BECOMING AN EAGLE
by Kinjal Shah

This feature was first published in Journeys Winter 2019.

This article was written by communications writer Kinjal Shah.

Dinega and Simon, parents
Cyrus G. transitioned from a local school to Singapore American School in August 2018. He participated in the Jumpstart program, which is designed specifically for students that are starting their learning journey at SAS. Through the program, Cyrus was able to develop positive relationships with teachers, and his new classmates, and become familiar with the learning environment. 

As the school year began, there was an emphasis on honoring personal identity and building a sense of community. Classroom routines and expectations were established early on, helping Cyrus feel comfortable, safe, and valued. Cyrus shared how his teachers helped him on his first day at pre-kindergarten, “My teachers (Ms. Lynsey and Ms. Yukako) showed me where the playground is and where to read books. They taught me to use kind hands and kind words.” The relationships with the members of his community are the most meaningful to Cyrus. When asked what he liked most about going to school, Cyrus responded, 
“Seeing my friends and my teachers!” 

Even at a young age, it is evident that Cyrus has a sense of pride in being an SAS Eagle. He is excited to put on his uniform every day, sometimes even choosing to wear it on alternate dress days! He really enjoyed the opportunity to cheer on the IASAS teams throughout the year, shouting, “Go Eagles, go!” in support of his older schoolmates. When asked what being an Eagle meant to him, Cyrus responded, “Being kind and being nice to my classmates,” values that are intentionally nurtured in the early learning center and at SAS. 

Ida F., sixth grade
“We are moving to Singapore!” dad exclaimed across the living room. I was very happy, but then it hit me. I would have to change schools. What if I didn’t fit in? What if I wasn’t welcomed there? At the end of the year, we moved to Singapore.

I was nervous. It was the first day of school. I quickly found my classroom and put away my bag. My teacher, Mr. Haydu, ran out to meet me. He made me feel welcome. He showed me around. All the teachers were nice to me and the students stood with their arms wide open to new friendships. But even though I was welcome, I was worried that I would never be a part of their community. An Eagle.

Today as I look back, I remember how I felt. After about a month, I felt like I was an Eagle. To me, being an Eagle means that there is a community around you; one that has opened to welcome you in.

Now, at the beginning of a new school year, I want to make sure that everyone is welcomed just like I was.

Danielle G., eighth grade
It gets easier each time you move. That’s what everyone told me as my time in my old school was coming to an end. I went to an international school before coming to SAS so a lot of my friends had also moved many times. A lot of the thoughts that came to my head when my parents told me we were moving to Singapore! How hard was it going to be to settle this time?

The last time I moved it was from Ohio to the Philippines which was a really big change I wasn’t exactly ready for. This time I had hoped that it was going to be easier since we weren’t moving that far. And for the most part I was right.

Coming to Singapore wasn’t much of a shock because my family had visited on vacation before. I remember loving the city because it felt so developed and luxurious compared to Manila. Coming to SAS was exciting because at one point we didn’t know if there were going to be any spots for my siblings and I. We all wanted to get into SAS because it’s an IASAS school just like my old school. And my sister and I were already excited to meet our old friends during IASAS.

My first day of school at SAS was pretty scary—expectedly so—as I didn’t know many people here. I knew a few people in my grade because during the summer I attended Jumpstart. As the day went on I got more comfortable and less nervous without even noticing it because everyone was so nice and welcoming.

To me being an Eagle is beyond just following the core values of compassion, honesty, fairness, responsibility, and respect. It’s helping the community around us at school everyday to ensure that no matter what, everyone feels like they belong.

Emily O'Brien, ninth grade
Coming to a new school, I was terrified that I would be eating lunch alone every day. However, arriving at SAS, everyone was so welcoming and supportive. On the first day alone I must’ve had 20 different people come up to me and ask how I was doing. It was something really simple, yet it made my day for the first couple of weeks. A lot of this was aided by my buddy, she was someone who I was really able to rely on. She was always there to ask how I was doing and to show me around when I got lost (which happened a lot).

It wasn’t really the people that made the move to a new school difficult, but rather the harsher expectations of high school. And even that was made better with supportive and caring teachers, plus a lot of coffee. Another factor that made this transition so easy, was joining a sports team. Through this team I’ve forged bonds with so many amazing girls.

To me, being an Eagle means being part of a team...defending each other and encouraging each other during the hard times. It’s being able to admit when you make a mistake, because you know that your teammates have your back.

Ella Boasberg, eleventh grade
I think that my transition to SAS has been much more positive than others, yet I still wouldn’t say it is perfect. There have been the ups and downs that any new student experiences, but I do credit my somewhat smooth transition to the fact that it was partly my decision to come here. I had been aware of the struggles of entering a new high school in a new country before arriving and had spent the time to mentally prepare myself. I was able to keep an open mind throughout the whole time. The process was obviously difficult, but I tried to embrace or at least accept the new experiences.

The school was helpful in that they made it clear I had support from counselors. I think peer support and having someone to eat with at lunch was also really helpful. I ended up relying on peers to familiarize myself with the tools and workings of the school.

Playing a sport has really helped me identify as an Eagle. Immediately by being on the varsity soccer team, I had to represent the school outside of school grounds. The team made me proud to be an Eagle and helped me get some school spirit. It was nice
to be able to connect with the school and students outside of class.

Lexi Gnagne, eleventh grade
When I walked up the high school steps at 7:55 a.m. on the first day, I felt like a kid who had lost their mom in a grocery store. I scrambled around, looking for my advisory and people I had met at orientation. A text from a peer support buddy asking to meet her in the cafeteria elevated much of stress because I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to find the room.

When we met, she told me to always meet here for breaks and lunch so that I’ll never have to be alone. At lunch, she introduced me to all her welcoming friends. They asked me how my first day was going which made me happy because it felt like people at this school will always care about one another.

As the conversation grew, I began to feel more comfortable. Two months into school, I knew SAS would be a warm and welcoming place that would make this move overseas a lot easier.

Being an Eagle means being a leader and a person of character when no one is watching. Whether you are in a club or a sports team, an Eagle leads a group of people to make the right decision and leaves a positive impact not only on the school but in the world as well if possible.

Lara Ingham, elementary school librarian
It was a rainy, blustery and frigid late February afternoon, and 8,136 miles from Singapore, when I first got a sense of the committed pride and genuine joy of being an Eagle.

After a full day of teaching and facing a lengthy evening commute, the time and lousy weather fell away as I interviewed with my future colleagues and supervisors who were engaging, thoughtful, and knowledgeable about education. As I hung up, I realized that the passion for their work as educators was infectious and matched my own love for my profession. I came home to my family excited and thrilled to consider the possibility of casting off our known existence and trying our hand at life overseas at an exemplary school.

Fast forward five months to our arrival at Changi Airport where we were greeted by a whole crew of faculty and staff, smiling and attentive even though it was just before dawn. The warm supportive welcome continued through our first weeks in the country and up until the very first day at SAS. Hugely important was Jumpstart which gave our two sons the grounding in SAS to make their arrival to this new world and school much less startling.

I quickly realized that SAS excels in creating structures to support their teachers and community. Working within PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) was new to me. The professionalism and authentic care for each other and our students is like nothing I have ever experienced in my 24 years as a teacher librarian.

In my first few months at SAS, I learned my initial instincts, back in Oregon on that rainy day in February, were accurate. The Eagle Way is one of caring and of giving freely of oneself to help others. I look forward to repaying the care I have been shown to new faculty and staff once I am no longer a “newbie.” For all of you who have helped us navigate our way to finding our home here at SAS, thank you, 谢谢 (xiexie), and terima kasih!

Tom Flanagan, high school teacher
When people say that we are brave to make a big move with such little ones—ages six, three, and five months—I have a simple response: “We would not have moved for any other school.” SAS’ reputation as an excellent school brimming with opportunities is well known, but it is the culture of extraordinary care that has made SAS our new home.

Long before arriving in Singapore, SAS’ extraordinary care was on display as our incredible human resources department helped guide us through the relocation process. When we arrived at Changi Airport with 15 bags and three young children, HR met us with a van to shepherd us to our hotel. Two days later, Lucía and Ophelia began their careers as Eagles with the Jumpstart program. The ear-to-ear smiles that our girls wore as they stepped off the bus at the end of the day told Erin and I what we hoped for as parents: they loved their new school.

Erin and I were welcomed into the SAS community with as much warmth and care as our children were. Our shipment from the US was due to be delivered during the first week of the new-teacher orientation, and I was concerned about missing important meetings. “Take care of yourself and your family first” was the response of Stephen Ly, our principal. The extraordinary care of our leadership was on display again a few weeks later after Erin broke her ankle running with the cross country team. Erin is incredibly tough and refused to miss a day with her students, so she limped on crutches into her classroom the next day. Having heard what had happened, the entire high school leadership team visited her in her classroom and delivered the same message that Stephen had weeks before: “Take care of yourself.” They had already arranged a substitute teacher and saw to it that Erin had the time she needed to consult with doctors and to rest.

Being an Eagle means going the extra mile to warmly welcome the new kid (or adult!), and an Eagle leads by serving others. Teaching inquisitive students, working alongside passionate colleagues, and being supported to do my best work by inspiring leaders makes SAS a special place to call home.

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