DIXON — Kelsey Polte is on the move — a far one.
After one school year as the Dixon High School volleyball coach and a math teacher at Reagan Middle School, the former Hall High School standout has accepted a job teaching middle-school math at The Sheikh Zayed Academy in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
“It was actually a very difficult decision,” Polte said. “My players made it the hardest decision I’ve made, just thinking about them and how much they’ve grown. They developed so much as athletes and as people last season. But in the long run, I had to look at where I wanted to be.”
She has worked with Teach Away Inc., a recruiting service that places teachers overseas, since earning her degree in 2010. One of Teach Away’s stipulations is that teachers must have 2 years’ experience.
Polte’s one condition was teaching the middle-school level.
“I wanted to stay there,” Polte said. “I love that they’re still young, but they’re growing into their independence.”
After a phone interview and an in-person interview with the academy’s principal in Chicago about a month and a half ago, Polte was offered the job and given 2 weeks to make a decision.
“I made it on the last day,” Polte said.
Her first day is Aug. 25 and plans to leave around Aug. 20.
On Tuesday, the night before her resignation letter was accepted at the school board meeting, Polte broke the news to her players in a team meeting.
Sophomore Amy Rotella admitted the tears came fast.
“We’re all kind of concerned about what’s going to happen,” she said. “She had such an impact on us. But we’re really happy for her.”
Rotella, also plays club volleyball for Polte in Sterling. Her mom, Nicole Miller, is also anxious.
“It’s very stressful. It’s like starting all over again,” Miller said. “For a lot of these players, it’s a crucial time.”
Junior Kari Wolfe said Polte was helpful in reaching out to coaches at prospective colleges.
“I think she really impacted all of us in a wonderful way,” Wolfe said. “We all know that she’s doing what she’s doing to help herself, and we support her. We just hope that she’ll come back and see us.”
Polte said it will happen. Among the benefits detailed in her 2-year contract is a paid-for round-trip flight every year. She also said the financial benefits were ample.
The bug to teach overseas bit during her sophomore year in college, when a family trip took her to London, as well as a 2-week safari in Africa. While she hoped to teach in Europe, the opportunity was in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Her research revealed that Abu Dhabi is a modern city. Its population is nearly 1 million and on the rise. Less than an hour’s drive away is Dubai, another fast-rising city.
The academy’s curriculum is parallel to that here in the United States.
“I can’t wait to immerse myself in a new culture,” Polte said. “I’m still wrapping my brain around it.”
So are her players. But whenever they miss their coach, they can remember team dinners and coachable moments, like when Polte gave Rotella some pointers on her armswing a couple of weeks ago.
”I just have to remember it, and remember where I learned it,” Rotella said.