One of the main challenges, Jacob Cabalda said of his new home, will be adjusting to the winter cold. After all, the Philippines native is accustomed to a mostly tropical climate with just two seasons — dry and wet, he said.

“We joke with him that this is nice compared to how it’s going to get,” Georgia Morse Middle School Principal Kyley Cumbow said on a crisp late October day. “We did advise him on getting a winter coat and the gloves and hat and all that good stuff.”

Cabalda, two weeks into his new job as a special education teacher at GMMS, had never been to the United States before this month but taught in the Philippines for about 10 years prior to his arrival in Pierre on Oct. 13. He connected with the school through recruiting firm Teach Quest, which Cumbow said helps international teachers find work in the United States for a three-year commitment.

“It improves their teaching practice and, I would think, overall, the education system in their home country,” Cumbow said. “Kind of a give-and-take.”

Just two weeks in, Cabalda’s not fully settled in yet, he said, but he’s definitely getting there.

“It’s not really 100 percent that I have settled already, but I am getting used to the routine that I have in Pierre,” Cabalda said. “Some of the kids said that I am nice, maybe because I am not that very strict… they don’t have really that much difference as in terms of the students that I have in the Philippines and here in Pierre. I’m really trying to lengthen my patience for all of them.”

Though he said he might not be very strict, Cabalda told the Capital Journal that the philosophy he brings to teaching is reality-based, first and foremost.

“I really wanted my students to learn based on reality of life,” Cabalda said. “I want to put every learning step they will have based on what is reality of this place, what is reality in this world that they are going to face sooner or later, especially when they grow and become a gentleman or a lady in the future. And most likely that all of these kids or all of these students are just teenagers right now, but once they grow older, someday they will face the reality of work that they really wanted to have in their future or in their career.”

Cumbow said Cabalda case manages about 18-20 students, but interacts with dozens more each day through study halls, homeroom and other classes.

“Kids were very excited to finally meet him because his name’s been posted on the door for a quarter and so it’s been this mystery,” Cumbow said on Wednesday. “You know, ‘What does Mr. Cabalda look like, and when’s he going to arrive?’ Just being middle school kids, they’re excited for the unknown. I was just in a classroom that he was co-teaching in yesterday, and he was doing a great job, just getting right in there and working with the kids and making connections already.”

Cabalda said his connections with co-workers have been even better thus far, as they have gone out of their way to make sure he is adjusting well.

“Some of them are doing like beyond their duty of being a colleague,” Cabalda said. “They’re trying to ask if I’m okay every day. They’re trying to help me for every change that I might be facing in this new place, especially with the weather and especially with the needs that I need to have in my apartment. So I really don’t have any problem with my co-teachers, with my colleagues and most especially I am more thankful for all they’re doing.”

Cumbow said she interviewed three individuals from the Philippines this school year because not very many people are applying for teaching positions, especially the more difficult to fill special education position.

“We were lucky, I think it was good timing that we took the chance to work with Teach Quest,” Cumbow said. “Might be something that the district’s going to continue to look at.”

“I am really grateful for the opportunity to be here, to learn the culture of the Americans in the U.S. and somehow to grow professionally based on what I am going to have here in Georgia Morse Middle School,” Cabalda said.

Michael Woodel | 605-224-7301 ext. 131

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