Updated: Apr 15
Anton Miguel De Vera, Vienna
When I first arrived in Vienna, Austria, back in August 2017 at the age of 16, I was looking for a high school where I could continue my studies after high school in the Philippines. Searching for a gymnasium or secondary school (in German) was difficult. At this time, not many schools would accept you considering your age and background education, especially if you are not fluent in German.
After many searches , I was fortunate to find the International Christian School of Vienna (ICSV) - an American English curriculum International Christian School. There I met Mr. Joel Alba, great teacher in history & social studies and true role model for many students –who is a Filipino himself! Meeting him was a big relief for me knowing that there is another Filipino and a teacher who can guide me in my final years of high school.
With that, I had the pleasure and opportunity to reach back to Mr. Alba after I graduated in 2020, to talk about his journey and experience as a teacher in an international-setting like Austria.
Could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers? How long have you been a teacher? How long have you been teaching in ICSV or in Vienna, Austria? Where else have you also taught?
My name is Joel Alba. I originally came from San Pedro, Laguna, Philippines and I’ve been in the field of education for 14 years! I’m currently in my 5th school-year here at ICSV. Prior to ICSV, I taught in Makati Hope Christian School, Brent International School Manila, and The Beacon School Manila. I also taught in Robin English School, Tokyo, Japan for a year.
Why did you decide to become a teacher? Was being a teacher an occupation you always wanted? Why did you choose to teach in Vienna, Austria (ICSV)?
Let me say candidly that when I was younger, being a teacher was the last thing on my mind, basically because of two reasons:
Both my parents were educators, and I saw how taxing the profession was.
Second is, I saw how some of our own teachers suffered because of how we misbehaved on their watch. I said I didn’t want to go through that torture day in and day out.
So here’s a quick back story of why I ended up in the field of education. It was the year 2007 and I was working as a full-time staff in a religious setting. One of my friends told me that there’s an opening in this particular school, and needless to say, I applied for the position and got accepted. I realised that there was so much ‘Adventure’ in a classroom setting, that I fell in love with the profession. After that, I took additional teacher-education courses which allowed me to take the teacher’s licensure exam. I also took a master’s degree in education at De La Salle University Manila, a certificate course at Loyola School of Theology (Ateneo de Manila), and a modular course on Philosophy and Gender studies from the Central European University, at the Vienna Campus.
I had a desire to teach in an international setting outside of Manila so I sent an application to 4 international schools-- Dubai, Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. All schools responded positively, which was really surprising! One thing that helped in the decision making process is that I have been to all of those places so I pretty much have an idea of the standard of living in those places. Since Austria offers better social security, accessible health care system, efficient transport system, and low crime rate, I chose Vienna over the other offers. It’s also worth noting that I already have good friends and a number of relatives here, which contributed to deciding for Vienna.
In your experience, how has it been living and teaching in an international school or setting like in Vienna, Austria? What would you say would be your greatest challenge as an educator?
Teaching in an international school in the Philippines is quite different from teaching in an international school in the European setting. My greatest challenge as an educator is not preparing and delivering the curriculum; it’s dealing with different types of student behaviour. I must say that a certain degree of knowledge in Psychology is needed if you want to enter the field of education. Understanding student behaviour allows educators to be more compassionate and empathetic. I love the quote from an educator and Holocaust survivor named Haim Ginott—‘As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal.’
I printed this quote and posted it on the side of my desk to remind me of the immense power that I have as an educator. Every morning I have this routine of telling myself, ‘I choose joy for me and my students, I choose inspiration, I choose healing.’
Educator Joel Alba pointing at the Philippine flag at the school's Hall of Flags in ICSV.
What can you say to those who wish to pursue a career in teaching or education?
For my fellow Filipinos who are desiring to be educators, let me give you a warning--- It’s not an easy field. It is an ever-evolving field which will require you to constantly adapt and examine conventional approaches to education. But let me give you encouragement as well. This is a field wherein you’ll have the opportunity to meet all kinds of people and encounter different kinds of personalities and behaviour. It’s a profession, or let me say it’s a vocation which will allow you to influence the future of nations, whatever subject matter you plan to teach. Joel Alba
It was such a pleasure to be able to reconnect with my high school teacher Mr. Alba. His journey as a Filipino educator is truly inspirational for Filipino students and teachers alike and all over the world.
This article would not have been possible without Mr. Alba and Ms. Nari Kim in association with the International Christian School of Vienna.
For information about the International Christian School of Vienna:
The International Christian School of Vienna (ICSV) is the only K-12 English-speaking Christian school in Vienna, Austria with an American curriculum and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme. Today, ICSV serves over 300 students from 65 nationalities and 10 faith backgrounds. Known for its quality education and caring community, ICSV is working to build a new school building next to its current location so that more students can learn, grow, and thrive in a safe learning environment. Visit ICSV at www.icsv.at.