SSIS Head of School letter: Meet New Teacher Hires 2019

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Dear SSIS Parents,

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the new teachers who will be joining our already excellent SSIS professional community this summer.

International schools anticipate some turnover of teachers every year. Teachers generally leave to retire, to spend more time with family at home, or to try new experiences. This year at SSIS, there is a lower than usual turnover of teachers. We are replacing 15 teachers. Additionally, we have added 9 new positions for growth and student support purposes including elementary homeroom teachers (for additional grade five and grade one sections), an additional high school counselor, a MS Dean of Students, a full-time Middle School Librarian, an Activities Director, and a Communications Officer.

We have had a very successful recruiting season. Well-qualified and experienced teachers from around the world are attracted to SSIS because of our reputation as a leader in innovative practices and exceptional teaching and learning. We experienced the enviable challenge of having well over a hundred applications for many of our positions.  At SSIS, we follow a very rigorous selection and interview process to ensure that we hire the best teachers for every position.  The Head of School, principals, associate principals, department heads and team leaders are all involved in the interview process. In addition, direct educational background checks and personal reference checks are conducted on potential new hire. Furthermore, in the interest of stringent child protection safety, we use the services of HireRite to complete comprehensive background checks on all new hires.

Below, you will find the biography of all of the new teachers including their educational qualifications and previous schools. The 24 new hires represent a total of 10 different nationalities (with 66% from the USA); 16 have masters degrees, and this new group of teachers represents an average of 15 years of teaching experience. I hope you enjoy reading about these quality educators who will join our community in July.

If you have any questions or concerns about recruiting or any other school-wide matters, I welcome your communication at any time at hos@ssis.edu.vn.

All good wishes,

Dr. Catriona Moran

HIGH SCHOOL

Ted Barnwell
AP World History & World Studies Teacher

Ted Barnwell (USA) will be joining the HS Social Studies department teaching AP World History and World Studies.  Ted earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Montana and his Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.  Ted’s knowledge of the Advanced Placement Program, particularly in World History is vast and includes over ten years of experience as an AP Reader of World History exams. Ted has 25 years of experience most recently at the American School of Dubai for the last four years, Ferris High School (Spokane, WA) for 15 years, and the American Community School (Amman, Jordan) for five years.  Ted will be joined by his wife, Virginia de Leon who will teach grade 2, as well as his two children, Zane in grade 10 and Zola in grade 8.


Jeff Robidoux
IB English Theory & Knowledge Coordinator

Jeff Robidoux (Canada) will be joining the HS English department, teaching the IB Core Block and will be the Theory of Knowledge Coordinator.  Jeff earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and English teaching degree from the University of British Columbia.  He has a wealth of experience in the International Baccalaureate Program as an Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge Coordinator, an examiner for TOK essays, TOK presentation moderation and Language and Literature Paper 2 examiner.  Jeff has over 18 years of teaching experience most recently in Malaysia at Mont’Kiara International School for the last seven years. Before that he taught at the West Point Grey Academy in British Columbia for eleven years. Jeff will be joined by his wife, Lisa, who is a freelance photographer and coffee bar aficionado. Lisa will also be looking to revive her tennis game.


Julia Bui
Social-emotional Counselor

Julia Bui (USA) will be joining our high school counseling team as a social-emotional counselor.  Julia earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and Comparative World Literature from California State University, Long Beach and her Master’s Degree in School Counseling from the University of Maryland.  She has been a comprehensive counselor at the Hawthorne Math and Science Academy, a charter school in the Los Angeles area for the last five years where she has support student social-emotional needs. Additionally, she developed and started both the Career Day and National College Signing Day events at her current school.  She is excited to be returning to Vietnam for the first time since leaving the country as a two-year-old child. Julia has a senior in high school who will be heading off to university in the 2019-20 school year.


Lisa Swiercinsky
MS/HS Drama Teacher

Lisa Swiercinsky (USA) will be joining the HS/MS Fine and Performing Arts department as a MS/HS Theater teacher.  Lisa earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater and Secondary Education from the University of Northern Colorado.  Lisa will be teaching middle school and high school theater classes (including IB Theater). Lisa has 13 years of experience as a teacher of theater and English and as theater director, the last 11 years at Dakota Ridge High School (Littleton, CO).  The last 7 years she has taught IB Theater (with a 100% pass rate.) She has managed over 30 large scale theater productions, during her time at Dakota Ridge HS, in addition to smaller scale productions. Lisa will be joined by her husband, Eric.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

Claire Elam
MS Librarian

Claire Elam (USA) will be joining the MS division as a full time Librarian.  Claire earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and French from the University of Santa Clara (USA) and earned her Masters in Teaching in Secondary Education, English Language Arts from the University of Washington (USA).  She has completed her library media coursework at Central Washington University (USA). She holds a teaching certificate in Library Media, Language Arts, Reading, and Mid-Level Humanities from the State of Washington. In addition, she holds a National Board Certification in English Language Arts, Early Adolescence.  Claire has 13 years experience in education and currently works at Western Washington University (USA), in the Woodring College of Education. Previous to this, Claire worked at Hamilton International Middle School in Seattle, WA and Explorer Middle School in Mukilteo, WA. Claire will be joined by her husband, John Urdall who will be teaching middle school science.


Alis (Alice) Gorcea
MS EAL Teacher

Alis (Alice) Gorcea (Romania) will join the middle school EAL department.  Alice earned her Bachelors degree in Romanian and English Grammar and Literature from Avram Iancu University (Romania).  Alis has two Masters degrees. One is in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Ibero American University (USA), and the other is in Multidisciplinary Studies from SUNY Buffalo State (USA).  She has also earned a COETAIL certification from SUNY Buffalo State. Alis has 16 years of experience in education and is currently teaching at Ruamrudee International School in Bangkok, Thailand.  Previously she has worked in two middle schools in North Carolina, and she held elementary, middle, and high school positions in Romania. Alis is bilingual in English and Romanian. 


Jacob Scott
MS Math and Science Teacher

Jacob Scott (USA) will be joining the middle school math and science departments.  Jacob earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from University of California Los Angeles (USA) and completed his teaching coursework at California State University San Bernardino (USA) and University of California Riverside (USA).  Jacob earned a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from California State University San Bernardino (USA) and most recently completed a Mathematics Specialists in International Schools certificate from the Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA).  Jacob has 21 years of experience in education and currently works at Shekou International School (China) as a middle school math, science, and STEM teacher. Prior experience in the Fontana Unified School District in California ranged from elementary classroom teacher, middle school math and science, learning/instructional coach, curriculum program specialist, and assistant principal.  Jacob coaches badminton, swimming, basketball, volleyball, and competitive academic teams. Jacob will be joined by his two children Dylan, age 10 (will enter into grade 6 next year) and Joshua, age 11 (will enter into grade 7 next year).


John Urdal
MS Science Teacher

John Urdal (USA) will be joining the middle school science department.  John earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Willamette University (USA).  He then earned a Masters in Teaching at the University of Washington (USA). He holds a teaching certification in chemistry, middle level science, and science from Washington State.  In addition, he holds a National Board Certification in Early Adolescence / Science. John has 13 years experience in education and currently works at Madison MIddle School in Seattle, WA.  Previous to this, John taught language to elementary and middle school students in Japan. John coaches track and field as well as frisbee. He will be joined by his wife, Claire Elam who will be the middle school librarian.


Michelle Wrzesinski
MS Physical Education and Health Teacher

Michelle Wrzesinski (USA) will be joining the middle school PE and Health department on a part-time basis.  Michelle holds a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and Physical Education/Health from the University of Mary (USA).  She earned a Master of Science degree in Education at Plymouth State University (USA). Michelle has 27 years of experience in education and is currently a middle and high school PE teacher in the Baker Public School system in Montana.  Prior to this, she has worked at Shanghai American School (China) and the International School of Islamabad (Pakistan) teaching middle and high school PE and Health. Michelle spent the first part of her career teaching in the Harlowtown School District in Montana and gained experience there as an elementary teacher as well as middle school science, English, math and history.  Michelle coaches track and field, volleyball, basketball, swimming, cross country, and floor hockey. Michelle will be joined by her husband Jon Wrzesinski, who will be the Activities Director.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Sana Abbas
ES Grade 1 Classroom Teacher

Sana Abbas (USA, Pakistan) will be joining our Grade 1 Classroom Teacher.  Sana earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education and her Master of Education degree (pending) in Elementary Education from the University of Kansas.  She earned her teaching certificate in Early Childhood Education from the State of Oklahoma. Sana has over five years experience in the field of education. Sana currently works as a grade 3 PYP classroom teacher at International School of Islamabad (Pakistan).  Previous experiences include Early Childhood Education at Pemroke Hill (USA) and Kindergarten at The Barsow School (USA). Sana is bilingual in English and Urdu.


Virginia de Leon
ES Grade 2 Classroom Teacher

Virginia de Leon (USA) will be joining our Grade 2 Team as a Classroom Teacher.  Virginia earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, German, and Political Science and her Master in Teaching from Gonzaga University (USA).  She earned her National Board Certifications in literacy, and has endorsements in Elementary Education, English Language Development, and Reading/Literacy.  Virginia has over nine years experience in the field of education. Virginia currently works as a Grade 2 teacher at the American School of Dubai (UAE). Previous experiences include grade 3 and 4 Classroom Teacher in Spokane Public Schools (USA), as well as Adjunct Lecturer in Communications at Whitworth University (USA), and Staff Writer at the The Spokesman-Review (USA) newspaper, and ESL Teacher in the Peace Corps in Jordan.  Virginia will be joined by her husband Ted Barnwell who will teach social studies in the high school, as well as her two children, Zane in grade 10 and Zola in grade 8.


Carlos Galvez
ES Physical Education Teacher

Carlos Galvez (Guatemala/Italy) will be joining our Specialist Team as a part-time Physical Education Teacher. Carlos earned his Bachelor of Education degree in Pedagogy and Education from Mariano Galvez University (Guatemala).  Carlos has over eight years of experience working the field of education. He currently works as the Physical Education, Life Skills, and STEAM Teacher at Shekou International School (China).  Carlos is also a certified Level 2 Google Educator, Innovator, and Trainer. Carlos will be joined by his wife Ceci, who will be a Grade One Language Specialist.


Ceci Gomez-Galvez
ES Grade 1 EAL Teacher

Ceci Gomez-Galvez (Guatemala/Italy) will be joining our Grade One Team as an EAL Language Specialist. Ceci earned her Bachelor of Education degree in Pedagogy and Education from San Carlos University (Guatemala), and a Teaching Certification in Elementary Bilingual Education from American Institute of Guatemala (Guatemala).  Ceci has over eighteen years of experience working the field of education. She currently is an EAL Teacher at Shekou International School (China). Previous experiences include Program Coordinator K-12 at SIS, MS/HS EAL and MYP Language B teacher at American School of Milan (Italy), TOEFL Preparation Teacher at Politecnico di Milano (Italy), and ESL Program Coordinator & Teacher K-12 at Equity American School (Guatemala).  Ceci will be joined by her husband Carlos, who will be a part-time elementary PE teacher.


Laurel Howe
ES Grade 4 EAL Teacher

Laurel Howe (USA) will be joining our Grade 4 Team as an EAL Language Specialist.  Laurel earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communications and International Relations from St. Cloud State University (USA), her Bachelor of Arts degree in French and her Master of Education degree in Teaching Languages and Cultures (EAL and French) from University of Minnesota (USA).  She earned her Professional Teaching License in EAL from the State of Massachusetts (USA). Laurel has over twenty one years experience in the field of education. Laurel currently works as a Grade 4 PYP Teacher at Harare International School (Zimbabwe). Previous experiences include classroom teacher at International College (Lebanon), EAL teacher and EAL department head at various schools in Massachusetts and Minnesota (USA), EAL Adjunct Professor at Northern Essex Community College (USA), English and French Teacher at Boston Collegiate Charter School (USA), and EAL Teacher at North Jakarta International School (Indonesia).  Laurel will be joined by her husband Rob Howe who will teach grade 5, and their two children Sam (grade 7) and Khushboo (grade 6).


Rob Howe
ES Grade 5 Classroom Teacher

Rob Howe (USA) will be joining our Grade 5 Team as a Classroom Teacher.  Rob earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Philosophy from the University of Vermont (USA) and his Teaching Certificate from the State of New Hampshire (USA).  He has over seven years of experience in the field of education. Rob currently works as a Grade 5 PYP Classroom Teacher at Harare International School (Zimbabwe). Previous experiences include elementary, middle school, and high school teacher at International College (Lebanon) and Grade 4 Classroom Teacher at North Jakarta International School (Indonesia).  In addition, Rob started his own consulting firm and worked with global corporations as a Sustainability Consultant. Rob will be joined by his wife Laurel Howe who will be the grade 4 Language Specialist, and their two children Sam (grade 7) and Khushboo (grade 6).


Maryam Khalifa
ES Kindergarten Classroom Teacher

Maryam Khalifa (UK) will be joining our Kindergarten Team as a Classroom Teacher.  Maryam earned her Professional General Certificate of Education degree in Early Years and Key Stage 1 from Middlesex University (UK).  She holds a Qualified Teacher Status in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education from the Education Workforce Council England.  Maryam has over ten years experience in the field of education. She is currently a Kindergarten (Reception) Teacher at Renaissance International School, HCMC (Vietnam).  Previous experiences include grade 2 at South Grove Primary School (UK), and Kindergarten at Barclay Primary School (UK) and Edinburgh Primary School (UK). Maryam also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (Honors) in Visual Communication Design.


Kenneth O’Hare
ES Grade 5 Classroom Teacher

Kenneth (Ken) O’Hare  will be joining our Grade 5 Team as a Classroom Teacher.  Ken holds a Bachelor of Education degree in Education/Biology from St. Mary’s University College (Ireland) and a Master of Education degree in Educational Management from Queens University Belfast (Ireland).  He also holds a teaching certificate in Administration, Biology, and Elementary Education. Ken has over 28 years of experience in the field of education. He currently works as a grade 5 teacher at Danube International School Vienna (Austria).  Previous experiences include grade 5 PYP at International School Bologna (Italy), Teaching Principal at St. Patrick’s National School (Ireland), and grades 4-6 at St. Patrick’s Primary School. Ken recently completed an Ironman Triathlon. He will be joined by his wife, Anne.


Diane Olliffe
ES Physical Education Teacher

Diane Olliffe (USA) will joining our Specialist Team as a Physical Education Teacher.  Diane earned her Associate of Arts degree in Physical Education from Treasure Valley Community College (USA), her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and Health from Western Oregon University (USA), and her Master of Science degree in Physical Education from Central Washington University (USA).  She holds teaching certificates in Physical Education and Health Education from Washington State (USA). Diane holds her National Board Certification in Early and Middle Child Physical Education. She has over 27 years experience working in education. Diane currently works as a Physical and Health Education teacher at American School of Dubai (UAE).  Previous experiences include Physical Education Teacher at Kent School District (USA) in elementary and middle schools.


Sarah Ratcliffe
ES Grade 3 Classroom Teacher

Sarah Ratcliffe (USA) will be joining our Grade 3 Team as a Classroom Teacher.  Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Providence College (USA) and her Master of Education degree in Elementary Education from Boston University (USA).  She holds a Teaching Certificate in Elementary Education from the State of Massachusetts with an endorsement in Sheltered English Immersion. She has over 6 years experience in the field of education.  Sarah currently works as a Grade 4 Teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy in Jeju (Korea) and previously taught grade 4 at George F. Kelly Elementary School (USA). She speaks beginner Korean and Intermediate Spanish.


Natalie Rouse
ES Learning Support Teacher

Natalie Rouse (Australia, UK) will be joining our Learning Support Team as a Learning Support Teacher.  Natalie earned her Bachelor of Primary Education degree in Special Education from University of Southern Queensland (Australia), and is currently completing her Master of Educational Leadership and Management degree from Queensland University of Technology.  Natalie has over 8 years experience in education. She currently works as an Intensive Needs Teacher with the International School Basel (Switzerland). Previous experiences include working as a Behavioural Therapist with Autism Partnership (Australia) and a Special Education Teacher at MacKenzie State Special School (Australia).  Natalie will be joined by her husband Orren and children Ella (grade 2) and Macy (kindergarten).


Michael Tompkins
ES Music Teacher

Michael Tompkins (USA) will be joining our Specialist Team as a Music Teacher.  Michael earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano Performance from Millsaps College (USA) and his Master in Music Education from Columbia University Teachers College (USA).  He hold a teaching certificate in Music Education from the State of California. Michael has over 16 years experience in the field of education. He is currently a Music Teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy – Jeju (Korea).  Previous experiences include Music Teacher at Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools (Saudia Arabia), Taihu International School (China), The American Overseas School of Rome (Italy), Rancho Santa Fe Public Schools (USA), and New York City Public Schools (USA).  He has worked professionally as an organist and choral accompanist.

COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE

George Marshall
Digital Marketing Manager

George Marshall (USA) will be joining the Admissions/Marketing team as the Digital Marketing Manager.  George earned his B. A. (major in Digital Media) from Northwestern University. George currently serves as Marketing and Communications Manager for the College of Arts and Sciences at American University in Washington DC. Before joining the staff at American University, George was a member of the communications team at the German Marshall Fund, an international think tank. He has previously worked at NPR partner station WDAV and Perfect Search Media, an online marketing agency. George specializes in digital marketing, web and graphic design, as well as audio and video production. He is an active musician, playing french horn with several bands and orchestras in the Washington area. He will be joined by his wife, Morgan, who will teach at European International School, HCMC.


Tanya Olander
Communications Officer

Tanya Olander (SWE) will be joining our marketing team as SSIS’s first-ever Communications Officer. Tanya is currently working in the communications department at Shanghai American School for the past year.  Tanya has a B/A. in Business Administration (and digital media) from the University of Stockholm, Sweden.  Prior to her move to China, Tanya and her family were proud members of the SSIS community. She served a term on our PTA board and was heavily involved in many school activities. Tanya has worked as a website designer and social media consultant. While in HCMC, Tanya developed her passion for photography and started her website Somewhere in Saigon which gained nationwide coverage. Tanya’s son Max is excited to be returning to SSIS.

ADMINISTRATOR

Jon Wrzesinski
Activities Director

Jon Wrzesinski is joining us in July 2019 as the Activities Director.  Over the course of an illustrious career, Jon has worked as Activities/Athletic Director in Montana, USA, The International School of Islamabad, Pakistan, and at Shanghai American School, China.  He is currently serving as Superintendent of School in Baker Public Schools, Montana, USA. Jon has a B.Sc. from the University of North Dakota and an M.Ed. from the University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota. We are most fortunate to have someone of this caliber join our senior leadership team and we look forward to the contributions Jon will make to our activities program at SSIS.  Jon’s wife, Michelle, is a highly successful coach and PE teacher and she will teach middle school at SSIS. Both of their children are exceptional athletes who earned athletic scholarships to universities in the USA.