Mrs. Je’s Journey: Student-teacher to dedicated educator

Past DIS intern reintroduces herself as a full-time teacher and new mother
Mrs. Je squats down to take a photo with her favorite animal – a golden retriever. She met the dog in front of a Gukbap restaurant. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Mrs. Je squats down to take a photo with her favorite animal – a golden retriever. She met the dog in front of a Gukbap restaurant. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.

From successful student intern to elementary art teacher and now fourth-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Je starts a new chapter of her life at DIS as a math and science teacher. When she arrives home, she coddles her toddler and focuses on her role as a mother. With great insight into her trade, Mrs. Je reveals why she came back to the DIS community. 

At Seoul Sky, Lotte World Tower, Mrs. Je and her husband capture a memory before her son was born. The couple glances at the view of Seoul from the tower. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Student-Teacher Memories

As a student teacher, why did you choose to come to DIS?

I lived in Gyeongsan, a suburban city of Daegu. Daegu International School was distance-wise very close to where I was living, and I heard a lot of good things about it a very friendly, family-oriented community. Also, DIS is not a big school, so I can have a close relationship with people. I liked DIS and I decided to come to DIS for that reason. 

What was the moment that clicked with you that this was your dream school?

When I was a long-term substitute as an elementary art teacher, I was afraid because I never considered myself an artistic person. But I enjoyed it a lot. Actually, I think I enjoyed being an art teacher, more than being a 4th grade homeroom teacher [intern]. It was so much fun because I had a chance to meet all the students from K to 5. So because of that time, I know most of the elementary school students right now. 

What was the hardest part about being a student teacher?

As a part of my assignments, I needed to record myself teaching lessons. I had to borrow time from Ms. Bielec but I basically didn’t want Ms. Bielec to teach the same material again because I didn’t teach it in the right way. 

After you came to DIS, what was the most memorable thing that happened to you?

I remember on the last day Ms. Bielec made a book, and it had the students’ letters and pictures. I remember a letter written by one of the fourth graders where she used the big words. I think she learned it from Ms. Bielec’s class and wanted to use it in a sentence, so it really didn’t make sense, but I could see her effort. So it was really funny, and I had a good laugh. From time to time, I take a look at it. 

Before, you were a successful student-teacher here and now, you are a teacher working here for real. How do you feel about the whole transition?  

It was very different when I was a student teacher here. I was in Ms. Bielec’s class, getting to know students most of the time. Now, I have to handle a lot of responsibilities, so it’s very different. Also, when I was a student teacher, it was difficult for me to get deeply involved in teaching and building relationships. 

Since I’m not their homeroom teacher, I think it was easier for students to go to Ms. Bielec to tell their problems instead of coming to me. Now, being a homeroom teacher, I have more contact with students and students’ families, so I’m really happy to have this opportunity to build close relationships. 

At Seoul Sky, Lotte World Tower, Mrs. Je and her husband capture a memory before her son was born. The couple glances at the view of Seoul from the tower. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Mrs. Je enjoys a breath of fresh air from her green-children she raised with her green thumb. She grows many different types of flora in her balcony. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
In the Classroom

How did your students react or think when you came back to school? 

I was pregnant when Mrs. Gum came back from her maternity leave. I was ready to give birth to my baby. So we switched that art room had some special energy to bring the babies into the world. My students were happy to see me, I hope. They looked excited and were probably a bit confused about my new role because they remembered me as an art teacher, but I became a homeroom teacher.

Why did you choose to teach fourth grade? Why not fifth grade or other grades? 

I wanted to teach fourth grade because I like younger kids. They are always lovely and adorable. Fourth graders seem to be wise and they already know the policies, school rules, and how to behave in the classroom. So, for me, they seem to be the ideal grade to teach. But, at the same time, they are going through a lot of changes in their personality and growth as well. So, sometimes it’s difficult but it’s great to have a good conversation with them. 

Why do you teach math and science?

I am teaching math and science. Actually, math and science are very interesting. Because, from an adult perspective, some things are very simple. You have to think hard about how to explain these things easily so that they can take them in and digest them as their learning material. It’s a very fresh challenge for me these days. 

If you could go anywhere in the world with your students? Where would you go?

I want to take my students to Africa. I planned to go to South Africa before, but I suddenly got sick and couldn’t make it. I would love to go to South Africa with my students. It would be a great experience to see wild animals, the grandest landscape, and great food. I think my students can experience different languages there too. 

Mrs. Je enjoys a breath of fresh air from her green-children she raised with her green thumb. She grows many different types of flora in her balcony. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Mrs. Je and her husband celebrate their childs 100th-day party. They are thrilled to celebrate this milestone. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Life of a Working Mom

You have switched the stereotypes where the dad works and the mom stays home. What do you think about that? 

It’s not permanent. My husband is taking time off from work for 6 months and going back to work in March. It’s thanks to the Korean government policy. My husband’s work follows it so he can get time off from his work for a longer term. I think it’s a good influence for my son to spend more time with his dad. Usually, mothers spend most of the day with the baby, but he has equal time between mom and dad. That’s very positive, and I’m really happy that my husband has been very supportive so I can continue my career here. 

Do you worry about being the parent who spends less time with your child?

When I finish work late, I have only three hours to spend with my son. But it’s not like that every day during the week and I spend the whole weekend with my baby, so I’m not worried. 

What is the hardest part about being a working mom? 

Time management. Once I get home, I need to focus on my family, so I try to spend every single second in a very wise way. I want to do my best to focus and finish work at school. Wherever I am, I need to use time in a very wise way.

How old is your son? Did he say the word mom or dad first? 

My son just turned one year old and started daycare. He said Mom first. It took longer for him to say Dad. I think it’s natural for babies, because mama in Korean means food, 맘마(mam-ma). Mama and mam-ma are very similar sounds, so they learn those two words first. He said it in English I think because he said mama.

Mrs. Je and her husband celebrate their child’s 100th-day party. They are thrilled to celebrate this milestone. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Mrs. Je brings back a childhood photo of the three-year-old herself in Geoje. She poses in front of her fathers workplace. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Off Campus

What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?

I used to like working out. I don’t have time now, so I can’t exercise at all. I like reading, playing video games, and spending time with people.

What is your favorite music?

I like cheesy K-pop and pop music. Just some music that I can enjoy without thinking too much. I used to listen to Blackpink a lot when I was working out. It’s just the rhythm – it’s very fun. 

What’s your favorite country you visited?

I used to think Vietnam was my favorite country. I always choose the travel destination based on the people and the relationship that I have because as you get older, even if you go to a new place, new things are not as new as before. But the people are different. 

But last winter vacation, I went to Vietnam for a family trip and it was a whole different story traveling with the baby. I like the States because my husband’s family lives in the States and we can spend some quality time with family. 

What are your top 3 favorite foods?

One is Mexican food Ms. Bielec and I both love going to the Mexican restaurant downtown, that’s a place where we share our common interests. Two, Italian Food. Three, Korean Food. I like tacos and all food with seafood. 

Do you have a talent that none of your students know?

I think, this is my personal opinion, I read people well. When I observe people and spend some time together, I sense what kind of person he/she is and what he/she is good at or their strengths and weaknesses. 

Mrs. Je brings back a childhood photo of the three-year-old herself in Geoje. She poses in front of her father’s workplace. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
Mrs. Je (left) and her older sister (right), snap a picture in front of their fathers workplace. Nostalgia hits as Mrs. Je reminisces her time when she lived in Geoje. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.
2014 Mrs. Je

If you could go back 10 years, would you think you would be in this career now? What do you think about that?

I liked teaching, especially younger kids because I feel like I can paint on a white canvas or paper. I also feel a bit responsible that I have to guide them in the right direction. But I do like this teaching career in terms of working with people working with other teachers, working with the students, working with the families. 

What did you want to be before you became a teacher?

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a prosecutor. Then, it changed into a hotelier I wanted to work at a hotel and, eventually, have my own hotel. But I became realistic after I became 20, and wanted to work in the finance field. So I studied to obtain some certification to become a financial expert. I wouldn’t say they were my dream, but my future career has changed many times in my life, but I am happy with my current career being a teacher. 

What are your final words?

I enjoy working at DIS, getting to know other teachers and students. This school provides a lot of chances to experience different events. With this kind of interview, all these questions make me think about myself, my life in the past, and now. I appreciate all these chances. 

Mrs. Je (left) and her older sister (right), snap a picture in front of their father’s workplace. Nostalgia hits as Mrs. Je reminisces her time when she lived in Geoje. Photo courtesy of Mrs. Je.

Through a multitude of careers, from prosecutor to hotelier, Mrs. Je’s journey holds many twists and turns. In an alternative universe, Mrs. Je may have landed someone else, but she chose DIS so make sure to give a warm greeting when you see her around.

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About the Contributor
Leewen Wang, Writer
Freshman Leewen Wang, an OG member of the DIS community, returns to her third year on the Flyover staff. In her leisure time, she plays sports, hangs out with her family and friends, and travels the globe to chase new thrills. This year, she represents her class in the High School Student Council and hopes to showcase her insight to fellow Flyover fans. 

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    Sankeeth UdayakumarMar 7, 2024 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you for the good info! :))

    Reply