“From the very beginning Dr. Gander made a number of supportive improvements to our programs, modeling a level of professionalism that we had not experienced in our school. His impact on our leadership and teaching staffs’ professional development was based in a clear vision of what effective instructional departments looks like.”

— Sharon (Fen Ming) Yue
Director Jinan Foreign Language School IC

Jinan, Peoples Republic of China
Jinan Foreign Language School

2013 to 2015  

Jinan, Shandong,
Peoples Republic of China,

Associate Director
of Curriculum /
Instruction and
Human Resources
Grades 10-12
3,000 students

What I learned in my time at the Jinan Foreign Language School International Center:

  • When you open yourself up to seeing your profession in a different light, you can learn a great deal about improving your skills.
  • The pace of change when working overseas is not only slowed by lifestyle factors, but by the need for repeated, clear communications. Dual language staff’s take more time and effort to communicate with, making change slower and maintaining momentum a leadership challenge.
  • Adolescents all over the world are more similar than they are different from each other.
  • True insight into a culture of anther country requires you spend time in both the play and work environments of your host country.

What we accomplished at Jinan Foreign Language School International Center (JNFLS):

  • Developed an English Language Arts framework for classroom instruction in grades 10-12 based on the Common Core State Standards (USA) and Common European Framework.
  • Trained staff in bi-lingual lesson development and instructional practices (SIOP Model), including curriculum materials and evaluation tools. We significantly upgraded our English Language Arts courses sequence in two years.
  • Development, implementation and oversight of a formative and summative assessment structure to ensure students are meeting standards approximating equivalency with USA, Canadian, Australian, and United Kingdom schools.
  • Trained 13 novice and two experienced teachers in classroom management, instructional planning, and student assessment strategies. This included the evaluation of 38 teachers.
  • Developed a high school transcript protocol that supports student college application and placement requirements in well-established western universities. Including the development of a secure grade book program.
  • Developed recruitment, hiring, and retention processes to ensure a highly qualified international teaching staff at the JNFLS International Center.

JNFLS IC is a public senior high school in Jinan, Shandong, PRC that prepares students in grades 10-12 for life at universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. We utilized the College Board Advanced Placement curriculum and Cambridge International Exam A-Level courses while also supporting the students’ completion of the Chinese National Curriculum courses.

This was my third overseas assignment as an educator and it never fails to amaze me the portability of a teaching credential; teaching credentials have the ability to open up a variety of opportunities if their holders are just willing to look beyond the borders of their own mind.

That being said, my guess is that it would be improbable to give public school educators a sabbatical (say around year ten of their career), but I feel it would greatly improve their understanding of our own educational system, and open their professional practices to new skills. My time in Jinan most certainly did.

There are four things that JNFLS IC brought out in my leadership skills:

  • Effective communication has its basis in listening and as a manager of a larger staff (that shares a variety of different cultures) listening was magnified ten fold. Helping others make sense of instructional approaches based in western psychology can take repeated attempts and requires a variety instructional strategies. It was a challenge to be an effective communicator and stay on track with our time-lines.
  • The ability to train individuals from a variety of cultures in a consistent approach to designing lessons, and evaluating their outcomes.
  • My ability to shape the five variables of the complex change model supported the communication necessary to bridge the cultural context and help our staff implement improvements almost seamlessly.
  • Within international schools staff relationships are more than good teaching teams, it is about fostering good social opportunities as well.

Jinan was a truly exceptional experience! I gained perspectives about secondary education that will be extremely helpful to my future work. These perspectives on teaching methods, measuring learning and working with families has helped me reflect on what we do in our own schools. There was also a refreshing look at the historical context of school. The Chinese perspective on preparing for high stakes tests comes from over three centuries of cultural training. When we compare that with our 400 years, it is eye-opening that we purport to know more about influencing their students ability to acquire knowledge.

Please click on any of the photos below for enlarged view.