Written By: Jillian Russell
At the start of the school year, many new staff members were introduced to the Sailor community, including English teacher, Mr. Sigafoos. But did you know that Mr. Sigafoos has actually taught at Newport Harbor for many years and he’s already been a Sailor? Though he is best known on campus for his freshman Comp-Lit class, he has had the opportunity of sharing his knowledge and passion for literature with other students all across the globe. Mr. Sigafoos has spent the past few years in Brazil, teaching English at an American high school for expatriate American students and other fluent Brazilian students. Even before his recent career in Brazil, he lived in Italy from 2005 to 2010 and taught students in Rome. “There’s a network of American schools in every country of the world with American curriculum, so U.S. colleges recognize it as an American high school even if it’s in Italy or Brazil,” he explains.
Mr. Sigafoos and his wife moved to Brazil in hopes of finding a different lifestyle and adventure among its new language and new people. “There’s an American culture within the school, but obviously the Brazilian culture is quite different from the American one,” Mr. Sigafoos says. “Every culture is different. Every place is different and Brazil is a fun place to be in.” While the location and its culture are very diverse in comparison to the U.S., he realizes that most students carry the same goals and are driven to succeed, no matter where they are from. “Kids are kids. I taught kids who grew up in Cuba working with diplomats and Brazilian billionaires,” shares the English teacher. “There were some differences, but for the most part, it was pretty much the same.” However, Mr. Sigafoos feels that his students in Brazil have a very different approach to education than those back in the states because they live in a society with less pressure when it comes to the college application process. “I think that American students assume there’s this giant machine and you have to get fed into the correct place. And life isn’t like that,” he explains. “The kids in Brazil and the kids in Italy had far fewer expectations of what the educational machine was.”
Even though Mr. Sigafoos is back teaching at Newport Harbor, he doesn’t forget the incredible experiences he had while teaching in other countries. Instead, he uses them to strengthen his relationship with his current students, so he can allow them to understand that he is not only a teacher but also a friend and someone to look to for guidance. While getting into college is extremely important, knowing that someone is there to support you when you’re overwhelmed or having anxiety about school is just as valuable.”I think it would be good to be more honest with you and to help you understand when things go wrong, our real role as teachers is to be here for you when you need us. That’s what we’re here for.”