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International School Community Member Spotlight #22: Laurence Myers (An int’l school teacher working at International School of Kuala Lumpur)

Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Laurence Myers:

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.44.30 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?
I am originally from Athens, Greece with a father from the US and a mother from Greece. I was born and raised in Athens, Greece and attended a small international school (TASIS Hellenic International School, now International School of Athens). I have been teaching for 19 years internationally and have loved every minute of it!  

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
For me teaching internationally was almost an extension of my life as a student. As I went to an international school as a child I found the cross-cultural connections at such schools to be right up my alley. Of course, as is often the case, my inspiration came from my teachers and professors, the most powerful of which was that of Kostas Gabriel who presently teaches in Chennai. He was an inspiration in believing in myself as a child and I found that, when deciding on a profession, this also provided me with an impetus to assist students in similar circumstances. I also had some good friends who showed me the way, most notably Ralph Barrett who presently teaches in Abu Dhabi. Following their footsteps, and my heart, I was able to fit right in when professional life came calling.  After a couple years of teaching internationally I was hooked. The job offers the perfect combination of discovery and self-reliance with the added dimension of dealing with simply wonderful kids!

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.
I began my teaching at the same school I attended as a child, TASIS Hellenic International School. It was, and still is, a small school with much character and a small but very dynamic student population. It was here, as I took my professional baby steps, that I learned that students are often waiting for an opportunity to see the world in different ways. I taught both social studies and physical education at TASIS.

Following TASIS, and a short stint back in the US to receive my M.A., I taught for five years at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia. For me this was an eye-opening experience. Like the Greek community, Colombians are open and really want to know about you as a teacher. I found this connection fascinating and discussions with my students in economics and government endlessly rewarding. The country of Colombia too, which had a shady reputation at the time, was a simply beautiful place to be!  Despite the media and the difficult political situation the travel opportunities there were tremendous and I still find that, in so many ways, Colombia is home for me as well. I am also happy to be connected to Colombia through my wife, who has been by my side since those days at CNG. 🙂

My next stop, where I presently work, was the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was here that my professional self was able to succeed in ways that I never imagined possible. ISKL’s professional development opportunities and the support that they offer their teaching staff allows for many teachers to become great leaders in their own right. Though the expectations are high, so too is the sense of professional community. Collaborative, supportive and engaging ISKL has given me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of teaching and learning. It is in Malaysia that my two daughters were born and so our connection to Kuala Lumpur will be life-long.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
In Malaysia it is customary to point with the thumb and not the index finger. As our daughters are quite young trying to get them to remember to point this way is sometimes difficult. Traditionally we point, as most do in the west, with our index fingers. At one point when we went to a restaurant our daughter was pointing at something and we were overly concerned about what that might say about our cultural empathy. We tried very hard to get her to change her finger and were embarrassed to fail miserably. When we went over to the table and sat down to talk about it our daughter told us to look at the next customer, a Malaysian woman, who had just walked in. Sure enough, she was indicating things to the staff using her index finger. My daughter was vindicated and I quieted down recognizing that customs often change as cultures diffuse. Where we are often overcompensating in order to fit into the local culture, the members of that same local culture might be happy to use western gestures and norms.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
As I have matured in my teaching, and as my family situation has changed (ie. single to married to having children) so too has my outlook on what is important in a job. When I was younger, of course, my impression of travel opportunities and cultural experiences was primary, as well as the reputation of the school. Now that I am older with a family I suspect that my next teaching post will be a bit closer to home and one where our children can also have a positive learning experience. It should be a school that allows me personal and professional challenge but also provides children with a well-rounded educational experience.

Specific thoughts on a new position (when that happens):
Is it in a safe location?
Does the school promote whole-child philosophy?
Does the school’s administration support teaching initiatives?
What is the “personality” of the school and does it fit in with our own?
Does the school support an environment of caring for people and for the environment?

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Discovery. Rewarding. Engaging. Relationships. Awesome.

Thanks Laurence!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Malaysia like Laurence?  Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Malaysia on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

Garden International School (19 Comments)
International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)
Nexus International School (18 Comments)
International School of Penang (Uplands) (9 Comments)
Dalat International School (6 Comments)
Mont Kiara International School Kuala Lumpur (8 Comments)

International schools that were founded in 1955 (Accra, Carabobo, La Paz & Surrey)

Random year for international schools around the world: 1955

There is much history in the international teaching community.  We have international schools with founding dates of 1838 and 1854 and we also have many, many international schools with founding dates in the 21st century.  The numbers are increasing for sure.

Utilizing the database of the 1224 (05 June, 2012) international schools currently listed on International School Community, we found 7 international schools that were founded in 1955 (excepts about their founding are taken from the schools’ websites):

Ghana (British) International School (0 Comments) (Accra, Ghana)

“This is a far cry from the humble beginnings of the school when it first opened its doors on 1st September 1955. Back then, the school was known as the Gold Coast International School and was the brainchild of eight founding members. These were: Sir Kobena Arku Korsah and Justice Edward Akuffo Addo, both Justices of the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast, Dr Lusty of the University College of Gold Coast (now the University of Ghana, Legon), Mr Kenneth Humphreys, first registrar of the West Africa Examinations Council, Dr Ruby Quartey-Papafio, an educationist, Dr Kofi George Konuah, also an educationist and Mr Edward James Bailey of the United Africa Company and his wife, Mrs Valerie Bailey. The membership of the committee was later expanded to include the Indian High Commissioner as well as the American and French Vice-Consuls.

The vision for the school was a school that would provide quality international education to children of different races and creeds and a school that would serve both the international and local communities.

The first task for the committee was finding a suitable location. Looking at the school now, it’s hard to believe that the original school was a small bungalow originally allocated to the Director of Surveys. Yet that small bungalow was the setting for a school that became so popular that it had an enormous waiting list within its first three months of opening. By January 1956, the school committee had no option but to relocate to bigger premises.”

American Cooperative School La Paz (9 Comments)  (La Paz, Bolivia)

“Founded in 1955, the American Cooperative School of La Paz, Bolivia, is a private, co-educational school with a current enrollment of about 400 students. We offer an American based educational program, taught in English, from Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 for students of all nationalities. The high school curriculum is designed to prepare students for the college experience.”

Colegio International de Carabobo (5 Comments)  (Carabobo, Venezuela)

“Colegio Internacional de Carabobo in Valencia, State of Carabobo, Venezuela, was organized in 1955 with four companies: Celanese, Firestone, Goodyear, and U.S. Rubber. These provided the initial capital.

In 1958, a ten-classroom school was constructed in El Trigal, a residential sector of Valencia. During the 1962-63 school year, a library, four classrooms, showers and dressing rooms, and a photographic darkroom were added. In 1968, the High School building was constructed and was opened for classes on September 2, 1968. The building consisted of two science laboratories, a computer laboratory, and classrooms, a lounge, and offices. The High School library, constructed in 1968 and renovated in 2006, today houses 8,000 volumes. A “comedor” and Middle School were added during the early 1980’s. A multi-purpose recreational building was completed in August of 1988. Most recently, two annexes, a lower primary building, a second Middle School level, and a maintenance complex were added in the mid 1990’s.”

Marymount International School (0 Comments)  (Surrey, United Kingdom)

“Established in 1955 to meet the educational needs of families in the international business and diplomatic community, Marymount London is part of a worldwide system of schools and colleges directed by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, a Roman Catholic Congregation founded in Béziers, France, in 1849.”

International School of Penang (Uplands) (9 Comments)  (Penang, Malaysia)

“The International School Of Penang (Uplands) is a non-profit, co-educational primary and secondary School with boarding facilities, open to children aged 5 – 18 years old.

Since being established in 1955 at the top of Penang Hill and now established in a modern campus in Batu Feringgi, Uplands has strived to embody a caring community; a School where both international and Malaysian students are happy to learn.”

International School of Yangon (6 Comments)  (Yangon, Myanmar)

“The International School Yangon, founded in 1952, is a private co-educational day school, providing an American curriculum from pre-school through grade 12. The school is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). ISY is also a member of the East Asian Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS). ISY is committed to ensuring that its students achieve a high level of accomplishment using English as the medium of instruction. French, Spanish (high school) and Mandarin are taught as foreign languages. Standardized tests such as the International Schools Assessment (ISA), and the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) are conducted at ISY to evaluate student performance and school wide programs. In high school, ISY offers a college preparatory program, leading to a U.S. diploma and an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. There are currently 252 students in elementary school, 115 students in middle school and 144 students in the high school. ”

Woodford International School (0 Comments)  (Honiara, Solomon Islands)

“ The school originally started in the mid 1950’s with about a dozen pupils. It was government run, and was housed in a succession of buildings in Central Honiara. By the early 1970’s the need for a new school was recognized, and in the later half of the 1970’s, a new Woodford School project was included in the Solomon Islands National Development Plan. This project recognized “That a primary educational system offering a curriculum meeting international standards is a critical infrastructure requirement necessary to support Solomon Islands objectives of attracting investment and technical expertise.”

Check out the rest of the international schools listed on International School Community and check out their histories as well!  We have over 1224 international schools that have profile pages on our website.