The Path of Randy Carspecken and Dawn Cope from Montana to Sturgis (Fall 2013)

This essay written by Mr. C is in 4 parts with the final segment being, naturally a quiz! (Just what you’d expect with the author being a math teacher.)

A) A Short History of the Adventures of Ms. Cope and Mr. Carspecken

A favorite day hike in Glacier National Park, 2012

A favorite day hike in Glacier National Park, 2012

Going on four decades we have returned to the beginning of us: Glacier National Park, Montana, USA where we met in 1975 and where we bought a house in nearby Whitefish. Our first decade together we worked seasonally in eight national parks in the west and Alaska and in Montana ski resorts with jobs ranging from night auditor to trail crew to carpenter to kitchen and front desk work to ski patrol to avalanche control technician while also earning 5 university degrees and several teaching certificates. After teaching a decade in Montana we became aware of international teaching opportunities during a 3-year textbook authoring job at the University of Montana and over the next decade we worked in Micronesia, Turkey and Thailand returning to the Rocky Mountains 

Weddingand our beautiful Montana for a year between posts. In the early years of Sturgis we were lucky to see math and art teaching positions posted by Mr. Hieser in The International Educator encouraging international teachers to consider helping to build a new IB school in, of all places, the USA and so for this last decade we have taught here on Cape Cod. And speaking of Mr. Heiser both Ms. Cope and Mr. C. feel his annual recitation of the following words at the graduation ceremony are an elegant summary of our own endeavors and at times we have encouraged our students to consider international teaching as a spectacular career and one exciting way to work towards a life described by this message:

Successful is the person who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much, who has gained the respect of children, who leaves the world better than one found it, who has never lacked appreciation for the earth’s beauty, who never fails to look for the best in others or give the best of oneself.

B) Contrasting Sturgis’ IB For All with IB in Overseas Schools

The following example helps illustrate one or two differences between IB here at our school on Cape Cod, USA and the rest of the world:

IB Exams in Bangkok

Students taking IB exams at our Bangkok school, May 2004

Many of the international students who took Mr. C.’s Bangkok, Thailand AP Calculus class as seniors had been in IB Higher Level Mathematics their junior year and upon discovering the difficulty of HL took this easier senior class (repeat: AP calculus, an easier class!) knowing in many instances their acceptance into the university of their choice was contingent on impressive scores on their AP and IB exams. This kind of pressure drives a large proportion of students around the world through their senior year all the way to their very final IB (or AP) paper which helps explains the rigor of the exams that are written for this highly motivated cohort. When Sturgis students sit down in May of their senior year and open their IB examination booklets they are competing with students across the globe who have prepared knowing their immediate future is at stake. International parents also have a different orientation with the cost for sending their children to private international schools a significant financial commitment: our dentist in Bangkok, upon learning we were teachers at one of Thailand’s highly reputed international schools, said: “We wish we could afford to send our children to your school.”

C) Teaching and International Teaching as a Career

Our “Short History…” lists some (not all) of the jobs we’ve worked besides education and we’ve come to realize the fortune of working in the ranks of a great cadre: teachers. Professionals who value ideas and children more than money make great colleagues. We have long been proud to list the job title “teacher” whenever we fill out forms.

Fish marketTeaching abroad and living in different cultures has suited us since we have never liked being tourists. The quote “…to truly experience another culture earn a paycheck abroad…” rings a bell for several reasons: 

  • Any work setting putting you elbow to elbow with colleagues has potential for cultivating rich relationships and this dynamic is magnified overseas where you also share the immersion into a foreign culture;
  • After living month after month in a setting you begin to feel your surroundings at new levels. Our favorite Marketpart of any day has often been at the margins with the deeper hues of the sunrises and sunsets and likewise in overseas surroundings it has been the margins of our working weeks that we have loved the most. For instance:
    • Picking up dinner at the balik pazari (fish market) in Istanbul alongside the Bosporus (the famous strait dividing Asia and Europe);
    • Learning our way in a Bangkok grocery store after months of confusion with unrecognizable foods;
    • Mornings that start with the call to prayer from dozens of mosques surrounding us in Istanbul; in Bangkok barefoot robed monks walking the edges of our commuting route to work along with mahouts and their elephants, vendors pedaling fried insects or Asian brooms or iced fruit; in Micronesia warm monsoon rains occasionally drenching us biking to work (living three years without a car this was statistically guaranteed!)
    • "Our beach"

      “Our beach” just below
      our Micronesian apartment

      Ending workdays in Micronesia by either walking down to “our beach” and kicking up the conches, augers, Hebrew cones in the white coral sand to flush lurking stone fish before launching into the 87o Pacific to cool off and to snorkel reefs teeming with yellow butterfly, blue damsel and clown fish or biking the abandoned WWII crushed coral roads past sacred banyans and Dr. Seuss-like pandamas trees and down empty B29 runways lined with morning glories, lantana (bull’s-eye flowers) and fragrant plumeria.

Workbook Shells

Workbook Tree

Two selections from Ms. Cope’s journals:
Micronesian seashells; banyan and pandamas

Now that you have read a few details of our lives it is time for the:

 D. Quiz

with Korean student

With a Korean and a Chamorro student in 1998.

  1. Rewarding relationships with students is one of the reasons we suggest teaching as a possible career (TRUE or FALSE)
  2. The bar for the rigorous IB Exams is set high to challenge students with futures dependent on their performance (TRUE or FALSE)
  3. You don’t have to earn a paycheck overseas in order to truly experience a foreign culture but it can help (TRUE or FALSE)
  4. One tourist guide for the island where we lived for 3 years says “…half a day is plenty of time…” to see the island (TRUE or FALSE)
  5. The image below-left is not an unusual sight for a tourist to see visiting Istanbul, Turkey while the “pigeon man” at the right and a thousand more subtle experiences are more likely found living and working in a foreign country (TRUE or FALSE);
  6. Mr. & Ms. C.’s distaste for being tourists was conditioned early in their lives when they found great satisfaction working and living in the national parks of the western USA and Alaska (TRUE or FALSE).
    Turk feeding pigeons

    Mr. C’s winter picture of a Turk feeding pigeons
    in a local park near our school.

    Theodosian Wall

    Mr. C’s picture of the Theodosian Wall, Istanbul, built in early 400 AD. The moat is now gardened by locals.

44th bday

Starting a backpack celebration of Ms. Cope’s 44th birthday in Glacier National Park.


ANSWERS: All TRUE, of course and a note for #4: a half a day is enough time if you are a tourist. What you are missing are the usual gems kept secret by locals and here that included world class scuba diving sites; caving the labyrinthine limestone filled with WWII artifacts; the remarkable experience of super typhoons that regularly strafed us living in “typhoon alley”…

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