The new head of the Elementary School at St. Joseph’s Institution International was a Third Culture Kid who’s graduated to a Third Culture Principal. And, as the new Principal, CATHERINE NICOL will be presiding over a start to the school year that is surely the most anticipated on record; it comes amidst the challenges of travel restrictions, the Circuit Breaker and testing the waters of online learning. We asked Catherine a few questions about herself and her new role.
Where are you from, and what brought you to Singapore?
I’m originally from the UK, but I was born in Germany and spent my childhood in Dusseldorf, Hannover and Surrey. This background gave me itchy feet, so my international teaching adventure began when I was only 26. I’ve always enjoyed visits to Singapore and I know that it’s a great place to live. What brought me here was the opportunity to work at SJI International. I got such a great feeling for the school when I visited, and I’m very excited about my new role as the Elementary School Principal.
How long have you been teaching?
I started in 1987 as a primary school teacher in Leeds. Three years later, I got a job in Yokohama and ended up staying in Japan for 16 years! After that, I went to an international school in Chiang Mai; then I took a position at the International School of Tianjin in Northern China. Next was Suzhou Singapore International School China, and here I am arriving at SJI International. Even after 33 years of teaching experience, I’m still ready to learn and grow as an educator.
What would you say is your greatest professional achievement to date?
How I’ve learned to support teachers to be their very best. I do this by providing encouragement and challenges, professional development opportunities and coaching. What about your greatest personal achievement? Being a mother! I feel that it’s the greatest privilege and joy to have been blessed with. My girls were adopted as toddlers from China and, as a single mum, the process of becoming their mother was both challenging and daunting. Abby, Esther and I have lived together internationally, which has been the perfect environment for us as a family. The girls have been able to stay in touch with the culture of their birth while developing their own unique identity.
What will you bring to your new role as head of Elementary School?
There is strength in numbers, and I believe in making the most of the collective expertise within a school community. I look forward to building on what is already happening at SJI International.
By the time a child graduates from the school, what skills do you hope that you and your team will have imparted to them?
Over the past few years, I’ve become very interested in student wellbeing, and in creating young people who are resilient, adaptable and capable. Key to this, I believe, is making sure that our students have a strong sense of self and pride in who they are.
SJI International Elementary School is at 490 Thomson Road.