Many Connections. One U.

Alumni Profile

on March 15, 2011 by Janet Edwards

Steve Edler, ’03, ’04

A few years ago, Steve Edler, ’03, ’04, would never have guessed his address would be anywhere other than St. Louis. Since last August, however, he has taught math at the American International School in Lagos, Nigeria.

By the time he met his girlfriend, Kelly Metcalf, Edler had done relatively little travel. They had only been dating a few weeks, he said, when Metcalf asked Edler if he had a current passport.

“She told me, ‘You never know when a travel opportunity is going to present itself,’” Edler said. “Within two years, I had visited more places with her than I had in my whole life.”

Metcalf is a counselor at the school in Lagos; the couple met while working together at Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School, where Edler taught for six years. Once they decided teaching abroad would be a great experience, they spent hours in coffee shops, researching locations throughout the world. Initially, Africa was not on their radar.

“We had a big pro and con list. We didn’t want to pick some place and then regret it later,” Edler said. “We researched countries and lifestyles. We thought about places like London or Stuttgart or other cities in Europe, but in those places you’re only going to break even financially. The school in Lagos is paying to train me in the International Baccalaureate Program, which is a huge professional development benefit.”

Edler, who has a B.A. in secondary math education and a master’s in education, both from Maryville, enjoys his work.

“I get a real kick out of helping people learn math. I love to see those light bulbs go off,” Edler said. “I teach middle school and high school students – I really like the age groups. They have their own ideas and opinions, so you can have a more adult conversation. They have their issues, but they tell you how it is.”

Students are the same in both the U.S. and Nigeria, he added.

“Kids are kids everywhere, they have the same dreams – and the same need for cell phones and iPods,” he said. The Lagos school, Edler said, is competitive internationally and its students, which represent about 40 different countries, are typically from higher income families.

“If you had told me five years ago I’d be teaching in Africa, I would have laughed,” he said. “But this experience has completely changed me for the better. I’m much more open to new ideas. I’m just giving my students math knowledge; they’re giving me a whole new perspective on their worlds.”

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