This article was published in Journeys Winter 2020. Click here to read more articles featured in this issue. 

 

For security and safety manager, Major Isaac Benjamin, discipline is everything. His daily routine begins at 5:00 a.m. when he arrives on campus, checks in with his team, eats a hearty breakfast with a generous cup of coffee, conducts his morning prayers, and then begins his schoolwide Segway patrol. For 17 years the military veteran has diligently led the Singapore American School security team. Each morning he is at the front gate greeting families and carefully orchestrating the morning traffic flow. “We can never take the morning routine for granted. Our role is crucial in ensuring students arrive at class on time. Each day we give our very best,” says Major Benjamin.
—Major Benjamin
 

“I love the energy, clarity, and perspectives that students bring. I think of my role as being an advocate for students, a partner for parents, and an ally for colleagues. In practice, that means I try to be a fixer,” says Renée Green, high school dean of student life. The energy and drive she brings to campus each day are only rivaled by her love of Formula One. Recording practice races, qualifiers, and Sunday races, Green is passionate about cars and the strategy that drivers like Lewis Hamilton use on and off the track to succeed.
—Renée Green
 

Taping ankles and conducting concussion tests, leading XSProject and teaching second and third grade students dance routines are how eleventh grade student, Caelyn Hughes fills her time when she’s not in class. For Hughes, service is the hallmark of the SAS experience. “As a leader in both XSProject and Student Athletic Trainers, I just love learning more about how to help, and even more than that I love passing on everything I've learned to our new members,” says Hughes.
—Caelyn Hughes
 

From the moment you step onto campus, you are surrounded by the creative work of SAS design lead, Amos Ong. Over the last eight years, he has handcrafted the school's visual identity and turned SAS into the envy of its peers throughout the world. Banners, logos, color palettes, signs, and more have all seamlessly moved from thoughts and sketches to the walls and spaces around campus. “Every piece is part of the whole and it is exciting to see our visual identity continue to grow and come alive with each new creation,” says Ong.
— Amos Ong
 

Having explored 53 countries, middle school teacher and photographer Teresa Cantu brings the world to her classroom. The quiet patience she uses to capture stunning photographs on her travels is reflected in her work with her students and peers. “It is inspiring to see a group of people work so hard for our students and push themselves to learn and grow in new ways year after year. Teaching is rewarding when you see kids grow, and is fulfilling because we get to grow and develop as well,” says Cantu.
—Teresa Cantu
 

Storytelling takes many different forms, and senior Liberty Leggett, is honing them all. From creative writing courses to AP Art, she is constantly crafting stories in various mediums to connect with others. The art suite is her declared "second home," where stories are born each day. “I really hope the people within my circle of influence––be it the clubs or activities that I help to run or the people I interact with frequently––understand that their presence in our creative community is more important than the ‘quality’ of the content they create,” says Leggett.
—Liberty Leggett

These are just a few of the stories that abound at Singapore American School. With nearly 10,000 students, educators, and parents, SAS is a vibrant tapestry composed of many diverse individual threads. We celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of these many threads and, equally, we need each separate thread to cohere together with all the other threads to provide strength. Without each member of our community contributing, this would simply not work.

I had the opportunity last year to hear so many of your voices—students, teachers, parents, alumni, school leaders—during my listening tour. I was energized by the thoughtfulness and diversity of the voices I heard. Each voice presented their own unique ideas and perspectives, but all the voices had in common a love for SAS and a determination to help us continue to grow. One of the nicest aspects of being back in school this fall has been the chance to resume these conversations and further our dialogue.

As a wonderfully diverse school with students, teachers, and parents from over 60 different countries, we celebrate the variety of backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences that our community members bring to the school. That diversity is a principal driver of excellence in the school because it enriches our students’ learning experiences. We stress with our students the importance of respecting and celebrating the different backgrounds, identities, and cultures of each student. Equally, we celebrate all that we have in common as students and educators across our diverse cultures. During a year when we were often separated by events out of our control, the unity with which our diverse threads came together has been one of the aspects of my time here that I most value.

The year 2020 was a rollercoaster ride filled with numerous ups, downs, twists, and turns. In a year where we spent two months going to school virtually and most of us were unable to return home to visit our family and friends, our community helped us not only make it through this crisis but, far more often than not, thrive in it. My family and I are grateful for the support we received from so many of you. I am also grateful for the stories I hear regularly about families looking after one another. In talking to our teachers, I have consistently heard them applaud their professional learning community teams as a great source of strength, collaboration, and support in addressing the year’s challenges.

Another great example of our community's coherence has been our educators’ commitment to giving back to the school. Last year, over 60 percent of our educators participated in our annual fund challenge, in which we raised well over S$100,000 dedicated to professional learning for our instructional assistants and a similar amount for the development of teacher leadership opportunities. Our educators’ 60+ percent participation rate was more than three times higher than any previous year's. It is a striking sign of our educators’ willingness to give back and support the development of their instructional assistant and teacher colleagues.

Likewise, our parent community gave generously. When a number of our families encountered financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic’s economic effects, parents stepped up and donated more than S$135,000 to our new Compassion Fund. Donations to the Compassion Fund helped students stay in school despite their families’ economic challenges. It is not possible at this point to know what twists and turns lie in front of us. My hope is that we will continue to come together as a community, celebrate both our differences and our commonalities, and bring our unique talents, stories, and experiences to campus each day.