Teaching Beyond Borders: Dr. Wanita Mercer

Alumna Teaching English Abroad Shares Her UIW Story 


Adjusting to a new culture is never easy, especially if you’re thousands of miles away from the place you call home. Three-time UIW alumna, Dr. Wanita Mercer, has experienced the hardships and struggles of adjusting to a new way of life, all thanks to her devotion and dedication of teaching. 


Wanita’s desire to teach English abroad traces back to her early years at the University of the Incarnate Word. Today, after a long journey pursuing her passion, she serves as a graduate and doctoral instructor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, China.


Wanita shares her story with the Cardinal Community to say how UIW transformed her:


Who influenced you most during your time at UIW?


“I first want to begin by saying that over the 15 years I was either studying or working at UIW, MANY people have influenced me in some way or another. Therefore, if I do not mention someone's name, it is not they did not influence me at all, they just are not in the "most" category. For those who know me, it's no secret that it was my dear Sr. Dot. She was my mentor and my first doctoral adviser, and now she's one of my guardian angels. She taught me so much about leadership, transformative learning, reflection and finding purpose in your studies. And then there's Dr. Sharon Herbers. She served on my dissertation committee and she's my teaching mentor. Over the years, she has inspired me to be a caring and reflective teacher and scholar. Lastly, in the "most" category is my father, Michael Mercer. I'm so glad he teaches at a university that shares his values. I have seen him actively engage with students in and outside of the classroom and live the mission in such a beautiful way. Most daughters do not get to work with their fathers or see first-hand how they are touching students' lives in such a positive way, and that's certainly a blessing.  Again, so many people at UIW have touched my life and I'm so grateful.”


What is the most important thing you learned while you were at UIW?


“The most important thing I learned at UIW was to serve while you study (or learn). Even though the only service requirement is at the undergraduate level (well, at least it was when I was attending UIW), I must acknowledge the doctoral faculty's outstanding ability to teach this lesson. Dr. Noah Kasraie was the first professor I had to really make this message clear and implement service-learning in his courses. I want to be clear that his courses were not internship or practicum courses. Nonetheless, he was adamant that we students needed to take what we were learning in class and help someone, and I was both grateful and inspired by the directive. I remember my group going to help a center in New Braunfels develop a mission and vision statement. The organization was so grateful for our time and guidance, and we also understood how important what we were learning was to organizational leadership. I also remember having a memorable and even transformative service-learning experiences in Dr. Herbers' gerontology course also. I truly hope that the faculty at UIW continue to encourage students to participate in service-learning in every program, at every level. Service-learning is not just important to student growth; it's necessary for developing civil leaders. Education expands the mind's capacity while service expands the heart's capacity. Service-learning does both at the same time.”


How did your education at UIW prepare you for what you are doing today?


“Unlike most, I received all three of my degrees from UIW. Also, unlike most, I received degrees in three different fields: fashion, administration, and education. I am truly thankful that I had the opportunity to pursue all of my interests at UIW - that helped me become a well-rounded and well-disciplined teacher. UIW's being a multicultural and Christian institution also enlarged my capacity for working well with people from different backgrounds and pursuing justice for all people. These skills have been greatly utilized as a global teacher in hopes that I can go anywhere and teach anyone with love as my instrument.”


What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?


“If you would like to have a career in English education abroad, you simply need a 4-year college degree and a TEFL or TOEFL certificate. However, if you want to be a successful and effective English education teacher, you also need to have a capacity for loving people, respecting different cultures, and learning (not just teaching). English education is an exciting and rewarding career, and it provides a very comfortable salary and benefits (varying by country and employer). The ability to speak and understand the local language will certainly help in your transition but knowing the language is not required for getting a job. I recommend contacting recruiters who can help you get placed in a job at no cost to you. No matter your degree or experience, you can have a career in English education and use it as your vehicle to travel the world.”