Dedicated educational leaders are self aware, resourceful, and hard working. They are driven by the zeal to learn, are confident, persistent, and possess the ability to inspire and lead by example. One such enthusiastic leader with the zeal to attain excellence in every activity undertaken is Marcel Gauthier, the Head of School at Shanghai American School (SAS). He believes that the primary objective of education is to provide students the knowledge and skills not only to participate in today’s world, but to thrive personally and professionally and shape it into a better place. Marcel asserts that it is the role of every educator to impart excellent education to the students and nurture the uniqueness in them. “Every student can learn and grow, and it is our responsibility to offer an education that affirms the uniqueness of each child in our care, invites them to engage challenges with courage, and expands their vision of what’s possible such that they are never content to merely settle for the staid and the mundane,” he adds.
The Educator’s Journey
Marcel began his educational voyage as a teacher of literature and writing in American private schools. His rich experience of several years as a leader has allowed him to identify with those who deliver education to the students each day. He began his transition into leadership roles in the USA, serving in private schools. He took on the role of a high School principal at Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina, and then Assistant Head of School at The Waterford School in Salt Lake City, Utah.
These exposures reinforced in him several key points. Firstly, he realized that all education is local. Says Marcel, “No matter how much we apply research and universal principals in education, we are always working in one place, with one community, at one moment in time, and we must take the time to understand the needs and biases that each community carries into the equation.” Secondly, he felt that education is never perfect—it is both art and science. “We apply science to our pedagogical practices, but we adapt with creativity and empathy to our students’ needs each day.” Thirdly, Marcel believes that the mission of the institution matters. “It is the purpose within which we deliver an education each day that is crucial, not simply the knowledge and skills themselves.”
About Shanghai American School
Established in 1912, Shanghai American School aims to deliver a rich American-style education to children of foreign nationals in Shanghai. SAS’ story aligns with the growth and challenges of the city of Shanghai itself and is today the city’s most storied international school. The institution now has two campuses – in Pudong and Puxi – and educates 2750 students annually. It strives to balance a strong academic environment with a commitment to educational innovation and caring for the well-being of the students. In accordance with its Mission, SAS inspires in all students:
- A lifelong passion for learning
- A commitment to act with integrity and compassion
- And the courage to lives their dreams
Upholding Educational Excellence
Under the ardent leadership of Marcel, SAS offers both the IB Diploma Programme and a full array of Advanced Placement courses. It is the only school in Shanghai to offer both AP and IB for the students to choose from, based on their own interests and their aspirations. The school follows a traditional curriculum, with instruction in mathematics, literacy, world languages, history, science, technology, design, the visual and performing arts, and physical education. Marcel states, “SAS has made a commitment to bring interdisciplinary and project-based learning into every classroom at every grade. Our goal is to invite students into learning—not impose it on them—and have them see the opportunities to apply that learning and know its relevance and power .”
The school’s Innovation Institute at Puxi High School is a cohort of students and teachers engaged entirely in project-based learning, with each component of the curriculum driven by an inquiry project and culminating in a community presentation.
The Future Landscape
Marcel feels that the environment is changing in Shanghai with more families interested in investing in an international education for their children. He believes that SAS will serve an ever-growing population of local students who will stay with the school from early childhood through high school. “With these families, we will continue to strengthen our Chinese language program as well as our approach to English instruction. SAS will continue to balance a strong academic environment with a commitment to innovation, exploring new technologies, new pedagogies, and new partnerships here and abroad,” says Marcel. He concludes by saying, “We call ourselves a ‘community of continuous learning.’ We are restless by nature and always looking to embrace the next challenge while remaining true to our Mission.”
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