“Whenever there is a crisis, there is always new opportunity.”

It’s a well-worn proverb, but uttered at a roundtable on the global impact of the COVID-19 crisis, it took on new meaning.

The speaker — Kevin Jian (M.A. ‘16), Facility Director of the Western International School of Shanghai — was one of six panelists from hard-hit regions around the world who participated in “International Perspectives on COVID-19 - Alumni Voices from the Field,” a virtual roundtable recently convened by Rosella Garcia, Senior Director of Alumni Relations.

Along Jian in Shanghai, China, the others — Joohee Son (Ed.D. ‘13) in Seoul, Korea; Vasily Popov (M.A. ‘95) in Rome, Italy; Johanna Brody (M.A. ‘11), in San Francisco, USA; Jeffrey Putman (Ed.D. ‘12) in New York City, USA; and Leticia Lyle (M.A. ‘11) in São Paulo, Brazil — brought words of advice and encouragement for the greater TC community.

International Perspectives on COVID-19 - Alumni Voices from the Field

Noting that their regions that had already been through the worst of the crisis, Jian, Son and Popov offered assurances that the tide ultimately will turn. Popov, who heads up Strategic Planning at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, joked that the concept of social distancing did not previously exist in close-knit Italian communities, but said that once his compatriots adjusted to the situation, infections slowed and hope renewed. Son, Head of Thinking Christian International School, noted that Koreans have looked to their elders, who lived through a devastating war in recent history, to find examples of how to remain calm during difficult times.

In Korea, young people looked to their elders, who have endured a devastating war. In Brazil, an education nonprofit has opened its online curriculum to the public in an effort to assist educators throughout the country. And in the United States, educators braced for the worst of the crisis.

Brody, Putman and Lyle, all from the United States, affirmed that they are either dealing with or about to face the worst of the crisis. Brody, a supervisor at the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute, said she is grateful to be a teacher during a time when the world is so focused on exploring and optimizing remote learning. Putman, Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, said he and his team have learned to be flexible amid a stream of rapidly changing directives from New York State. Meanwhile, Lyle, a founding partner and Global Chief Education Officer at Camino Education, said her organization has opened its online curriculum to the public in an effort to assist educators throughout the country.

 The six TC alumni also spoke of difficulties they are facing. Jian and Son have had to make difficult decisions about how to pay teachers at their schools when enrollment is down. Lyle described the week that her school transitioned to online learning as “the most stressful week of my adult life.” But all agreed that the skills they developed at TC have helped them adjust, in various ways, to the current situation. Or as Popov put it, “Once a TC alumni, always a TC alumni.”
— Emily Kobel