Your Name: Amanda Dennison
Job Title: Principal of Shrewsbury International School Bangkok City Campus
What is your nationality and background?
I’m a British Head Teacher who has lived and worked in Bangkok for nearly a decade. I was born and raised in Morecambe, a small seaside town in the north of England. I went on to study at University in Leeds and in Newcastle before moving to London to pursue a career in teaching.
What is your profession?
I am a teacher and a school leader. My career began thirty years ago in London where I had the privilege of working in wonderful schools with children from all around the world in fully inclusive settings.
In 2003 I was appointed as Head Teacher at the The Millennium School, Greenwich where I worked for until 2010 before deciding to pursue an international career here in Thailand.
Following seven very successful and enjoyable years as the Head of the Junior School at Shrewsbury Bangkok’s Riverside Campus, where I have lived and breathed the School’s values, I am now very proud to be the founding Principal of Shrewsbury International School City Campus which opened in August 2018.
It is a very exciting time for the Shrewsbury family of schools and for me personally. It is a privilege and honour to work with such an outstanding team.
What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?
Optimism is always a characteristic that I’ve drawn on as a leader and something which help me personally, as well as the communities that I lead, to keep moving forward.
It is important to lead by example, to have a clear vision for the school and what it wants to achieve, and to clearly communicate these high expectations and goals to ensure that everyone in the community is working together to achieve them.
Another important aspect of this role is to be able to select exceptional people, and to build and develop their strengths so that they may become the leaders of the future.
How did you get involved in your profession?
I was attracted to the teaching profession for a number of reasons. I absolutely loved school myself and was lucky to have many great teachers who left a positive impression on me. I always had a strong rapport with children, and enjoy engaging with them. I wanted to make a difference in the world and believe passionately that a profession in education has enabled me to do this.
How does your role enhance the wellbeing or experience of children?
The wellbeing of our students is always my number one priority, and ensuring children have amazing purposeful learning experiences is absolutely central to my role. I believe passionately in developing the emotional wellbeing of children and this has always been at the heart of my philosophy and approach to teaching and leading a school.
Schools should be fun and creative places; children should be inspired by their school experience. It is also important that schools give children an opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence, self-confidence and values. They must be given the chance to be heard and to make mistakes. I want children to develop an inner compass to navigate and to help them develop their own values and guide them positively with their friendships and relationships, their well being and with their choices in life.
What challenges do you face in this role?
Starting a brand new school is incredibly rewarding and exciting but of course, there are many challenges too. City Campus is a fantastic facility, and a construction project of this kind presented several challenges along the way. A school is more than just the physical fabric though. Building a new community and ensuring a strong, caring and respectful ethos and approach has been the center of my priorities and underpins decision-making and choices.
At Shrewsbury City Campus, we are lucky to have wonderful founding families who are extremely supportive and involved in school life, coupled with an outstanding staff team.
The challenge as we grow is to ensure our ethos and community remains strong and supportive of one another.
What do you hope to achieve within your industry?
Successful education can be measured in many ways, but my hope is that the children in our community graduate to become active, engaged, global citizens. I want them to feel empowered to use their education to make a positive impact on the world around them. I want them to thrive, to be happy in whatever paths they choose to take, but also to be be able give back to their community.
Who or what inspires you?
Courage inspires me. Courage from a child, a colleague, a friend or family member, or a more publically well-known person.
The American Poet, singer and Civil Rights activist, Maya Angelou, springs to mind. She is a great example of someone who was prepared to step out of their comfort zone (however small a step) to start something new, to stand up for something/someone, to follow an aspiration, to follow a dream, to make a difference.
A friend once sent me a quote by William GT Shedd that remains close to my heart. It helped me to make an important decision and continues to inspire me: ‘A ship is safe in the harbour but that’s not what ships are for’.
Only a Bangkok local would know… That you never lose the joy and excitement of whizzing around the streets of Bangkok in a tuk tuk.