here and different kind of yeah, and.

[08:38]  Julie: The report cards were always we were pulling from different standards and benchmarks to.

[08:45] Jan: Meet different and what in the general populations of the kids that you have in there? Do you have many that are handicapped or special learners?

[08:57]  Julie: A lot of the schools we were in didn't have services for special needs and so a lot of them wouldn't really accept students with special needs because they couldn't accommodate. Accommodate, yeah. But I definitely had different kids with special needs over the years just coming in through these schools. I had a student one time in Indonesia whose parents had decided that he really needed to be on Ritalin because of his just lack of attention, being able to pay attention. They saw it at home and I don't know, I just was not a professional when it comes to making those kinds of giving advice on stuff. But I just said, from my perspective in the classroom, I don't feel the need for him to be taking medication. He's not disruptive to the point where it's taking away from other kids or it's taken away from himself. He seems to be learning just fine.

[10:17] Jan: And did you see any difference in the different cultures to the level of respect that kids had for you as a teacher?

[10:26]  Julie: Yeah, I mean, the difference between Italy and Taiwan was huge. I remember that was a big change. Not that Italians didn't respect teachers, but Taiwanese and the family, parents and everybody have just this real respect, I guess, for education and educators, and they ingrain it into the children to really appreciate what they have. And also, it was also the class probably of the population in Taiwan was definitely like we had a lot of kids that had parents who were dentists or doctors. And in Italy it was more parents who had families who had had money for a long time. It's just kind of like the way that their families have always just had old money and some families were new to money. But yeah, it was definitely more of a working class families in Taiwan who wanted their kids to get the best education.

[11:42] Jan: Yeah. When we taught on the reservation, my husband taught 6th grade and then when we moved here and he went into a regular public school here and these kids are so disrespectful and I just like trying to hear on the reservation they were just so just nice, easy going, fun kids. But they weren't. He would hate to be teaching now because it's not fun as fun now. It's a lot harder in a lot.

[12:19]  Julie: Of ways, a lot of challenges.

[12:20] Jan: Yes. So you were in Jamaica let's see. We're hopping across the map.

[12:26]  Julie: Then we went to Mauritania.

[12:30] Jan: Where is that? I don't even know where that is.

[12:33]  Julie: A lot of people don't.

[12:34] Jan: Yeah.

[12:35]  Julie: So it is in between Senegal and Morocco okay. On the west coast, in the Sahara Desert. The capital city is nouachat. And it's very Arab Muslim. They're very proud. My youngest daughter was born there, and my oldest has dual citizenship. Jamaica American. My youngest was born in Mauritania, and they were not going to they were.

[13:04] Jan: Going to go for that give any.

[13:05]  Julie: Kind of citizenship to anybody that wasn't Muslim.

[13:10] Jan: It was probably just as well.

[13:11]  Julie: They're very proud of their 100% Muslim population.

[13:17] Jan: Interesting. So when you are switching around, first of all, what causes you to change, and then secondly, how are you deciding where your next spot is?

[13:32]  Julie: I guess it was basically well, for Italy, we couldn't stay because of monetary reasons. And at that point, we were so young, we would go anywhere. We applied, and you go to these international school job fairs. They have them in San Francisco and then out on the East Coast. And it's basically like a four day weekend of just this roller coaster ride of emotions because you're applying to these different places all over the world. And then some people will call you back for a second interview, and then other people where you really wanted to go might not call. And then you get these notes in your files, and it's really hard. And then we just ended up getting a job where it's hard, too, as a couple, because the school needs to have both positions available for you.

[14:33] Jan: Right.

[14:36]  Julie: But it's also beneficial as a couple because you have one house, two teachers.

[14:43] Jan: Right, right. So they're saving money. Yeah.

[14:46]  Julie: Schools like hiring couples, but you just have to get the right match. We just yeah. Ended up in Taiwan. Jamaica was another we went to a job fair and really liked the head of school that we met and became he's actually from Oregon. He grew up near Salem, so we just really clicked with him. So we ended up in Jamaica. Then Matthew started getting into administration, and he started doing some of his he started doing some principalship in Jamaica, but we wanted to really get him into head of school positions. So when Mauritania we had a head of school that we worked with in Taiwan, was leaving her position in Mauritania, so he had his foot in the door, and it would be his first chance at administration. So that's how we ended up in West Africa. And then Indonesia was well, I mean, basically after West Africa, the contracts are generally three years.

[15:54] Jan: Okay.

[15:54]  Julie: And sometimes we would stay a little longer, but I wanted out of West Africa. It was hard. Thankfully, our oldest at the time was just she just loved it. I mean, she would have loved anywhere. I guess she was with mom and dad, but she would always just be so excited to be going home and was always so happy. And so she really carried us through, carried me through what was difficult, though? The poverty was really hard, like, every day. I mean, all the time. It's really in your face. There's a lot of poverty and not a lot of people even really I mean, a lot of people living in tents and the desert and they'll have a TV in.

[16:50] Jan: That interesting.

[16:51]  Julie: Yeah.

[16:52] Jan: We notice that when we go to South America and Central America. Yeah. They got these little tiny houses with a tin roof and something. But there's a TV, right? Yeah.

[17:04]  Julie: So I think that really the poverty was really hard. And then Indonesia was just kind of like the next step for Matthew, for his position, getting into bigger schools. We wanted to get into bigger schools for our kids, too, just to have more a little bit more available sports and more social program things.

[17:32] Jan: So you left Indonesia, and he came here to Astoria and decide, oh, let's make a business. Yeah.

[17:43]  Julie: Well, I was reluctant. I was the last one on board, actually, with the business. It was scary to me. I was just like, I don't have any idea what this entails. My sister in law had always really wanted to do something with cooking, running a restaurant or a deli.

[18:08] Jan: One day you're brainstorming things, and here we go.

[18:12]  Julie: Well, we can't seem to get because during COVID all of the school districts were really just moving PE teachers and to jobs and stuff, hiring, and then we just couldn't find work. So this was a way for us.

[18:31] Jan: To well, you couldn't even really sub during COVID It was a different beast. Yeah.

[18:42]  Julie: We just decided to go with it because we were spending a lot of time actually driving out to Portland and getting stuff at these Italian markets in Portland for cooking and but why are we going all the way out here? There should be something on the coast.

[18:58] Jan: Other people are thinking, well, it should be nice to have a nice deli here in Astoria, right?

[19:05]  Julie: Yeah. We ended up just starting to bring samples of we had this bingo group that would meet outside in our neighborhood during COVID Yeah. Like and they like once we were probably doing it maybe every couple of weeks or something, and she'd set up, like, chalk marks on the sidewalk, how far everybody had to sit from. And we'd play bingo every afternoon. The kids loved it. It was a chance to get outside and not be too close to people.

[19:40] Jan: But still have a little socialization.

[19:42]  Julie: So we started bringing samples of pasta and sausages to our bingo group.

[19:48] Jan: So it was a trial. It was a soft opening.

[19:50]  Julie: It was actually we had Google forms and everything where they could just scan this code and go into this form and give us anonymous feedback on the food, what they liked and what they did in what they change. That was fun. Doing neighbor market research.

[20:13] Jan: Yeah. And so your sister in law Dan and your husband, you started it and you've gotten even awards for guitanos. I think you started something good.

[20:26]  Julie: Yeah, I think so.

[20:28] Jan: I haven't tasted anything I didn't like there.

[20:30]  Julie: Right. Yeah. We had no idea how our projections when we first put our business plan together, we thought we'd be making ten sandwiches a day. Well, yeah. And instead it's usually between 81 hundred.

[20:48] Jan: Oh my. Yeah, and then you're catering besides, right? Yeah. So that's worked out pretty good. Well, so now you're going back to Indonesia. So when you're there, how's the housing work out or any of that?

[21:03]  Julie: They always have a house for the director.

[21:07] Jan: Okay. And they pay for that too.

[21:14]  Julie: They'll have a house. We've actually had tours on video of the house and stuff. And the kids have all been watching the videos and getting excited. My oldest, that's my room. That's going to be yeah, exactly. My oldest has already said she does not want the room that has some Beyonce or I don't even know, some artist picture is like engraved in the wall. I don't know.

[21:42] Jan: It always covered up with something else.

[21:45]  Julie: It might be my youngest daughter's bathroom for a little while or yeah, we'll figure out something with a towel rack right there. That could be scary too. I don't know. So, yeah, the housing is all covered and then we'll have a driver and a car and all that is covered in gas.

[22:06] Jan: Oh, really?

[22:07]  Julie: Yeah. A house cleaner and a house cleaner who we will pay. That school doesn't cover that. That's about it, though. And our groceries, that's what the school doesn't cover. But otherwise they will cover utilities.

[22:24] Jan: Wow. So you can save some money.

[22:26]  Julie: Yeah.

[22:26] Jan: That sounds like a slick deal. Small classrooms and a fun experience someplace else and whatever. Yeah. So you'll be there for how long do you think you'll be there?

[22:37]  Julie: Our plan is three years.

[22:39] Jan: Three years? Yeah.

[22:41]  Julie: My oldest will be graduating from high school in three years.

[22:44] Jan: Okay. Yeah.

[22:45]  Julie: Get her the program. There is a really good one. It's an International Baccalaureate program. Diploma program. It's going to be a good challenge for her academically. What she's really going to miss here is sports. They have soccer and they're really into badminton, but there's no track.

[23:09] Jan: And she'll really she'll just start her own thing, right? Yeah, she could do that. What does she want to major in when she goes to college?

[23:18]  Julie: I don't know.

[23:19] Jan: She's talked do you have any ideas? No.

[23:20]  Julie: She talked about architecture for a long time, but I think it might be kind of changing. And that's fine.

[23:27] Jan: I told her, well, and half of everybody that the first year of college are changing their minds and I don't think so.

[23:35]  Julie: Maybe not that I thought I wanted to be an accountant until I took accounting and then I don't want to.

[23:41] Jan: Make my heart sing. No.

[23:45]  Julie: I'm going to sit behind a desk and do this all the time. For how many years?

[23:49] Jan: I'd rather yell at kids all day.

[23:51]  Julie: Yeah, exactly. I do really like working with kids, I think. Yeah, I've really missed it. I mean, the Deli has been great and I have really enjoyed meeting people and getting to know the community and it's been a lot of fun. But I do really miss working with kids.

[24:11] Jan: My favorite of everything was kindergarten and I did actually preschool all the way through high school in some format. They're just always excited about learning something. You can do the smallest thing and they're thinking and you get to sing songs. When I taught 6th grade, I had my kids playing marimbas. Taught them how to play marimbas. So that was kind of fun, having a little music band kind of outside of the box. Yeah. So many things you could do. Well, thank you for joining us. This is fun.

[24:54]  Julie: Yeah, thank you for having me. Bye.