I happened onto a flyer one day while on the Oregon State University campus announcing that a school from Medellin, Colombia was coming to the career center to hire teachers for their school. Having just returned from Africa, and working as a part-time teacher and dishwasher I thought I would take the time to interview. The worst that could happen was I would get a little interview practice.


— Dr. Brian Gander

The Columbus School
Medellin, Colombia, South America

1985 – 1987  

The Columbus School
Medellin, Colombia


What I learned from my time at The Columbus School:

  • The joy of learning is insatiable in students who have passion for the subject you teach. Even your less than stellar lessons are not so bad.
  • The world of education can be very similar even in countries far away from your own.
  • Six-year olds are six-year olds the world around. They all wilt when the thermometer hits 30 degrees Celcius.

What I accomplished in my teaching role at The Columbus School:

  • I was able to build a coherent Physical Education curriculum for grades K-6 that articulated with the High School program and became a framework for future teachers. This included written exams that trained students in understanding the cultural games of the USA (where they were headed for post-secondary school).
  • In working with the principal I was able to define a program philosophy that was skills based; grounded in motor skills, social skill development and transitioning to sport skills patterns. No longer would it be just roll out the ball.
  • I worked with the other teachers to set up an intramural program that gave older students a chance to play and compete, thus reducing competition in the classroom setting.

Working at The Columbus School was a turning point in my personal and professional life. It turns out a young lady 90-miles from my home saw the same flyer, and took the same risk. Thirty years later, we are still bouncing around the world together.

On a professional note I met some great educators and learned some valuable lessons about my teaching and myself. I have to admit I was still a little young and adventurous and not speaking any Spanish was not going to deter me. What did intrigue me was the chance to travel and teach. My Peace Corps experience taught me that to understand a culture you had to be able to relax in its varied situation. Travel alone does not afford that opportunity as you rarely develop the personal relationships necessary to understand another cultures view of history, your culture and some of the inter-twining’s of the two.

The Columbus School was a wonderful place to develop my teaching skills. The principal had a good sense of instructional planning and held students and teachers to high expectations. The 375 students in grades PP-12 where very nice young people, who worked hard and learned with a joy I had not really experienced before. They came to class with such enthusiasm it was hard to be tired at the end of the day, even when the heat was 30 degrees Celcius and you could feel the rain building.

When my wife and I returned from Colombia we had figured out a few things; one, I need to finish my graduate work and find a job, and secondly we were not going to be the couple that waited until we were retired to have a similar adventure. Little did I know that she would find a set of jobs in China 28-years later that would take us half-way around the world for an equally enjoyable opportunity.

Please click on any of the photos above for enlarged view.