We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Melissa Meyers, the Deputy Head of Junior School at Wellington College International Tianjin. Melissa is a creative and active person who is very excited to be part of the team at the college. We caught up with Melissa recently to talk about her first year at this Tianjin international school and what plans she has for the future.
Deputy Head of Junior School
Wellington College International Tianjin
Melissa Meyers grew up in the Middle East, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean, and was educated in the U.K., where she was awarded a First-Class Honours Degree and a Postgraduate Certificate in Primary Education. After graduating, she worked in the Middle East, the U.K., Asia and Australasia.
During more than 28 years of teaching and learning globally, Melissa has had the privilege to facilitate learning through a number of different curricula, with teaching and learning and helping others achieve their goals being her greatest passion. Her areas of expertise are curriculum and assessment and supporting students and staff to achieve beyond their expectations. Before she came to the Tianjin international school，her most recent roles have been as deputy principal and acting principal of a primary school in New Zealand.
Q：What made you passionate about teaching?
Melissa：I love working with children and helping them to learn, think, question, to discover their interests and to understand more about themselves, about others, and about the world around them. It has always been important to me to make learning as enjoyable and meaningful an experience as possible, for children to make connections to the real world and develop the skills they need as global citizens and lifelong learners.
Q：Can you share the most unforgettable event in your career as a teacher?
Melissa：There have been so many special moments over the years, as I have been teaching for 28 years now, and I have found that working with children always brings a new joy each day. However, there was one extraordinary event when I was teaching a little girl in a nursery school classroom, who had stopped talking when she had lost her twin and had not spoken since. I was doing some individual mathematical assessments with my class and asked this little girl the same questions. It was amazing because she answered by speaking and began to count to ten. I do not know who was more surprised at that moment, she or I, and we both burst out laughing, and then she hugged me. It was quite astonishing.
Q：What were your greatest achievements in your previous job as a deputy principal and acting principal?
Melissa：The last school that I worked at was on an island, which always provided challenges to me in getting resources to the school due to the location or funding restrictions. I learnt to be very resourceful and self-reliant by working very closely with the island community. A time that drew on these strong relationships and is one of my greatest achievements whilst working there was when we had a flash flood come through the school, leaving it knee-high in water. The whole community (some of whose homes had also been destroyed in the flood) worked together to clear the debris and make things safe so that we could continue teaching and learning at the same venue the very next day. It took 18 months to restore the school buildings and replenish what had been destroyed, but our pupils continued their education, never stopped learning, and achieved great results. The staff learnt to be adaptable and flexible, share learning spaces and help and support one another. I’m very proud to have been leading that team during that time.
Another great achievement was to be part of the change team which worked with the Ministry of Education to bring the ‘failing school’, as it was deemed at the time when I joined, to one of excellence. We worked to develop our school curriculum, documents, policies and procedures, and we facilitated or sourced professional development for our teachers. It was an incredible journey to be part of and I worked very hard together with my staff, to not only get the school back on track but to exceed expectations.
Additionally, I felt a real sense of achievement when working closely with parents and specialists to establish a pathway for pupils with special needs to be educated in the mainstream and to receive the specific learning and specialized equipment that they needed. Our school became renowned for its inclusivity and individualized programmes. Over the eight years at my previous school, I had developed a programme for gifted and talented children, as well as cultural programmes, and ensured that environmental learning was embedded into the curriculum through regular visits to a Forest School.
Q：Why did you decide to join this Tianjin international school？
Melissa：My three children are independent young adults, so they encouraged me to look for teaching opportunities overseas as they knew I was ready for a new challenge and to continue my journey as a global nomad. I love to explore new places and cultures and learn more about people through teaching children.
Q：In your opinion, what qualities are necessary to become a great teacher?
Melissa：Creativity, care and communication. To me it’s all about the children and building excellent relationships with them, knowing what interests them, what is important to them and their families, and how they learn best and adapting the curriculum to meet their needs.
Q：As the Deputy Head of a Junior School, what advice would you give to teachers about dealing with students of that age?
Melissa：Know the learners; understand what motivates them and how they learn best. Develop a curriculum that engages and inspires them, and support them to develop independence and 21st-century skills so that they can make connections to the real world and enjoy life’s journey as learners. Help them to develop a strong awareness of themselves so that they know what makes them happy and fulfilled, and they know how to develop excellent relationships and to create balance in their lives.
Q：Where do you think the primary education of Wellington College International Tianjin stands at the moment?
Melissa：I am very proud to be part of the Wellington College International Tianjin family, and I am proud of our staff and students. We are a through school, and the junior school plays a pivotal role in the Wellington learning journey. We add to the foundations of holistic learning that have been established in the Nest and develop the knowledge, skills, concepts and strategies of our learners as they progress into the senior school. The results of the College improve each year, and we stand out as a leading school, not only for our rigorous academic learning but also for the balanced and well-rounded personalities of our pupils who go on to the top universities globally.
I am also proud of our pupils as learners of languages, strong not only in English but also in their home and host country languages. Our Nest students are bilingual, strong in at least two cultures, understanding the Eastern and Western philosophies, beliefs and traditions. Again, in the Junior School, we build on this journey, challenging and developing our pupils in an international context, which I believe makes our pupils stand out as Wellington graduates: inspired, individual, independent, intellectual and inclusive.
Q：What would be your main ambition/goal for the Tianjin international school?
Melissa：To continue to challenge itself, to be tireless on its journey towards excellence, never becoming complacent, adapting to whatever challenge we may face, such as COVID-19, and always striving to bring the best of global research pedagogy to form an international learning space where each individual and their perspectives are respected and acknowledged in an environment where we all learn with and from each other.
Q：What are your other interests apart from teaching?
Melissa：I love art and thoroughly enjoy visiting galleries and art exhibits in Tianjin and Beijing. I have a first-class degree in creative arts and have always had a fascination with the interplay between art, drama, dance, music and writing.
Q：Could you please tell us a little about your family?
Melissa：I am from an international family and have, in turn, created my own international family. We all love to travel and explore and find out more about people from cultures different to our own. My children were all born in Singapore and have always had a love of languages developed when they learned Mandarin at school in Singapore. They have gone on to learn Te Reo Maori, French and Spanish because they want to communicate with their global friends.