Elizabeth (Devanney) Otto
Class of 2002
Elizabeth (Devanney) Otto and her husband Jed, visiting the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. She is wearing an abaya with covering and Jed is wearing a kandora.
What have you done since you graduated?
"Since my graduation in 2002, I have had some amazing opportunities. I studied theater education and graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 2006, and later received my elementary education certification from CCSU as well. In 2007, I took a trip to Tonga with fellow Gilbert alums of 2002, Jill Barberet and Lauren Jones to visit Sarah LaRosa. This is where my interest in travel started."
How does it feel to be working in a different country?
“Our journey aboard was inspired by my friend and classmate Sarah LaRosa (Class of 2002). In January of 2017, Sarah and her husband Andrew were teaching abroad in Morocco. Sarah had encouraged Jed and I to look into international teaching programs. We were surprised at all of the amazing international teaching opportunities there were. We met with schools all over the world to investigate. 
It was a big leap to move and work abroad. It has been an incredible opportunity to be able to teach in such a diverse school in Abu Dhabi. I currently have students in my class from over 10 different countries. Colleagues at our school are also diverse and we are introduced to new traditions, customs and foods often. While it is difficult to be so distant from family and friends, I have been able to better understand and develop an international mindedness, which helps to create rich lessons. My brother, Chris Devanney (Class of 1994) and his family visited us here, as well as Sarah LaRosa (Class of 2002) and Victoria Berger (Class of 2004).  
When we first told friends and family we would be moving abroad they were surprised and fearful. The Middle East is often portrayed as unsafe and scary in media stories. The biggest adjustment when we moved to Abu Dhabi was seeing Arabic writing everywhere. Muslim women wear a shayla or hijab which covers their hair and they often wear abayas over their clothing. Emirati men wear white kandoras. Each year on National Day, December 2, our school has a big celebration, much like the Fourth of July in the United States. Students participate in activities such as dance, eating traditional foods henna paint, riding camels, and even holding falcons. My husband and I have been able to appreciate the traditions and culture here.  
Working abroad has given my husband and I more opportunity to travel. We have been able to visit other emirates here in the UAE such as Dubai and Fujairah as well as travel to Italy and Sri Lanka. We have had to pause our traveling due to COVID-19."
One of Elizabeth's former classes on a display of learning day, showcasing the biography museum.
What do you remember from your time at Gilbert when you were a student?
"What I remember the most from my time at Gilbert are the great teachers and role models that I had. While I have had a great many teachers in my life, many of the best were from my time at Gilbert. I remember how excited I was to have teachers that had taught my older siblings. Teachers like Mr. Lanigan, Mr. Trout, and Mrs. Murray. These teachers didn't just teach, but they got to know their students. I looked forward to math with Mr. Tirrell and even walking past Mr. Higgins in the hall because he always had hilarious comments. Even the teachers I never had in class, but those that I knew like Mr. Macomber and Ms. Hahn would check in or say hi in the hallway. There was an incredible sense of community at TGS from the amazing lunch room staff (thanks Mrs. Wells and the amazing lunch ladies of that time) to the cleaning staff (always helpful and kind led by Mr. Wells at the time).  
What lessons from Gilbert did you apply to the real world?
I think the best lesson I learned while at Gilbert was to laugh at myself and not take everything so seriously.  
Sunset in the desert of Abu Dhabi.
What advice would you give current students?
"Gilbert is one part of your story. Be a risk taker. Include others, the quiet and the loud. You never know who might inspire your next adventure!"