Samuel Atchley: “I wear my Darüşşafaka jacket proudly”

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Mr. Samuel Atchley was not born and raised in Turkey but somehow destiny brought him first to Turkey and then to Darüşşafaka. He has been teaching English in Darüşşafaka for the last three years and contributing to raising the students who will be the future of Turkey. We met with him and spoke about his experience here. He is amazed by the mission and students of Darüşşafaka and we are amazed by his devotion to Darüşşafaka.

Mr. Samuel Atchley works at Darüşşafaka as an English teacher. This year he teaches 10th and 11th grades. Originally from San Francisco, USA, he has been living in Turkey for the last 5 years. He is married to a Turkish woman, Burcu Atchley and has a 9-month-old daughter.

What brought him to Turkey initially 8 years ago was his passion for Turkish music. “I really like Turkish music. For a long time in my youth, I played clarinet and studied Turkish folk music. I came to Turkey back and forth. Then I met my wife. We played in a band together. We fell in love. And five years ago, I came back to Turkey to make my life and build a family here.”   

Mr. Atchley has been working as a teacher for 12 years. He says he found himself in teaching. “At my first teaching job, I really enjoyed informing people and the interaction with my students. And then as I got into high school I started teaching younger students. It became more difficult but at the same time more fulfilling. And now I love my job! It is a great feeling” he says.

“I am doing something that means something”

Three years ago, he began teaching at Darüşşafaka and he tells why teaching here means a lot to him: “The student profile in Darüşşafaka is so much different than any other school. They are kids with less opportunities coming from all over Turkey. They are not spoiled or entitled. They don’t have an expectation that I owe something to them. They are much more motivated to be here. There is a more natural and healthier student-teacher relationship. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to come here in the first place. And the fact that we can help these students that would otherwise not have opportunities, is really worthwhile. Regardless of any challenges that I run into, this is the remedy. I am doing something that means something. It is just being part of the ability of really making a difference in a student’s life. That is the best thing about working here. When you tell people that you work for Darüşşafaka, you get great reactions. And I have great colleagues.” 

Especially the support system that Darüşşafaka offers to its students amazes him: “Darüşşafaka is another family and a support structure for the students. Alongside the brotherhood and sisterhood that they have together, the community of Darüşşafaka alumni is really a great support system. I think the kids really notice and appreciate that.” 

“These students are getting more than help”

According to Mr. Atchley, Darüşşafaka is unique in the way that it gives such a complete support to its students. He says he does not know any other institution that does this in such a good level. “That is such a rarity” he argues, “A lot of charity institutions offer possibly partial scholarships, partial assistance, or help you. These students are getting more than help. They are getting fully supported opportunity. And doors blast wide open for them, that would otherwise just be completely locked. There are around 100 students who graduate from here every year, whose lives are completely changed. That is amazing.”

And according to him, this is exactly what Turkey needs. “In my opinion, the geographical location of Turkey puts us at the center of the world. So the better educated Turkey is, more powerful and open-minded Turkey becomes, the better position it will be in to not only benefit its people but to influence in a better way the surrounding countries, and the world. Turkey should be so much more influential than it is now. And schools like Darüşşafaka will help us finally broaden the horizons of Turkey as a whole. The importance of Darüşşafaka is, taking the have nots and making them haves. Giving them the education, the knowledge and the opportunity to use their brains.”  

He tells the story of one of his students to describe the change Darüşşafaka creates in its students’ lives. “This is a story that I tell often. Without mentioning any names, I know that we have a few ladies from the same family in the school who had some really hard times in the past. And when they first came to school, their Turkish wasn’t even very good. Now some of these students are in my high school classes and they are my rockstar students. Their English is great. I started teaching them in 9th grade and I remember, right after my first exam, one of them was almost in tears. She just did not have the confidence so I sat down and talked to her. And now she is my hero. Because her English is fantastic. Her Turkish is fantastic. She has got a great mind. She will debate with me, she will ask intelligent questions and have an intelligent conversation. If it wasn’t for Darüşşafaka, where would this young lady be now? But instead of that, this brilliant young lady who has really got a very good mind, is set up to go into a profession where she is actually going to give something to the world. And hey, I get to be part of that change! So that is the best memory I have. Darüşşafaka is great because of that. Moreover, students bring change and contribute to their families and where they come from. It is a gift to the student, to where the student comes from, and ultimately to Turkey and the whole world.” He adds happily, “This is a great institution and I am proud to work here. I wear my Darüşşafaka jacket proudly.” 

Mr. Atchley loves Turkish culture and is happy to live here. “I think Turkey is a fascinating country. Culturally, historically and geographically Turkey is a phenomenal place. I love the music, food, hospitality, Turkish coastline. Turkey as a whole, has the human resources, natural resources and geographical location to be a powerhouse. I fully believe that this potential can be realized” he says and he is actually making a valuable contribution to the efforts to make it happen. Mr. Atchley speaks Turkish quite well and he ends our conversation by smiling and saying, “That’s what makes it exciting to live here. I hope to retire here, live out my life here. Türkleşiyorum yavaş yavaş.” 

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