Sarah Bailey-Martín, ’11, isn’t just teaching at a school in Mexico, she’s learning there, too.
Bailey-Martín, 25, from Arnold, Mo., studied middle school education with an emphasis in language arts while at Maryville University. Even before she graduated in May, she had been hired as a teacher at the American School of Pachuca in Hidalgo, Mexico.
Bailey-Martín teaches what would be considered seventh grade in the United States. In Mexico, seventh grade is the first year of secondary education, so there she is considered a first grade teacher. “It is odd to say I teach first graders when they are 12 years old,” she notes. Bailey-Martín communicated with “The Clocktower” through email and by Skype, a program that allows video calls to be conducted over the Internet.
Bailey-Martín lives in Pachuca with her husband Salvador Barrera-Martín. The two met in 2008 when they were both working at an Uno Chicago Grill restaurant in Chesterfield, Mo. Martin was born in Mexico, and his family still lives in a small town near Actopan.
Bailey-Martín likes Pachuca, and as she describes the area, it’s easy to see why. “I don’t know if I would have considered myself an outdoors person before, but there’s so much to do here,” she says. While there’s a waterfall that’s popular with tourists, she has also gone hiking in nearby forests and swimming in hot springs. She lives in an area where it’s easy to get around and where she shops not at big chain retailers, but smaller markets called mercados.
Three years of Bailey-Martín’s education at Maryville included time student teaching in schools, so she says she has felt well prepared for her work in the classroom. She teaches English language arts and ecology. In many ways, her students in Mexico remind her of those she has taught previously. “The children are amazing, even when they give me a hard time, and ultimately they are why I’m teaching,” she says. She adds that their “interests, behaviors, successes and problems” are the same as those she experienced in the United States.
There are differences, too. She doesn’t have her own classroom, rather every 45 minutes she moves to a different classroom and the students also go to other classrooms. Bailey-Martín says students are more demonstrative, too. A hug from a student is not uncommon. “If walking across campus, a student might hold my hand or put an arm around my shoulder and walk with me.” Bailey-Martín says it allows for a different level of connection than she would have with students in the United States.
Bailey-Martín says she’ll celebrate the new year with her husband’s family, but will be back in Missouri for five days at Christmas. One way she’ll celebrate her trip home is by fulfilling a craving she’s been having in Mexico; she has recently been wanting a “soft pretzel with cheese dip.” It’s not the place we all most think of at the holidays, but Bailey-Martín has got one stop planned, to visit the well-known Benton Park pretzel bakery. “When I get home, I’m going to go to Gus’,” she says.