For each newsletter, we will interview a BSB Teacher so that parents and students can get to know interesting facts about our teachers. This month, we interviewed Ms. Sarah Donnelly, who joined BSB this year as our Assistant Head of Secondary, IB Coordinator.
1. What brings you to Beijing and BSB Shunyi?
I was looking for the opportunity to work in Asia again when this job came my way. After leaving England, I had worked in Shanghai (NAIS Pudong) for four years as the Head of English. Wishing to pursue a Masters Degree, I moved to New York City where I studied Philosophy and Education at Columbia University. I was then lucky to be offered the chance to develop a middle school at NAIS New York. Having completed this project, I was looking for a new challenge, and was thrilled to then have the opportunity to be the IB Coordinator at BSB Shunyi. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme is something I really believe in so I’m excited to have the role of leading it here.
2. Please describe your role and responsibilities at BSB Shunyi.
I am the Assistant Head of Secondary - IB Coordinator. This means that I am a member of the Secondary School Senior Leadership Team with the specific focus of overseeing the Academic and Pastoral well-being of our IB students, as well as leading the strategic direction of the IB for our school. Basically, if it’s about the IB, it comes to me!
3. What is a typical day for you at BSB?
The first port of call will usually be checking in with Mrs Warrier, the Assistant IB Coordinator, and then checking my emails and my ‘to do’ lists! This will inform me of what job is most urgent. Unless I am on duty, I then tend to have short meetings before school starts - either with staff, students or parents. If I am not meeting with individual students during registration, you will often find me visiting one of the Year 12 or 13 tutor rooms to speak to the form teachers, individual students or whole IB classes. I like to be very present with our IB students! My days then tend to consist of a combination of lessons, meetings, and IB administrative jobs. I teach Year 11 English, Year 12 and 13 Theory of Knowledge (TOK), and I am a Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) and Extended Essay (EE) Advisor as well. Being IB Coordinator means being a great multi-tasker!
4. Please share your teaching experience with us and what do you enjoy most about teaching?
As soon as I began teaching (fifteen years ago!) I knew I had found my calling. My undergraduate degree was in English and American Studies (studying a mixture of literature, history, film and culture) and my passion for English led to me training in that subject at the Secondary level. As a novice teacher, it is really challenging figuring out how best to explain tricky concepts or to motivate and engage teenagers, but this was a challenge I never seemed to tire of. In fact, I quickly found the creative side of teaching- coming up with ever more inventive teaching methods or curriculum materials- thoroughly enjoyable. Moreover, I don’t know if many experiences can match that of watching students learn, or of witnessing them growing up into wonderful young people. I feel very lucky to feel passionately about my profession.
5. Please tell us your leadership experiences and what do you enjoy most?
I have ten years of middle and senior leadership experience, and over the course of my career, what I have always enjoyed most is getting to think strategically, and problem-solve creatively. I really enjoy working with colleagues and find successful collaboration the most rewarding route to satisfying results. Feeling united behind a shared vision really connects a team.
6. Please tell us about your hobbies.
Aside from reading and travelling, I love dance. I have been a Salsa dancer for 8 years, and I have also tried various other styles such as Argentine Tango and West-Coast swing. To me, dancing is like problem-solving through your body, something that must be good for a person who has to spend a lot of time in her head!
7. Have you visited any interesting places in Beijing and China?
So far, my favourite place to visit is the Great Wall. I have been to six different sections of the wall and it still takes my breath away every time. I love the combination of stunning mountain scenery and ancient man-made structure. It really is a wonder of the world!
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