Erma Anderson Shares Knowledge Around The Globe
From Albert Einstein Distinguished Fellow in the U.S. Senate and senior program officer with the National Research Council to 2011 recipient of the distinguished Finis Engleman Award, Erma Anderson’s list of achievements and acknowledgements is lengthy. However, what that list may not properly convey is a woman who is passionate about children and providing higher learning skills to her home-away-from-home family.
Currently serving as an independent math and science consultant for American International Schools, Anderson has been travelling the globe in recent years literally changing the face of how math is both conceptualized and taught.
American International Schools are part of the Office of Overseas Schools and the U.S. State Department providing education to a veritable melting pot of children who travel with their families abroad on state business. The schools range in size, according to Anderson, of Needmore. Some of the smaller schools have around 600 students enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12th, which would be comparable to schools here in Fulton County. Meanwhile, larger schools located in Singapore and London boast student bodies in excess of 3,000.
The majority of the schools take students from any country, Anderson said. However, those with a connection to the United States are typically required to maintain a certain percentage of American students. Places, such as Lebanon, which have no relationship with us do not have any American students.
Furthermore, teacher and student turnover rates are very high, meaning she is likely to see a whole different group of individuals from visit to visit.
Also different from what local students and teachers may be accustomed to, Anderson said the work and school week also vary from region to region. European countries, like the United States, follow a Monday through Friday routine, while Muslim countries may implement a five-day week that begins on Saturday.
Regardless, Anderson’s 15- week travel plans are always fast and furious, spending one week at each school and moving on to the next to provide both student instruction as well as learning tools for parents and teachers. In 2011, several of her stops included Lebanon, Israel, India, Jordan, Greece, Egypt, Spain, Tunisia, Italy and Portugal.
Upcoming arrangements will take Anderson to both Budapest and Bucharest, London, Madrid, Manilla, Lisbon, Jordan, Johannesburg and Shanghai. The stop she is most looking forward to is Brazil, which will mark her very first visit to South America.
Her only breaks throughout the year are summer vacation and a quick two-week break over the Christmas holiday. Would she change her fast-paced, worldly lifestyle? No. In fact, she says, “Time goes fast. It’s exciting.”
“I’m seeing the world and staying busy. It’s just like a longterm vacation. I’ve seen so much of the world I never thought I could imagine,” Anderson stated of the years spent abroad after leaving Southern Fulton High School in the 1990s where she was a physics and math teacher.
Travelling does have its ups and downs though. She has become a master at packing for the 15-week trips, knowing she could easily be greeted by an early bliz- zard in Lithuania after encountering hot, dry weather in the Middle East. She is also all too familiar with how unpredictable security can be, even though some immigration officers happily greet her by name due to her frequent visits to the American International Schools in their country.
On the flip side, her consulting position has taken her to scenic locations many Fulton County residents could only dream of. Muscat, the capitol of Oman, is Anderson’s all-time favorite destination along the teaching trail, providing beautiful scenery in a rural setting and friendly people. Cambodia is also a favorite spot to visit, even though she reports its infrastructure still has a way to go being 20 years out of the war.
To date, Anderson has visited approximately 45 of the American International schools’ 190 plus locations. As long as she remains in good health, she intends on logging another year overseas.
In the meantime, her accolades continue to mount on a national and international level for her work in the classroom. In October 2011, she was honored by the Near East South Asia (NESA) with the Finis Engleman Award as an outstanding international educator. In addition, she was selected as the United States’ representative in 2010 to present her work at the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in connection with the American Education Reaches Out project.