We speak to the new Superintendent of Stamford American International School, DR MARK WENZEL, about his unique approach to community-building and moving to Singapore.
First, congrats on the Global Be Well Day win! What did it involve?
It was a fun challenge where we clocked our footsteps against other schools from the Cognita Education group. SAIS kids, parents and staff clocked 6,000km in five days! There was a real sense of spirit and community – and I got to dress up as a lion and do my lion dance.
What brought you to Singapore?
My wife Julie and I were attracted to the multicultural environment, diversity and safety of Singapore, and I was drawn to SAIS because of its values and school spirit. Joining a school that has deep values and invests in the overall wellbeing of children is very important to me. So I moved here with my wife and three kids.
What are some things you particularly like about the SAIS environment?
I’m impressed with the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. It has a deep philosophical underpinning, which is ultimately about raising thoughtful, good citizens. The academic approach is deeply conceptual, thematic and cross disciplinary, so it’s an incredibly rich model which excites me.
Core to our being is inclusion. When we talk about an inclusive environment, we relate it to culture, and teaching and learning. We celebrate all students and believe every child has a gift and can be successful. It’s a way of embracing children by identifying their strengths and finding ways to help them thrive. Culturally, we embrace diversity – we want everyone to feel like they belong.
How do you create that sense of belonging and inclusivity at your school?
We think about what belonging looks like in and out of the classroom. We ask ourselves, “How do we intentionally connect students so their voice is heard?” Developing an advisory programme, where students have authentic conversations about who they are, what they believe, what they’re struggling with, what excites them and so on, is part of the ongoing conversation. We want to give them “voice” and “choice”in their learning.
What are you hoping to achieve in your role?
Academic achievements and milestones are part of my mandate – to continually improve learning outcomes for our students. I’m also looking to continue our work with character development, which includes social and emotional development.
What does success at SAIS look like?
If we’re doing our job well, our students will be progressing through our educational system and gaining confidence in a way that brings out their “best self”. Raising good, thoughtful, community-oriented human beings in partnership with parents is our school’s mandate.
Every student has different gifts, so you have to be skilled at how you assess these individual gifts and needs, and then tailor a programme to be able to help them. Part of what drew me to Stamford was the meticulousness by which we measure improvement. We leverage thoughtful, research-based surveys that incorporate parent, student and employee voices into an improvement journey.
What’s the focus for SAIS for the upcoming year?
We’re focused on specific teaching to give students agency in producing high-quality work. We also want to think about the wellbeing portfolio, and we have some intentional actions planned to create rich, tailored teaching and learning.
Planning experiences outside of the classroom to build community and connect learning to the outside world is also an important focal area for us.
You seem to have made an impression on the SAIS community; what’s your secret?
I’m a firm believer in positivity and the power of gratitude. That’s how I’m wired as a leader, and I try to promote a culture where that takes hold every day. What do you love most about working at SAIS? I love the sense of community at Stamford. There’s a deep value for education, which is inspiring.
Meet and greet
Get a chance to meet Dr Mark and other SAIS leaders at the bi-monthly Virtual Open House. You’ll be able to learn more about the campus and curriculum and take part in Q&A sessions with Stamford Principals and Admissions Managers. The next Virtual Open House will be taking place this month; visit sais.edu.sg/virtual-open-house for more details!
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This article first appeared in the November 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!