Teaching in Abu Dabhi hasn’t been much different than teaching in the states for 37-year-old Octevia Torian.

“Children are children. I still do grades and lesson plans. There are cultural differences, but you learn to adjust. I teach in an American curriculum school with many American teachers,” said Torian.

The former Halifax County resident began teaching in 2005 when she accepted a position teaching fifth graders at C. H. Friend Elementary School.

Now she’s teaching fifth and sixth graders science in Abu Dhabi with United Arab Emirates.

She’s also taught in Richmond, Fairfax County and Halifax, North Carolina. She studied liberal studies at Averett University, reading and literacy at Capella University and educational leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I always had a passion for our youth. I decided to become a teacher to show students they can enjoy learning and enjoy attending school. I love seeing their growth and happiness in my class. We have a good time,” said Torian.

That didn’t change when she packed up to travel overseas.

With her current position, she’s able to combine her love for teaching and traveling while also researching international schools, comparing the education systems.

Since residing in Abu Dhabi, Torian has taken a ride on a camel in Cairo, Egypt, visited the pyramids and Great Sphynx, spotted an active volcano in Bali and got stranded on an island because of a thunderstorm.

She fell in love with the food in Thailand, attended a concert in Rome, Italy, and she went white water rafting on the second largest river in Sri Lanka.

“That was an adventure. There’s so much to do in the United Arab Emirates as well. I live close to Dubai, and there’s always something fun to do there,” said Torian.

While she’s had quite the experience traveling, teaching in the classroom has been her favorite experience yet.

“Students are excited to come to my class to learn science and have fun. We love experimenting and working on STEAM projects,” said Torian.

Her main focus is to empower and motivate others to reach their passion, not letting their fears stop them.

“My goal is to help them take their first step,” said Torian. “I motivate students in their study habits, organizational skills and fulfilling their passion. Many students have no idea what they want to do in life or how to even do it. I support them and encourage them to reach their goals.”

She encourages other teachers to also discuss academic and personal goals with students throughout the school year.

Students then should work towards their goals using a portfolio and accountability partner, according to Torian, who also persuades her students to share their goals in hopes of discovering opportunities.

While working in Abu Dhabi, Torian also piloted a drone after-school club in partnership with Global Air Media, LLC from Baltimore, Maryland, and she serves as a KDSL Teacher Fellow with a focus on entrepreneurship.

In that role, she has presented in Dubai and “virtually” presented in Palma De Mallorca, Spain in July on Empowering and Motivating Students in the 21st Century.

“My future goals are motivating and empowering teachers and students by speaking at conferences nationally and globally, becoming an author and sharing my love for education on national television,” said Torian.

She is currently working on her first children’s book that she hopes to finish this summer.

There are more projects in the works, but she’s not ready to discuss them just yet.

For now, she’s focused on educating and motivating her students, traveling overseas as well as in the states and returning to Virginia this summer to see her friends and family.

Ashley Hodge reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com