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Bangkok Faces: Dr. Shalee Cunningham, Head of School, Ruamrudee International School

Your Name: Dr. Shalee Cunningham

Job Title: Head of School, Ruamrudee International School (RIS)

What is your nationality and background?

I am an American 5th generation California native. My parents were Irish American and ensured that we grew up with a strong Irish heritage. They were educators by profession, and artists by hobby. My dad was a musician and my mom was a silkscreen artist, so the value of arts in education was impressed upon me throughout my life.

What is your profession?

I am an educator by profession and this is my 41st year in the field of education; I have been an elementary and a middle school teacher, a principal, and was a superintendent of schools for 30 years before moving to Bangkok, Thailand, where I am currently the Head of School (HOS) at Ruamrudee International School.

What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?

My role requires a great deal of knowledge of teaching and learning. This includes understanding facilities and classroom design for current technologies and 21st century pedagogy; being skilled in program-based budgeting, recruiting, hiring and evaluating the best and brightest new teachers; an awareness of legal issues related to personnel; in general, knowing a little about all matters that impact student success. I don’t really have the luxury of specializing in any one area. My job is challenging and enjoyable and certainly different every day!

How did you get involved in your profession?

I grew up in a family of educators, so it is really no surprise that I became a teacher when I was 22 years old. When in college, I had a girlfriend who was deaf and who taught me sign language. She had a big influence on my decision to go into teaching, and to eventually begin working with students who ‘needed more to get the same’. I loved teaching the moment I started my first job, and I haven’t looked back. Education is such an honorable profession and rewards practitioners every day with students’ achievements. Sometimes the incremental improvements are small, but mean so much to a student who is struggling. Other times the rewards are tremendous and the students’ accomplishments earn great attention.

How does your role enhance the wellbeing or experience of children?

I hope my role as HOS enhances the well being of our students through my leadership abilities, my sincere interest in each and every child, and my passion for being a lifelong learner myself. When our students are happy, caring, and accomplished young adults, I know we are doing something right.

What challenges do your face in this role?

Challenges are few. I work at a wonderful school that is celebrating 60 years of success in education. I think my greatest challenges come from the students who motivate me to keep RIS current, ahead of the trends, and to continue the excellent reputation we have earned over our long and proud history.

What do you hope to achieve within your industry?

We hope to assist each and every student fulfill his or her dreams, whatever they may be.

Who or what inspires you?

My professional colleagues inspire me every day to do a better job than I did the day before. I have been blessed to work with outstanding educators from all over the world.

Only a Bangkok local would know…

Only a local would know that chicken satay with peanut sauce from the street vendors is scrumptiously delicious!

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