Communication, Co-operation, and Community

In the coming months, YCIS Beijing will be welcoming experienced educator and leader Don Collins into his new role as Secondary School Vice-Principal with the school. Already settled in Beijing, we were able to sit down with Mr Collins to discuss his extensive experience in education and some of the major improvements and enhancements he has planned for the Secondary School section of YCIS Beijing.

Please discuss your extensive Secondary School leadership experience.
I’ve served as a Principal for 16 years and another five years as Assistant Principal before that across three different schools. I’m the founding Principal of my most recent school Coburg High School, a hi-tech school that has a real focus on the student at the center and using technology in a powerful way. We try to make sure every student can maximise their learning opportunities which requires staff to differentiate successfully and to provide really accurate feedback, to make sure you can go to school and enjoy yourself and feel safe and excited. It’s important to feel that staff and students are connected.

What inspired you to make the move?
First off, when I heard about YCIS Beijing’s Philosophy and Objectives, they sounded very much in line with my own philosophy with regards to education. My wife and I were also ready to move on and try our hand at something new. We’d been connected to China for a while; we have friends here and I was just here last year in Jiangsu visiting Coburg’s sister school. When it came to choosing location, why wouldn’t you want to come to Beijing? It just seems to offer so much.

How do you hope to enhance YCIS Beijing’s Secondary School learning experience during your tenure here?
I hope that I can bring a skillset and understanding that will increase dialogue between people. A major goal of mine is getting parents, staff, and students connected with one another so that we can try to further dialogue, e.g. people in science know what people in English are doing and connections can be made between curricula. While there’s been a focus in education on STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Maths), I’m very interested in adding an A (Arts) into it to create STEAM.

I’m also interested in harnessing expertise from all across the world, bringing people into the school via Skype and other connections, as well as utilising the wealth of expertise in Beijing that other people bring in from the local community. My experience is that education makes a fantastic motivation to convince local experts to come and speak with students! Finally, and very importantly, I plan to support the objectives of the school and increase our outcomes and make sure our students, parents, and staff are connected and happy while working to further build a sense of community here.

What unique qualities of YCIS Beijing attracted you to this position?
The most appealing aspect was what was being offered at YCIS Beijing in terms of a truly global community but heavily based in the appreciation of Chinese culture and Chinese language. I’ve been a strong supporter of bilingualism in my lifetime and throughout my career in education. In the past I’ve taught Spanish to students in a bilingual mode and love the idea that appreciation of another language brings. From a facility standpoint, the school is very well-resourced. There also seems to be a real emphasis on high quality staff here who are clearly focused on good learning outcomes; you look at the learning results of the school and they’re very impressive. When all of those qualities are put together, YCIS Beijing becomes a very attractive proposition!

Your immediate family is also one of educators as well. Can you please tell us about your wife’s background in music and education?
My wife’s a very talented pianist and she deeply understands teaching and learning. She also has an amazing mind for curriculum; her capacity for organising curriculum teaching and learning development has been an area she’s worked in her previous job which means she’s got an amazing skillset. When I first met her, she was conducting a room full of students playing a huge variety of instruments as a band. I couldn’t believe how she was able to organise the room and control this cacophony, but thanks to her unique skillset and presence it was a beautiful success.

Of course, we have both studied at a Master’s degree level and are very connected to current education trends. She also has graduate school teaching experience in Literature, Music, and History, so will undoubtedly be a positive addition to the staff!

To read more YCIS Beijing news, click here.

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