Jean-Claude Gerlus


Springfield, Massachusetts
French and Spanish Teacher
Springfield Central High School


Trips as a Global Glimpse Leader:

2017: Nicaragua
2019: Ecuador


What drove you to become an educator?

I usually call myself an “accidental educator”. I began my career as a manager at a nonprofit organization for about 15 years, and at one point in time, I realized that I wanted to change careers to explore new possibilities. That’s how I began looking at opportunities in education. I remember when I was in graduate school in Latin America, the university where I was studying offered me a position to teach French to first-year students and that was my first teaching experience. Because French was my first language, the students really appreciated the way I taught. One day, a student told me that I would be a great teacher if I decided to go into the teaching field. I kept that in mind, but that was not my intention initially, as I wanted to be either an engineer or a physician. But life had taken me through a different path! Throughout my career, I had opportunities to receive scholarships to travel and study. After that, when I changed careers to teaching, I realized that I was meant to be an educator.


What was your experience like as a Global Glimpse Leader (GGL)?

I had a great experience because I had the opportunity to see the students in a different setting, and an opportunity to see how they would react on their first trip overseas with other students they’d never met before. That was an eye-opener for me, to see the impact this program would have on these kids. I love the way Global Glimpse is structured and I enjoyed my time with other GGLs. I loved the way the program is so involved with every aspect of service learning- from waking them up, having breakfast together, checking their health, accompanying them on bus rides to different sites, helping them see what kind of leaders they are and how to live like the locals and appreciate the local communities – giving them an opportunity like this outside the classroom was wonderful. The way they develop students is first, by giving young people the opportunity to gain a new perspective of the world- understanding where they come from and where they are going- and by providing them with the opportunity to learn what giving and sharing is. For them to be able to conceptualize and deliver a project, see the joy of those who receive the benefit of their efforts, and see how they appreciate that they were a part of something important in the community. I think that’s very powerful for the students to see that they had that ability and that they are capable of doing things they never thought they could. That’s the impact that Global Glimpse has on them.


What keeps you going after a hard day?

What keeps me going is my love for what I’m doing and for my students. I am going through the same process that any teacher has to go through when you start teaching. The challenge is getting to know your students, as you are a stranger and don’t yet have a connection with your students. Regardless of the subject you teach, the basis of teaching is relationships. If you don’t have a relationship with youngsters, it’s very difficult for you to be efficient and effective as an educator. When you establish a relationship with your students, they trust and believe you, and they see the love you have for the profession and for them. They get to see how real you are, and you become like family. So having them in your classroom for 185 days in the year, you get to really know them well, and they get to really know you. So the relationship builds over four years, and after those four years, it’s painful to let them go!