The Coolest and Bravest Decision She Ever Made

Molly Berwager graduated from Lebanon Valley College and is now teaching in Vienna

Education major Molly Berwager ’11 graduated from LVC and landed her dream position as a learning support teacher at her hometown school in Hanover, Pa. She mentored students by day and then coached them in the evening as part of middle school and high school sports.

But a passion and curiosity for something exciting and different was growing inside of her. One morning, an email from a colleague with an upcoming opportunity flipped that switch and encouraged Berwager to apply to teach abroad.

“That evening I updated my résumé and organized documents, and within days sent all of the necessary items to Vienna, Austria,” Berwager said. “After a few interviews through Skype, I received the opportunity to become a faculty member at The American International School of Vienna as a high school learning specialist. My next step had to be immediate—apply for a passport!”

Berwager has been with The American International School of Vienna for almost two years, serving as an advocate and facilitator for students who have been identified with mild to moderate learning differences or who struggle with executive functioning skills. She reviews educational reports from local psychologists, develops Individualized Learning Plans, and implements accommodations for students to learn at the best of their ability. 

“This is a similar role to my learning support title in Pennsylvania, but in a private school sector,” she said. “This was probably the biggest transition in terms of school. Working in the private system, teachers seem to have more flexibility and creativity when it comes to facilitating lessons. Students also have more opportunities to connect with and see the world. The opportunities are quite different in a private school in Europe than a public school in Pennsylvania.”

For example, Berwager’s favorite school trip was a long weekend to Krakow, Poland, with the school’s 10th-grade students. The group studied the impacts of World War II and the Holocaust, and visited some of the concentration camps. She also still coaches and travels with her school’s athletic teams.

The experience has allowed Berwager to visit 14 countries in less than two years.

“This number absolutely blows me away, but it is possible because of the easy transportation and less expensive travel,” she said. “Living and working in Europe have really opened my small town American eyes! I am able to meet and network with educators and coaches from all over the world, learn about other cultures and traditions, and see more of the world than I ever thought I would at this point in my life.”

While she enjoys the travel and cultural experiences, Berwager said her favorite part of teaching abroad is the students.

“The kids at our international school have so many different life experiences and come with a new level of cultural sensitivity,” she said. “The languages, the cultures, and the stories that they share have given me a new perspective on life that I did not have before. I see the commonalities among humans–we all just want to live happily and freely.”

It’s the desire to be a teacher and the reputation of LVC’s education program that first drew Berwager to the Valley.

“I knew that I wanted to become a teacher and heard that LVC had one of the best education programs as a private school in Pennsylvania,” she said. “The thought of being a name in a class

instead of a number was very appealing to me.”

Berwager thrived at LVC, forming close friendships, connecting with professors, and playing on the rugby club team. She also gained valuable classroom experience through field placements, which are required for first-year students. 

“I even had the privilege of turning one of my field placement assignments into one of my student teaching placements,” she said. “I was very fortunate to work with the same cooperating teacher in multiple school years.”

As the school year begins to wind down, Berwager says her future is an open book. Her current teaching contract ends after the 2019–20 academic year. Whether she stays in Vienna, visits another country or continent, or returns to the U.S., she knows this experience was right for her.

“My current stint is the bravest and coolest decision that I have ever made,” she said. “Maybe I have caught the teaching abroad bug, but time will tell.”