Sandusky grad teaching in Dominican Republic

SANDUSKY Carly Dahs has taken teaching to another continent. With a bachelor of arts
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Carly Dahs has taken teaching to another continent.

With a bachelor of arts in Spanish and focus on education from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, Dahs only dreamed about teaching in another country -- until it happened.

"I love it," the 2003 Sandusky High School graduate said. "I knew right away I wanted to study abroad, but everyone else was shocked. They thought I'd go to Guatemala or Nicaragua."

Dahs said she had read a book about a personal experience in the Dominican Republic, and after studying there for a semester knew that was where she wanted to teach. One of her professors helped make her dream a reality and showed her the endless opportunities having a background in foreign languages can bring.

She followed the opportunities with enthusiasm and left for Santiago earlier this year.

"I teach history at a high school, the Santiago Christian School, one of only two high schools in the area," she said. "I also teach at night at the university. At first it was hard to adjust. I was real nervous, but the students were just as curious about me as I was about them."

Dahs said the difference between a Dominican school and an American school is not as simple as heat constantly peeling posters off the wall. In the Dominican Republic money determines what kind of education -- if any -- you will have.

"Either you're rich, you're rich or you're poor, you're poor," she said. There's no middle class. The average person makes about $150 to $200 a month. People in the Dominican pay for education. They pay to be in the school, for uniforms, paper, tests, books ... Most of my students are from wealthier families because they can afford the education."

Dahs said there's more of an opportunity in the United States to gain a better education, no matter what social bracket you're in.

"Education in the Dominican is not free," she said. "The wealthier students have more opportunities to advance in life. If you're under the poverty line, you don't have an opportunity to advance in education. My students are also more eager to learn and are into things students here left behind long ago."

She said the students, who are from many different cultures, enjoy playing games like Heads Up Seven Up and ask her all about American high schools.

"They want to know if high schools are really like High School Musical, with all the different social classes," she said. "They're so much fun and so eager to learn. I speak a lot of English to my high school students and mostly Spanish to my university students. We have students from Korea, China, Japan, America (and) there were a few from Norway, not just the Dominican. It's great because we can all teach each other about our cultures. They amaze me, because many of them speak more than one or two languages."

Aside from education, pay scales and the weather, Dahs said security is also different.

"We don't have any metal detectors," she said. "We just have two security guards at the doors."

Her mother, Lee Ann, said she is very proud of her daughter.

"We're happy she's home for the holidays but want to share with everyone the great things she's doing over there," she said.

Dahs said she loves coming home, but can't wait to take the five-hour flight and get back to the 80-degree weather.

"The readjustment is the hardest part," she said. "It's real hard to get back in the flow of things here. I always talk about going home, and my friends say, Carly, this is your home."

Dahs said people often ask her when she'll come back and if she'll teach in the states.

"I don't know," she said. "I'd like to get into a program to study abroad and get my master's in international education, but who knows? For now, I'm happy where I'm at."