Alumni Spotlight: Nanette Olivier


Nanette Olivier is a 24 year old female from Stellenbosch, South Africa and is currently working as an English teacher in South Korea. She lived in a very small rural town, but in her last year of school received a scholarship at High School Stellenbosch where she matriculated. She enjoys living a healthy lifestyle, preparing and eating healthy food, exercising, and meeting new people.

Highlights: I came with the intention to learn and gain experience. That is exactly what happened. I’ve learned so much as to what type of teacher I want to and don’t want to be, how to handle certain situations and how to get through to certain students. I’m 99% Left Brain oriented, meaning that I’m an extremely conscientious person. So a changing schedule every single day, changed taking place within seconds was the biggest struggle for me. The language barrier, misinterpretations, communication failures, and just struggling to get helped with a simple question take a lot of patience and getting used to. Luckily my only 2 months experience I had before I came to Korea involved me working at an extremely poor, underprivileged Secondary School in South Africa. So the experience for me here in Korea has been much better than my experience back home. The benefits of the life lessons I’ve learned out way the negative experiences and struggles that I’ve encountered.

I come from South Africa. There, being a teacher isn’t as prestigious as in Korea. You work longer hours for more than less the amount of money. I was lucky enough to get a job that pays well. So financially it has definitely been worth it! I don’t think I could have chosen any other country that is more the opposite of South Africa. I can’t even think of one similarity. The language, food, humor, discipline, fashion, beliefs, religion, political views, housing, greetings, traditions, fruit, exports and imports, treats, take away, you name it, it’s different. So it will take me days to explain what this journey has meant for me. It’s also very hard to explain, one has to experience it! But a journey it has been indeed!

Classes: After waking up at around 7:30AM, I will get dressed and eat breakfast to prepare for school. It takes me around 10 minutes to walk to school so I leave at around 8:20. The all Boys School I see each class once a week. 90% of the time I have a co-teacher in the classroom. Grade 1 and 3 is a male in his 50's. He walks around at the back of the classroom and orders the students to pick up trash or to open the windows. When I ask him to translate something for me, he just ignores me. He would discipline students if I beg him. He would come in and leave throughout the class. He would deliberately ask the students to do the opposite of what I ask. He makes me look like a fool in front of my students, so I make sure to be in the classroom first and I just give my lessons without him. Luckily, the two Grade 3 classes I have, their English is good enough to understand me, but the problem comes with the first graders.

Grade 2: I co-teach with a female in her late 40's. She sits at the back of the classroom on her laptop most of the time. The all Girls School I'm supposed to see the students once every two weeks, because classes are divided into Low Level and High Level. So one week I see the Low Level students and the next week the High Level students. I lose a lot of class time because of preparation for exams, field trips and Home room teachers. Basically, if they need time they use my classes. This means that I sometimes only see my students once a month. It's my opinion that not even the best teacher in the world can teach anything to these students in these circumstances. I try to look at the positive side. Most of the students looks forward to my English classes so at least I changed their mind set that learning English is fun. I have four co-teachers. 2 of them is for High level classes, but they've never been in the classroom with me. The other two teachers is for the Low-level classes. One of the teachers are always in my classroom, the other one sometimes doesn’t come. Then, I have to go to the teachers room and ask her to help me, because the students don't understand a word I'm saying.

Both Schools want me to teach the speaking sections in the Textbooks that they provided(different textbooks at both schools). The student's don't take exam/tests or even have any form of assessment on the work I teach; students only get assessed on Writing and Listening. I assessed the students in the first semester, but the teachers didn't want to use my marks. So I don't assess the students anymore, and the classes I don't have co-teachers, I use my own materials.

Prep Time: Since I only teach 3/4 classes per day, I have more than enough time to prepare for my classes at school. If I have to teach out of the textbook, I just decide on an appropriate Ice breaker activity and go through the Speaking Section in the Textbook (takes about 15 min). If I do a Powerpoint Presentation, I search for Presentations on the Textbook Lesson Topics (takes about 2-3 hours).

Evening: After classes end, I have the rest of the day to myself. I go grocery shopping and then head home. I cook dinner, relax, do some house chores, read, and watch television. At around 8PM, I will go to Taebo, a total body fitness system.