Meet Elizabeth Blanco, smart, sharp, humble, and the newest WorldTeach Program Manager for Colombia, Ecuador, and Micronesia. Having started only a few weeks ago in the office, Liz has a much deeper relationship with WorldTeach than she makes it seem.
A few years ago she was working as a Buyer and Merchandiser for a grocery store in Los Angeles when she decided to take little detour in her career. Buying and bringing in the products, working with the margins, and attending trade shows was just becoming underwhelming. She thought back to her 6-month trip to Guam to stay with family and realized that the island was calling her back like the gentle crash of the ocean at night. Taking time off from work was nearly impossible and the dream seemed to be escaping her when her sister reached out to her with a heads up about WorldTeach Programs in Micronesia.
She did a little research and found that the organization wasn’t spending a ton of money on themselves (and excessive paid vacation time), but instead working to maximize program benefits for volunteers and Departments of Education alike. She liked that. She applied. And as soon as she was accepted she quit her job and flew into Chuuk for the 2013 school year. She went by Miss Liz when she was a volunteer teacher.
If you don’t know, Micronesia is the name of the region that encompasses over 200 small islands East of The Philippines. The Federated States of Micronesia, or FSM, which includes such WorldTeach hotspots as Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae is different however. It is a country within Micronesia whose neighbors include Guam, The Marshall Islands, and Palau.
Liz was aware that Chuuk and other places in the South Pacific were beginning to require all high school teachers to have Bachelor’s degrees and responded to the call by staying on with the American Samoa Program as Field Director following her year of service. There she coordinated services between volunteers, the local Ministry of Education, and WorldTeach headquarters back in Boston. According to one of her volunteers at the time, Erika Utter, she was a humble phenom in that role – even going as far as compiling lists of volunteer grocery needs and shipping them to various other islands in the area. And when the volunteers were stranded on the island for a few days, Liz coordinated support like a champion. Now in 2015 Liz works from the Boston office and her words of wisdom about Micronesia, and Chuuk in particular, should come as some relief to anyone who has heard negative press coming from the region.
“Kids everywhere are going to give their teachers a hard time, but they’re also going to appreciate you being there and being there for their future,” she says. It’s no wonder she still receives written letters from the little ones over a year later addressed to Elizabeth, who has to be very nice because Miss Liz wanted me to write to her.
Welcome to the team Liz 🙂