August 9, 2018 | Andrew Hurst
“Where are you from?” This simple question is easy to answer for most. For those who were raised or are being raised in a different nation and culture from their parents, responding to this question would include a long explanation of their complex upbringing. These kids may grow up in two different worlds, never feeling fully attached or a full-fledged citizen of one or the other. Due to these uncommon circumstances, they are often referred to as “Third Culture Kids” (TCKs). They have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside of their passport country and as a result, they have developed their own, unique “third” cultures.
People who have attended international schools, who are children of diplomats, have parents serving in the military or even children of missionaries are just a few examples of TCKs. Because of their lifestyles, TCKs have a different educational experience than American children and consequently, may experience difficulty transitioning to academia in the United States.
Bethanie Skipper, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumna, serves as the Executive Dean for the newly formed Third Culture Kids International Academy (TCKIA). The TCKIA is an official distance-education school with a Biblical worldview serving TCKs and families in transition. Their mission is to prepare TCKs academically, spiritually, and emotionally for postsecondary academics and careers.
“Our vision is to meet the needs of transitional TCK students and have this option available to support them and their families,” says Skipper.
TCKIA just celebrated its first graduation this past June with two graduates.
“This past year-miraculous is the word I’ve been using,” says Skipper. “We’ve just had a lot of key things come into play to allow for the year to go smoothly.”
The process leading up to the academy’s first year began approximately 9 years ago. Missionaries from a Christian fellowship denomination mentioned the difficulties they were experiencing in finding good educational options for their children. Their children were either homeschooled or attending an international or national school.
“We wanted to meet the needs of TCKs and so we looked at several schools out there to see what kind of services we could provide for them,” says Skipper. “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel but we felt like what was missing was a fully accredited school both online and paper-book based and then having a teacher component with someone that understands transitional experiences.”
Thus, the academy was started. After years of prayer and development, TCKIA decided to move forward in 2017. Within 90 days of making that decision, the academy was launched and later received accreditation during the school year.
In its first year, TCKIA provided a soft launch in which it offered online courses for 3rd through 12th grade. The academy had a total enrollment of 46 students from 16 countries.
For this next year, TCKIA will also offer paper-book based courses to accompany its online presence and is opening up schooling for Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Enrollment is also expected to exceed over 60 students. In the next three years, TCKIA plans to add more electives and an opportunity for TCK students to connect with one another online.
One of the goals of TCKIA is to maintain low costs especially as the academy continues to experience growth. “One of the main things we are looking for is partners in prayer and partners financially to help us keep those costs low,” says Skipper. “It’s constantly daily listening to the Lord and trying to stay relevant with what’s going on. And so that’s why we place such importance on having quality educators.”
Faculty for the TCKIA is comprised primarily of TCKs who are certified educators and some of whom have experience teaching overseas. Being TCKs themselves, the faculty are familiar with and can relate to the inconsistent and transitional lifestyles of their students.
Skipper is also a TCK and grew up overseas in Argentina. She would later attend SAGU graduating with her bachelor’s in Elementary Education in 2002 and went on to receive her master’s degree in School Counseling from SAGU in 2010. Along with her own experience as a Third Culture Kid, Skipper says that her time at SAGU has impacted her career in education especially as an administrator for the academy.
“I give complete credit to the Education Faculty at SAGU,” she says.
“I really felt like they gave me practical tools to be successful in the classroom. You can have a personal connection with your professor. You can meet with them personally, during their office hours, and talk through material. I even took some random classes that didn’t necessarily go towards my degree because I loved the professors.”
“I would always say, ‘if you’re looking for an Assemblies of God university that has a good education program, Southwestern is one of the finest.’”
In response to what she is most excited about for the future of TCKIA, she said, “To see what God does with this because we really feel like He birthed this in our hearts. It's just continuing to be in His will and I'm excited to see where it will go. We're hoping to be able to open it up to TCKs everywhere and every type of field.”
To learn more about TCKIA including how you can help partner with the academy, click here .
To learn about SAGU’s Bachelor in Elementary Education program, click here .