Annalise Stephens
WRITTEN BY
Annalise Stephens
School Counsellor
14 March, 2022

Meet the new Northbridge Head of Inclusion

Ms Annalise Stephens is the new Head of Inclusion at Northbridge International School Cambodia. To celebrate her appointment, we asked Ms Annalise about her background, what led her to work in education and later counseling, and why inclusion is such an important part of life at Northbridge.
Inclusion in schools means that students have access to the people and resources that they need to succeed
Annalise Stephens
School Counsellor

What is your background and where are you from?

Originally from Australia, I worked in travel and then business banking before finding my home in teaching. I’ve now worked in education for the last 15 years. I started as a Middle School English and Humanities teacher, spent some time in Primary teaching, then moved back to Secondary School and across to Learning Support and Counselling. It’s been a wonderful learning journey, and a real privilege to work with so many students and families over the years!


What led to you moving to Northbridge (and where were you before)?

Before Northbridge, I spent five fantastic years at an international school in Suzhou, China. I was the Head of Student Support Services in the Secondary School there, and I also worked as a Learning Support teacher and Counsellor. 


However, after five years of cold and dark winters, it was time to look for a warmer climate and new opportunities to learn and grow. I have friends who’ve worked at Northbridge in the past, and when the opportunity arose to move here, my family and I jumped at the chance. 


What does your current role as School Counsellor involve?

Fundamentally, my job is to promote and protect the social-emotional wellbeing of our students. I help our young people to navigate the ups and downs of life, and support them to develop strategies that will help them to become more resilient across their lifespan. 


I also work with families and staff, so that we’re all equipped with tools to support our students at school and at home. I provide counselling in one-on-one, small group or class-sized sessions, and I’m always available to help in whatever ways are most beneficial for our students.


Head of Inclusion sounds intriguing. What does inclusion mean to you?

To me, inclusion means connection; connection between people, and connection between people and resources. When we are meaningfully connected to the people and resources around us, we can more easily identify our needs and where to get support for them. Then we feel empowered and like we belong - and then we can help others, too!


In a practical sense, inclusion in schools means that students have access to the people and resources that they need to succeed, such as Learning Support, Counselling and EAL (English as an Additional Language). It means that our students learn about their strengths and weaknesses, and our staff really know their students and how to best support them to move towards their goals. It also means that we partner with our families so that we’re all moving forward together, aligned in our shared goals of personalised success for our students. 


Why is Northbridge adding a Head of Inclusion now?

In recent years, there’s been a global shift in schools towards a more holistic approach to education; we recognise that students’ needs are broader than just academics, and schools are uniquely positioned to address these needs. For example, universities and employers are increasingly seeking students who have skills and capacities that extend beyond the traditional academic measures; they’re looking for young people who can navigate complex relationships and conflicts, manage their time and tasks proactively, and consider intercultural contexts and competing priorities.


Northbridge recognises this shift, and understands that our students’ needs are increasingly broad. We want to provide wider opportunities for students to access different types of support and different opportunities to learn and grow. We also want to ensure that students’ differences are celebrated and valued - we are a diverse learning community, and we are stronger together!


What are your main priorities when you start the role?

We are expanding our Inclusion team, and welcoming new teachers and support staff to the school, so my first priority will be to establish our team and ensure that we have a clear philosophy and vision for inclusion at Northbridge. We will review our current processes and procedures, and ensure that there are strong strategies for identifying and responding to students’ diverse learning needs. 


Moving on, we hope to expand our services into the broader community, and welcome parents and families to learn with us through workshops and presentations that help to deepen our understanding of diversity and inclusion. We will partner with providers in the community (including psychologists, therapists and training organisations), and we will seek opportunities for the whole school community to learn and grow together.

 

I feel excited and honoured to be part of the journey!

 

To learn more about inclusion at Northbridge, contact Ms Annalise at: annalise.stephens@nisc.edu.kh