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Ferrell opens up new worlds for students as he fuels his thirst for adventure

By Tim Douglas
April 1, 2015
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Ten weeks in Chile, a few trips to the grocery store and camping in the wilderness were all it took for Keith Ferrell to know he wanted a life filled with adventure funded by a profession that allowed him to serve society.

While in high school in Jackson, California, a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, he met two foreign exchange students, one from Denmark and one from Chile.

" "That was the first time I had met a foreigner," " he says. " "At that time, foreign to me was someone from the next county." "

That meeting inspired a trip to Chile, which was " "an earth-shattering, transformative and eye-opening experience," " Ferrell explains.

Teachers are connected to their communities

But if Chile was the icing, the visits to the grocery store were the cake. Ferrell's mom was a primary school teacher so the classroom was a second home to him and his sister. But the local store was where the real education took place.

" "Jackson is small, and my mom was one of two second grade teachers in that town," " he says. " "When we went shopping, it was always a time-consuming process because my mom would stop and talk to everyone. That taught me a sense of community and connection to people." "

His thirst for adventure — which was also fueled by his dad, who taught Ferrell and his sister to love the wilderness — and these early lessons about compassion ultimately led to Ferrell's current career path. It was an easy decision for him and his wife, whom he met while teaching in San Diego, to take a chance and trade the familiar for a much different future as educators.

Their life overseas began in Venezuela, where for two years he was a technology coordinator and computer teacher for students from the sixth through 12th grade at Colegio Internacional de Carabobo. Now, Ferrell is an education technology coach at the Singapore American School in Singapore, where he's been since 2003.

Life is an adventure in Singapore

For Ferrell, " "have an adventure" " may be an understatement. The family, which includes a 6-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter, take full advantage of the Singapore area. The city has a population of more than 5 million people, but the geography is diverse and the Ferrells live next to a 400-acre jungle that serves as their mountain biking and trail running playground, which they explore on a near daily basis.

Ferrell also participates in adventure races that last eight to 10 hours and are filled with surprises. One race demanded athletes race through the Singapore Esplanade, which is the opera house in the heart of the city, and repel down the outside of the building to a zipline platform where contestants sailed down the line and dropped into the Singapore River to swim to their next task. Did we mention this was during a thunderstorm?

" "My wife and I raced together that day, and we were lucky to get to take part in that stage," " says Ferrell. " "Lightning strikes are crazy in Singapore, and they were going to cancel part of the race, but we made it just in time." "

Not a lot of people would call that lucky, but then again, not a lot of people approach life like Ferrell, who says despite all the adventures, there's nothing like teaching and incorporating technology in the classroom to open up new worlds for students.

As a member of ISTE, he's written a number of articles over the years for the organization, most recently for the EdTekHub. He appreciates that ISTE is focusing more on global members to create greater understanding and to support the use of information technology for K-12 students and teachers.

Teaching with technology is best adventure of all

" "It's the greatest job in the world. I get to combine my passions of working with kids, helping people and geeking out with technology on a daily basis," " Ferrell says. " "For example, my best professional development experience happened at a conference in Mumbai at the American School of Bombay. The teachers there are really switched on, the workshops were thoughtful and the students presented amazing things they are doing add to that the cultural experiences outside of the conference, and I came away with such an amazing mixture of life-fulfilling experiences and professional 'aha's' that had my head swimming for months.

Singapore is a long way from Jackson, California, and who knows where Ferrell will head next, but the lessons he learned in that small town will always travel with him and help keep him grounded.

" "I tell myself often how fortunate I am that this has all worked out," " he says. " "My family and I get to have all these experiencesand my wife and I are teachers. We're doing this all as teachers." "