WAYLAND — Rebeka Fergusson-Lutz has inspired her students from all over the world to believe in the power of education.
Soon she will be heading off to China.
“I started out in the Peace Corps right after college,” Fergusson-Lutz said. “After that I decided I wanted to teach. I taught in Washington D.C. before heading overseas.”
Fergusson-Lutz has taught english in Romania, Honduras, Doha, and Qatar.
“I had such a great experience with the Peace Corps that I knew I wanted to live oversea again,” she said. “When I was in Romania someone told me about International School.”
“Parents want their children to have an American-style education,” Fergusson-Lutz continued. “I was interested in education and International Relations and this was a good combination of them. I could teach the children and learn about their culture. I work with teenagers everyday.”
Fergusson-Lutz did not come from a family of travelers, but she has always felt it calling to her. She has always been an artists, and was a former reporter at Genesee Country Express, before discovering her goal to be a teacher.
“I tutored Yugoslavia children at Boston University from 1999 to 2000,” she said. “We were taking in these middle and high school students from refugee camps. The war was still raging. It was not safe for them to go to school, or their schools had been blown up. I was really impacted by that, and wanted to go to eastern Europe.”
The children in these schools learn from teachers like Fergusson-Lutz how to get an American diploma. They read books like “The Great Gatsby” and “Huck Finn.” Many of these children are expected to be bilingual.
“Doha and Qatar have so many Americans living there. They get stationed there to work on various companies,” she said. “So many people don’t work in their own countries.”
One of the Wayland-Cohocton teachers that made such an impact in Fergusson-Lutz’s life was Larry Thomas.
“Larry Thomas was always encouraging me, and pushing me to have a strong believe in my abilities,” she said. “He gave me a great experience. There were a lot of great teachers there who encouraged me.”
“When you become a teacher you think deeply about your own education,” Fergusson-Lutz continued. “I had my first teaching job at a public school in Washington D.C. for four years. In those years I had a strong belief in urban education. It was a very different environment than what I grew up in. It was a cross-culture experience. Teaching there was harder than being in the Peace Corps.”
In the eyes of Fergusson-Lutz all children deserve a quality education.
“A good school makes all the difference for anyone,” she said. “I grew up in a middle class family. We were not wealthy, but I had access to a great public school. Someone in the middle class that lives in the Bronx has a violent school. I think I might go back to teaching in city schools someday.”
Fergusson-Lutz feels a little intimidated to be going to China, due to the language barriers.
“I have been there twice as a tourist and it is fascinating, but the language is very complicated. It will be a challenge to learn to live comfortably over there for two years,” she said. “The contract is for two years, and I decide if I want to stay longer.”
The true drive of a the X-generation is that they never know where life is going to take them, Fergusson-Lutz explained.
“You don’t know where life is going to take you. I have had many great opportunities come along,” she said. “I am not one to put down roots. I want to move on and explore the big world we all live in.”
Fergusson-Lutz said she is proud to have her work in Dansville Artworks.
“I met Lucus and he told me I could put my work in there for consignment. To have a community of artists really benefits a small town,” she said. “It encourages a creative community.”
Fergusson-Lutz received some great advice from her mother about following her dreams.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a clear path. The goal is not to close doors in life,” she said. “The goal is to always leave doors open. It doesn’t matter which door you take, because you always have options. Always be willing to explore your options.”
“We don’t do things the way we use to. No one works at the same place for 40 years anymore,” Fergusson-Lutz continued. “Every time you move on you make new experiences, and you have all this knowledge that makes you a better person. Every time I travel to a new place I discover more places I wanted to see. People tell me great things about other places.”
One thing that is important to understand about the world is that we are not so different from each other, Fergusson-Lutz said.
“Being a human being is a universal thing,” she said. “I noticed this when I was tutoring the Yugoslavian kids. They had been through hell in tough situations with war and violence, but they were still teenagers. The culture of adolescence is universal. The beauty of teaching is to see this first hand. You see how the teenagers are all alike. A teenager from Africa isn’t any different from an American teenager. Teens allow you to get to the heart of the matter. They are more open to challenges and new ideas.”